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JCB Tradesman TP121 Toughphone

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.
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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.
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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?

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