The distinctive JCB yellow and chunky styling means you can tell this is a tough-phone from a mile off. The display is not high resolution, and not especially big (2.2-inches), but it is reasonably easy to read
Texting and dialling on the physical or virtual keyboards is not easy, which is a shame. Features are tucked away in curious places, so it’s not painless to navigate the phone either
Many of the features are basic – a two-megapixel camera, simple music player, GPS but no maps, for instance. But they’re more advanced than many tough handsets. The inclusion of a slot for a second SIM card is inspired but the lack of 3G hobbles its versatility
Call quality and signal pick-up were both fine, though not exceptional. In terms of the key feature – ruggedness – the phone fared very well, surviving drops, splashes and exposure to dust
Most smartphones run out of juice at the end of the working day, but the JCB kept going well into a second day, not surprising given the size of the battery
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 4:01:35 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Tough as old boots, two SIM card capability, useful touch-screen
No 3G, fiddly battery cover fixings, awkward keyboard is hard to use
Just how clumsy are you? Mobiles are more robust than they used to be, though dropping them in the bath is usually enough kill off most handsets. But JCB has the answer, whether you work on a building site or in other challenging conditions, or you just can’t keep hold of things in your hand. Which is me, by the way.
The JCB Pro-Talk isn’t small, until you consider it’s effectively two phones in one. Because the Pro-Talk has two SIM card slots. This means you can make and receive calls on two different numbers – handy if you have separate work and private numbers and don’t want to lug around two phones all day long. It’s also useful if you’re having a clandestine affair. You can setup the phone so there are different ringtones for each SIM, so you know whether to adopt a business-like tone or, if appropriate for that affair, one that shows you mean business in a different way. It’s easy to use: dial the number and when you press the send button it asks if you want SIM 1 or 2 to call. There are two signal strength meters on the screen.
Like most ruggedised phones, the battery compartment is shielded behind lugs you must turn to release the door. Be careful, though, if the lugs aren’t in just the right place, it won’t quite close. It’s rather fiddly. This isn’t the first touch-screen tough-phone, but unlike the Android-powered Motorola Defy – which is infinitely smarter but doesn’t match the protection offered here – the screen is of the resistive variety. Of course, capacitive displays, like the one found on the Defy, are much more desirable, but in this case the inclusion of a resistive screen is a fine idea: for instance, you may have gloves on, or it may be raining, two scenarios that capacitive screens cannot deal with. You can dial using the conventional keypad or the virtual one that appears on screen. This duplication seems rather unnecessary as the onscreen one isn’t especially easy to type on. But then the physical keyboard isn’t that great either – the keys are small and tightly spaced, which isn’t very helpful, as every phone needs to, you know, make calls.
Mind you, texting using the tiny QWERTY keypad that appears on screen is even more laughable. It’s nigh-on impossible to hit the key you want, even using the edge of your little fingernail. There is a handwriting recognition option where you write on the screen and it converts it to text. This is very cool for all of 20 seconds before you realise you’re correcting every word. You can also use the phone as a two-way radio, again useful on a building site or outdoor environment when you want a cost-free way of communicating with your colleague. One of the menu options is called Business Zone. This is where you have to go to find Games on the phone. Go figure. Still, as it only comes with Tetris and Magic Sushi, you may not worry too much if you never find them. The Pro-Talk’s menu system is chaotic at best – GPS is included but you’ll have to look under Organiser to find that. No mapping application is supplied, so it merely tells you your latitude and longitude.There’s an option, also found under Organiser, to suppress background noise, which is another neat feature to have on a phone that’s likely to be used in noisy environments. The phone also comes with a wind-up charger, so if your battery is completely flat and you’ve remembered to carry the handle with you, you can wind it for some juice. A lot of winding delivers a limited amount of talktime, but it’s better than nothing in an emergency. The phone comes with a two-megapixel camera, which is not great but enough for basic needs, and at least it has a flash. What’s more, there a button on the side that lets you turn the light on even when you’re not snapping photos., so you can use it as a torch.One last thing – this is not a 3G handset, so internet connection is limited to the joys of GPRS. It may be smart, but it’s slow. JCB’s earlier tough-phone, the Tradesman, was not as smart as this handset, but it had enough buoyancy to float, which was fun. This one sinks, but at least you’ll know it’s not drowning.
If you need something really tough but only moderately smart, this is a great phone. But if your clumsiness is manageable and you want something more capable, the Motorola Defy is a better option. Yet there’s something to be said for the building-site cred the distinctive yellow and black casing will give you.