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CES 2011. Protected phones from JCB

The stalls of JCB can hardly be missed, because it features a true tractor. I may be wrong and a car with a bucket is not a tractor after all. Anyway girls offer all people to target phones in a bucket with a special machine using pencils as bullets. If you hit the target this phone falls down into water. The attraction always drew crowds of people who wanted to test their hand eye coordination and phone endurance.

The parent company produces equipment similar to tractors. JCB Mobile on the other hand offers phones. This British brand started shipping handsets in December of 2010 in UK. Employees of the company argue that the sales exceeded their expectations. The product range has 4 models manufactured in China, which is not surprising. As big companies apart from Samsung do not offer protected models, while second tier manufacturers like Sonim charge around $500 for an ordinary budget model, JCB Mobile has a chance. Pricing policy is right, because JCB asks adequate amounts of money for their products. Let's go back to the phones first.

All models use one slogan –ToughPhone followed by a proper name:

  • Tradesman – budget phone with IP67 protection level. It can “swim” and costs £75 in the UK and $72 in the USA. The difference is quite visible, but this price was named at the exhibition;
  • Sitemaster – protection level is only IP54, so you should not put it into water. On the other hand owners can drop it from the height of 2 meters and assault in any other way. The price is £115 or $170;
  • PRO – protection level again goes up to IP67 coupled with GPS and camera. The price is £245 or $350. There is also a PRO-TALK version, which cost £10 or $10 more and includes an in-built Walkie Talkie.

Let's start with Tradesman. Boxes look the same and offer standard inconspicuous design.

The model has a flashlight (a must for a protected phone), but more importantly it boasts Bluetooth. A 1.44″ cSTN screen must have the resolution of 128х128. You should not expect more from a budget handset. The size is 111х49х20 mm. It sports a 650 mAh Li-Ion battery. You can also find radio here and the support of GSM 900/1800/1900. The manufacturer disclosed only these specifications. The main point is the price. A fully protected phone is used for calls only. Nobody cares about screens in similar circumstances, so it could have been a monochrome one. The model looks and is accessible.

Sitemaster got a bigger 2″ TFT screen of 262K. The size is 115х53х23mm, while the battery has 1300 mAh. Surprisingly we find a laser pointer in this phone. I can't imagine why you may need it outdoors, but who knows. It looks more expensive, but the protection level is only IP54, so it is not waterproof. At the same time it handles physical impact well. Screws are reliable and the handset is not inferior to offerings from Sonim, which cost way too much.

The flagship PRO model (and its PRO Talk version) comes with a dynamo generator enabled charger. A 2.2″ screen boasts a QVGA resolution. GSM 850/900/1800/1900 bands are supported. The handset can work with two SIM cards at the same time, but if you wish you can insert only one. An in-built camera has 2 MP, while the overall memory amounts to 256 MB. The battery has 1800 mAh. The size is 126х60х22 mm. You can find GPS here and an 8 channel radio in the walkie-talkie modification.

All 4 models are not examples of feature rich handsets and even the flagship phone loses out to similar models from Samsung. JCB cannot develop its own interface to compete with big players. Subsequently, you always have limitations in terms of features. On the other hand the pricing in the segment of protected phones has always been arbitrary due to the lack of competition. JCB can play its game well. Their prices are attractive and some people need a second phone, which has to be protected. Models are interesting and we will test them to give a detailed account of what should you be aware of. Now I can only claim that newcomers look promising and if a year from now we see a new generation of protected phones at adequate prices the brand can become successful. So far it is an experiment in search of its niche or a pilot project.

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Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
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Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 08 January 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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