Look and feel
The JCB Pro-Smart Toughphone is understandably thick and bulky, as the tough rubberised frame is designed to endure the most extreme conditions. It survived our tests with ne’er a scratch
Ease of use
The 3.2-inch touch-screen is a little squashed, but – strange quirks aside – we had no issues when emailing, texting or browsing the web
The five-megapixel camera shoots reasonably crisp snaps, but the auto-focus takes ages to lock onto your subject and the flash is manually operated
A single-core 800MHz processor provides basic performance to run apps and browse the web
Battery life is decent, lasting well over 24 hours even if you’re an app addict. Only constant music or video abuse will wear it down faster
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/11/2012 2:56:18 PM
Seriously tough, smooth web browsing, five-megapixel camera
Odd quirks and issues, slow auto-focus and manual flash, compact screen
‘Arguably the toughest smartphone available’, boasts the JCB Pro-Smart Toughphone blurb, and argue we most certainly won’t. The Pro-Smart is the Jason Statham of the mobile world, a rugged brick of a phone that could probably shrug off a deep sea diving expedition or a quick trip down your local volcano. It wouldn’t even get teary eyed watching Bambi.
Aimed at builders, labourers and anyone demanding a super-tough mobile that can survive extreme conditions, the Pro-Smart puts survivability ahead of style. It weighs as much as a tablet, and at 20mm thick will be a struggle to squeeze into your trouser pocket. Baggy overalls are definitely the key. If you need a rugged phone that is also sleek and slender, may we recommend the Motorola Defy and Motorola Defy Mini instead.
The main reason the Pro-Smart is so chunky is the thick rubberised padding which protects the vulnerable innards from dust, water and shock damage. Ports such as the Micro USB slot are covered with snap-back covers, and to access the battery and SIM/microSD slots you need to pull out two screws. This thing is really built to keep stuff out, as proved by the Ingress Protection rating of IP67 – this means it is completely immune to dust, and can withstand total immersion to depths of up to 1m.
We submerged the Pro-Smart in a sink for a few minutes, and were pleased to see the phone still worked when we pulled it out and dried it off. When we followed this up with simulated drops from thigh-height, the phone fared just as well. The screen survived intact and the phone behaved like normal.
The 3.2-inch screen seems even smaller because of the chunky surroundings, but it’s still spacious enough for navigating your way around Google’s Android Gingerbread interface. Browsing the web isn’t ideal on a dinky 3.2-inch screen, and it isn’t the sharpest display in the world so you’ll have to zoom right in to read text. However, websites updated quickly and we found we could smoothly zoom and scroll through even complex pages. We also enjoyed the way the screen swayed every time we changed from landscape to portrait mode, but then we’re easily entranced by the simple things.
Sites such as BBC iPlayer won’t stream video in-browser, and the YouTube app seemed to go crazy when we plugged in earphones – everyone sounded like they were talking underwater, even when we tried several different pairs. You’re limited to using the built-in speakers, which obviously isn’t recommended in public.
There are refreshingly few apps pre-installed on the Pro-Smart Toughphone, so you won’t need to spend ages uninstalling pointless programs that spam you to cough up for expensive subscriptions. You do get the handy ‘JCB Tools’ app however, which those in the trade will probably get good use out of. This includes a spirit level, noise indicator, conversion tools and more. You can even check the local area for DIY stores, using GPS. Full Google Play support means you can download tons more apps on top.
Just my type
The TouchPal keyboard takes a little getting used to, especially its symbols/numbers menu, but the auto-correct function is as good as any and we found it comfortable to type on, even with the reduced screen size. If you’re a constant emailer or texter, we’d recommend trying it in-store if possible, to ensure you’re fine with the compact keyboard.
Rounding off the features is a five-megapixel camera with auto-focus. Our snaps looked fine, if not overwhelming, but a massively delayed shutter speed makes action shots an impossibility – there’s a clear 2-3 second pause while the lens focuses. You get an LED flash but this doesn’t seem to fire automatically – you have to hold down a button on the left edge, which is a little awkward. There’s also a dedicated camera button on the right edge, but bizarrely this only seems to load the camera app – we couldn’t get it to take a shot.
Battery life is decent, lasting well over 24 hours even if you’re an app addict. Only constant music or video abuse will wear it down faster. Almost 10 hours of talktime makes this an essential purchase if you plan to do lots of chatting from extreme environments.
The JCB Pro-Smart Toughphone is a quirky little device, secreting a number of fiddly little issues that are both frustrating and peculiar. However, it certainly lives up to its name in terms of toughness. The highly ruggedised body can survive all kinds of punishment, so if you’re looking for a phone to resist the most extreme conditions, this’ll do the job.