Peter Jones stood loud and proud in London last night to introduce not one but four JCB toughphones to the world. Among the bunch held aloft by the technology-focused entrepreneur were the world’s first floating handset and two touch-screen models rock hard enough to withstand being dropped from over 3m and getting buried under a tonne of rubble as well.
“I used to use an iPhone until very recently but I’ve broken three of them by accident,” the 44-year-old Dragon told Pocket-lint. “Theo’s gone through three as well. He spends all his time on his boat and lost them all in the water. It’s cost him over £1,000. These handsets would survive that and they only start from £100 Sim-free.”
While the spec-wise bottom of the list, it’s the floating JCB Tradesman that steals the show by making its way into the record books. There’s no camera and just a 1.44-inch display but it’s built to military standard with IP67 certification meaning that it’s both water and dustproof. On top of that, you still get Bluetooth, an FM radio and a torch as well. The idea is that it’s perfect for all kinds of tradesman but we can’t help think that it’s plumbers who’ll benefit most from this one who’ve doubtless lost many a handset to the toilet bowl.
Next up is the Swiss Army knife of a unit known as the JCB Sitemaster. As well as the torch, it comes with a laser pointer to help builders point out exactly which struts are to be knocked out before someone makes a nasty mistake. Encased in rubber, it’s not a floater but still can handle being sprayed with water and grit and will even survive a minute in the cement mixer as well. Again, there’s an FM radio and Bluetooth to play with.
The final mobile chassis comes in two iterations - the JCB Pro and JCB Pro-Talk. They're more like the £250 mark and feature something closer to mod-cons sporting 2-megapixel cameras and 2.2-inch touchscreens. They have expandable memory, dual SIMs - one for work, one for play - GPS, Bluetooth and are even quad-band as well just in case you end up working on the third building of the Petronas towers. The only difference between the two is that the Pro-Talk also includes an 8-channel two-way radio for walky talky function.
“We wanted to develop a range of products because we identified very differnent areas within different market segments,” Jones told us. “We’re not just after the builders this time. We realised that there are all sorts of workers and people active outdoors and they need a phone that’s going to be up to the rigours of their lifestyle, and you just can’t cater for all that with one phone.”
It’s clear that these models will appeal to a group of professionals but does Jones really think he can persuade other people to give up their smartphones?
“What I see these as are a second handset. I wouldn’t replace my mobile for one specific rugged phone. It’s not going to happen, but if I go away sailing for the weekend, I’m not going to take my iPhone. I’ll take my JCB toughphone.”
Jones’s Data Select mobile distribution company saw the success of the original 2008 Toughphone reach over 50,000 unit sales. In the quest for more market share and more and more stories of mobile smash calamities, it'll certainly be interesting to see if he can persuade the public of a two phone solution.
Would you go for a rugged back up option or would you rather risk taking your superphone to the seaside. Let us know your thoughts and tales of smartphone disaster woe in the comments.