JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone - Testing & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



  • Recommended by TR
JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone


Our Score:


The most obvious place to start is it does indeed float! This is a weird site to behold, but also prodding the Tradesman under water sees it immediately bob back up to the surface. We found no ill effects to getting it wet either despite deliberately leaving it wet once we'd taken it out of the water. Given the price, this alone will be a deal maker for many.

As for the toughness, the Tradesman also passes with flying colours. We didn't have a JCB GT to drag it behind or two tonnes of rubble handy (despite claims that Ed's car could be described as such), but repeated drops onto grass then concrete with our arms stretched above head height refused to bother the Tradesman one little bit.

We do have some reservations over whether repeated direct impacts to the screen could prove vulnerable, but the reinforced display suggests it will stand up well. Given the Tradesman is made out of a strengthened plastic rather than shielded with soft rubber it does pick up scuffs and scratches, but far less than your average phone – especially considering there is no paint to chip.

So the Tradesman certainly lives up to its billing as a cheap tough phone and one with an extremely practical world first, but what about the rest of the package? Truth be told there's not a lot to say. The software is extremely basic – you've seen something similar on a Nokia about 10 years ago, but that's not really the point. You'll never get lost in the menu and this is a phone for making phone calls, sending text messages and surviving rough treatment.

It is also worth pointing out that the Tradesman is pretty good at making phone calls – something many high-end smartphones seem to have forgotten – with dual built-in speakers to ensure you can be heard in noisy environments. You'll find push-to-talk functionality as well, handy for organising groups if you all have PTT capable phones.


The ultimate goal of the JCB Tradesman TP121 is not to replace your cutting-edge smartphone, but to allow you to leave it at home when the going gets tough. For technophobes the Tradesman's simple user interface offers a reassuring blast from the past, while simultaneously providing futuristic durability. With prices online as low as £69.99 (RRP £74.99) it is an ideal stocking filler for children and relatives.You should pick one up too...

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Performance 8
  • Value 10
  • Features 6
  • Design 7
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November 17, 2010, 8:16 pm

As a child Gordon, did you ever visit santa in his grotto? Was he jolly ho ho ho or subdued and quiet maybe confuddled as to your christmas wishes?

JCB phone for christmas? Do you hate kids Gordon? LOL


November 18, 2010, 12:19 am

hank - guess it depends whether the kids want something that's fashionable (like a smartphone) or genuinely cool (like this) ;)

You don't have to be a plumber to like this - hours of amusement to be had from bouncing your phone off the wall or dunking it in water, then inviting your mates to do the same with their HTC. I'll be getting several for family members this Christmas, and one for myself ASAP... :D


November 18, 2010, 12:46 am

@hank - yes, it would explain a lot


November 18, 2010, 3:38 am

@Gordon: How well does the reception hold up in areas of low signal? The 10-years-ago Nokias you compared this to are simply so much better than modern smartphones at putting through clear calls in difficult conditions that I'm still hanging to one of them for site visits and the suchlike. If this comes close to that standard, I'm getting one.


November 18, 2010, 4:32 am

Could be handy for those ski holidays..?


November 18, 2010, 11:07 am

@lensmann - it is excellent. The principle problem with smartphone reception is the sheer number of antennas crammed into their casing. Given the Tradesman doesn't have 3G, WiFi, GPS, etc it is a clean signal and I found reception to be very good.

@GT - or anything involving boats!


November 18, 2010, 6:23 pm

Is it just me or has this review disappeared from the front page?


November 18, 2010, 6:28 pm

@Mattj: Yeah, we're having a few issues with out content management system at the moment. It's still around but just not on the homepage.


November 29, 2010, 1:53 pm

Does the TP121 include a traditional 'bell' ring tone please?


December 10, 2010, 3:07 am

Potential buyers might be interested to know that the release of this phone has been repeatedly pushed back ( currently predicting 16th December) so it's looking doubtful whether it'll be a stocking filler for anyone this year...

Allan Pape

December 17, 2010, 7:38 pm

I bought one in Asda last sunday ( 12th December ), it was on an introductory offer price of £47 including an Asda sim pack.

I am on 02 so have not used the sim pack, the one works very well, reception where i live in Flintshre is patchy, it works well even indoors.

My only gripe is the snmall display size, but it is still clear and easy to use without my reading glasses.

If you need a tough basic phone that does what it claims, buy one.

Richard Scothern

December 21, 2010, 8:57 pm

I have had my toughphone for about a week its great but every time i plug it into a usb port on my computer it asks for a file MT6225 could any one tell me where i could download it for free on the internet


October 4, 2011, 6:55 pm

Great review - however, no Push-to-talk functionality on this model - that's the biggest brother, the JCB Pro-Talk TP851.

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