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JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone review

Gordon Kelly




  • Recommended by TR

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JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone
  • JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone
  • JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone
  • JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone
  • JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone


Our Score:


There have been so many innovations in mobile phones in recent years that it would seem impossible for a £69.99 pre-pay handset to bring anything new to market. Well this one has, and it is something very cool indeed…

From JCB (yes, the digger manufacturers) comes the 'Tradesman' – the world's first handset to float in water. Naturally this wouldn't be particularly useful were the phone not water proof, but it is and for this alone you'd think it would be a hit with sailors and – as the name suggests – tradesmen, particularly plumbers (don't think about that image too long). It is also useful for the more butterfingered amongst us.

In fact it is primarily this latter market where the Tradesman is expected to appeal, because aside from its inherent water wings, it is also a toughphone despite its wallet friendly pricing. It backs this up with an IP67 rating which means it has passed the International Protection Rating for solids at level six (out of 6) and liquids at level seven (out of 9). This means the Tradesman allows no ingress of dust or dirt into its inner workings and can be fully immersed in water at up to one metre for up to 30 minutes – something that should never need to be surpassed given its buoyancy.

What other tough credentials does it bring to the table? The Tradesman will operate in temperate ranges from -20 to +60 degrees centigrade, while a "military specification" also means it's specially hardened outer plastic casing can survive drops of up to three metres. In something of a publicity stunt JCB tested the handset by dragging it behind a JCB GT at a whopping 120mph, buried it in two tonnes of rubble and put it inside a working cement mixer for a minute. Needless to say it tells us this because the Tradesman survived the ordeals.

The flipside of a truly rugged handset (read: not a Defy), is it won't be replacing your smartphone any time soon. The Tradesman has a small 1.44in screen, sends SMS, is equipped with Bluetooth 2.0 and makes phone calls. No 3G, WiFi, GPS, camera or user accessible storage (expandable or otherwise) though you will find a couple of basic games, an FM tuner and a handy torch. At 111 x 49 x 20mm and 86g (the manual quotes 130g, it's wrong) it is also extremely portable – something you'd expect of a handset with a density capable of floating on water – while the basic features mean you'll get up to 130 hours of standby time out of the modest 650mAh battery, there is only 180 minutes talk time.

So that's the skinny, but how does this intriguing proposition measure up?

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


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 (Play.com 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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