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Top 5 No Nonsense Tough as Old Boots Mobile Phones

Alastair Walker 03/04/2014 14:29:17

Top 5 No Nonsense Tough as Old Boots Mobile Phones

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Toughest Handsets 

If you're one of the old-school, who just wants a phone to make calls and - if you're feeling hi-tech - check the time, you most probably value durability, practicality and unbreakability over anything else. If this sounds like you, then standby for five of the most impressive, rugged and calamity-defying mobile phones currently available.

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Motorola Defy + (Builders JCB Edition)

Defy +

From: Motorola

Price: Hard to find on contract now, but £180 SIM free from Handtec

This phone was designed for builders, engineers and anyone whose work involves hard hats and toe caps. This special edition handset is JCB branded and comes pre-loaded with a selection of useful JCB apps; including a spirit level, unit converter and app that locates your nearest hardware store. It also has a theodolite, also known as "one of those camera tripod things engineers look through."

The chassis is encased in a visco-elastic protective sleeve, meaning you can drop, kick, or step on your Defy + with impunity. Spillages are no bother either. In fact, this phone practically dares you to spill some coffee on it.

The screen is made from Corning Gorilla Glass, it is therefore dust, water and scratch proof. But behind all the ­­­­­­­­engineering bravado lies a razor sharp brain and sensitive personality.

Android's Gingerbread operating system provides plenty of feature-rich usability, making the Defy + doubly impressive.

The Defy + represents a rewarding and practical combination of processing power, usability and geometry. It even boasts the super-handy Push-to-Talk feature, so you can use it as a walkie-talkie on site.

Best Feature: The Defy + charger has an extra long curly cable, hammering home the built-to-last ethos that informs the entire design.

Worst Feature: The buttons are too small to operate when wearing work gloves.

Area for Improvement: The screen is 3.7-inches, so maybe a little on the small side.


JCB Toughphone Sitemaster 2

JCB Sitemaster 2 Close Up (1)

From: Various, inc JCB

Price: £90-£120 SIM free.

Encased in a manly yellow toughened rubber case, it feels like this phone has actually been designed for the express purpose of withstanding deliberate attempts to damage. The impressive list of independent tests on You Tube demonstrate this - and Watch My Wallet will be testing it to destruction soon.

Sitemaster 2 can withstand a tonne of pressure, it works after being subjected to a 24-hour torrent of salt water, it works after being fully submerged for minutes, it works in a sauna, in a steam room, a freezer etc.

It does have WAP internet access, and an OK camera. It even shoots video and we loved the JCB digger chugga-chugga ring tone it made when we phoned the Sitemaster 2. We did struggle to find the torch button, and yes, we did read the manual.

You get a charger, and a Carabiner clip as part of the deal, plus a wind-up charger, in case you're stuck somewhere and need some phone power. You get earphones for the FM radio too. We dropped it on the floor, we played `keepie-uppie' with it - it is a tough phone.

Best Feature: Handy loop on top of the casing lets you hang the phone on a nail.

Worst Feature: Workmates find phone hanging on nail, and then bury it in cement for a laugh

Area for Improvement: The Sitemaster 2 needs a symbol showing a torch on one of its buttons, then you would know which one worked the bloody torch.

DSS Rugged Outdoor Mobile

From: ITTM Outlimits on Amazon

Price: £97 new, SIM free

This phone is designed for outdoor pursuits, rather than the workplace. It's coated in waterproof rubber and has strategically placed shock absorbers that will protect the phone if dropped down a rocky crevice.

Although basic, this phone is sophisticated. It cuts out background noise, so if you're calling from a windy hilltop, people won't struggle to hear you. This is especially useful if you're calling in an emergency. Speaking of emergencies, the DSS has an SOS button that you can program to call 999 in one touch.

This is a dual SIM phone, meaning you don't need to open up the back should you wish to switch between networks or take advantage of the variety of Pay As You Go offers that frequently pop up. This capability is also immensely useful for travelling abroad. Rather than incurring roaming charges, you can simply pop in a local SIM, enabling you to switch between your normal network and the local one.

One spec oversight here is the omission of a camera. Would be handy.

Best Feature:  Clear sound when calling in noisy environments.

Worst Feature: The operating system is fiddly, even texting can be quite frustrating.

Area for Improvement:  A camera would transform this phone from "basic and reliable" to "ideal for outdoors types."


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B2100 Solid Extreme

From: Samsung

Price: £55-ish SIM free

This is another one for fans of basic and reliable. Add cheap and practical to that list too. The battery life on the B2100 is the defining feature which is both boring and reassuring at the same time.

Other than a rudimentary camera (1.8 megapixels) which incorporates a range of kitsch editing tools that you'll never use, the spec list on this phone is somewhat dry. This is what saves you money and battery life. But given the lack of things to do with the phone, you could be forgiven for expecting a more rugged handset.

It's hard to figure out exactly who this handset is aimed at. The presence of a torch suggests that Samsung may have been thinking about Bear Grylls, or a bloke who keeps dropping his keys down the sofa maybe? 

Best Feature: The torch. It's incandescent, not LED, so it's really bright.

Worst Feature:  Looks a bit dated and lacks the Tonka Toy feel of the Aldi Workzone and JCB Sitemaster.

Area for Improvement:  Should either be more rugged or more brainy, currently it's in neither camp.

Aldi Workzone Toughphone

Workzone 1 (1)

From: Aldi UK

Price: £39.99 in SpecialBuys - not on sale all the time.

We spent a few weeks with the Workzone phone and we have to admit it is very good value for money. It doesn't feel quite as well built as the JCB Sitemaster 2, and it has slightly smaller buttons. This could make the Workzone phone harder to use on a building site, or farm, if you were wearing gloves.

It has basic internet access, a 1.3MP camera which shoots video too, plus FM radio and dual SIM card slots, so you can switch between work related calls and texts, and messages from your friends. It has a brilliant torch, mounted on top of the casing and the bottom left asterisk button switches the light on or off.

You can apparently read e-books on this phone too, but would you bother? Hmm.

Unscrewing the back of the Workzone phone we were impressed to find a slim clear rubber seal surrounding the battery and SIM compartment. The only thing we didn't like was the annoying ring tone on the Aldi handset.

Of all the phones featured, this is the most "no nonsense" of them all. It just does the job of calling and texting. One big plus point for anyone working outdoors was that it charged up fully in about an hour or so.

Best Features: Basic features all work well, decent tough casing and rapid charging

Worst Features: If you have big hands then the small buttons might bug you.

Area for Improvement: There isn't much else you could ask of a 40 quid phone really.

Alastair Walker is features editor of


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