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Telstra Tough 2 review: Telstra Tough 2

It won't win any fashion parades, but the Tough 2 will appeal to tradies who are after a phone that's unlikely to easily shatter.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
4 min read


The Tough 2 is ugly — solid, jarring, brick ugly. We might even be tempted to use slightly less delicate terms to describe it, but we don't want to offend any of our readers with such language. We think we've made our point.


Telstra Tough 2

The Good

A genuinely tough phone. Hamster Homie!. It's really quite robust. Blue Tick certified. It's rather tough. Did we mention it was tough?.

The Bad

UI is slow and clunky. It's ugly. Suitable only for a working niche of phone users. Or teenagers generally.

The Bottom Line

It won't win any fashion parades, but the Tough 2 will appeal to tradies who are after a phone that's unlikely to easily shatter.

If you want a phone to show off to people with its intricate thin design, huge display screen or delicately engineered components, this isn't it. On the other hand, if you're the tradesman type who can't have a phone in your work cab on the grounds that the average glitzy-looking phone quickly fills up with grease before shattering into non-working pieces, the Tough 2 might be just your style.

In fact, to a certain aesthetic, the harsh style of Tough 2 could almost be seen as having a Soviet-style brutal chic, with stark lines and design notes reminiscent of the brisk designs of Antonio Citterio

No, we can't maintain that charade for even a second. This is an ugly phone, and that's all there is to it.


The Tough 2 is ugly for the same reason that Panasonic's Toughbooksare usually pretty ugly. They're not designed to look good on a shelf; they're designed for tough work out in the field where more delicately designed components wouldn't last a single day. The design is meant to make the Tough 2 easy to use with harshly raised physical buttons for every task and a 2.4-inch Gorilla Glass screen.

Telstra states that the casing is "abrasion-resistant" — we're honestly not sure if you'd notice a design this stark being actually roughed up — but is more specific in terms of what else the Tough 2 can withstand. It's rated with an ingress protection rating of IP54. If you're not up to date on ingress protection, it rates protection against solids and liquids by number. The 5 in 54 suggests that it's protected against limited dust ingress (but not totally protected, which would be level 6) and the 4 means it should be protected from water sprays from any angle on the phone, but not actual immersion. Telstra also rates it with a "Blue Tick" for those using it in rural areas, so country tradies should be well served here too. The camera on the rear is a 3-megapixel model, and there's a front-facing 0.3 megapixel camera on offer as well.

What you don't get for your money is what could be deemed a smartphone. This is a Java-capable feature phone with many of the bolt-on features we'd expect from a modern smartphone, including microSD compatibility, Bluetooth, GPS and MP3 playback. But fire up any of the unit's menus and you'll be taken back more than five years in terms of phone user interface design, from beeping menu shifts to SMS-style text entry, even for email and big chunky icons. Coming from the perspective of testing Gingerbread Android phones to the Tough 2 was something of a system shock, and we had to keep checking the calendar to make sure we hadn't accidentally slipped back into 1998 somehow.


The caveat that this isn't a smartphone is an important one. It's technically email and web capable, but the experience of doing so is limited by both the screen and interface. There's a few nice little tricks up the Tough 2's sleeve, like using the volume controls to scroll down web pages or default spoken tones for number pad presses, but this is still a basic phone. It's not just all work and no play, though, with integrated camera — which, like mobile phone cameras from five years ago, takes rather grainy and washed out pictures with weird colour balance — MP3 player and a selection of games. We're not too sure how many tradespeople could keep a straight face while playing a game called "Hamster Homie", but we suppose it's better than nothing, and Nokia's got the intellectual property for Snake locked up safely in a vault anyway.

In terms of durability, the Tough 2 took everything we could throw at it, including throwing it at walls and dropping it on tiled floors with aplomb, or more commonly a bit of a dull thud. It even survived an afternoon with a four-year-old using it as a play toy without any particular protests. Clearly it's not an indestructible phone, but there's no way we'd do the same thing with an iPhone or Galaxy S II.

The Tough 2 is rated with 150 minutes of talk time and 250 hours of standby, which means one factor from mobile phones of years gone by has survived its time travel intact. Unlike just about every smartphone on the market, the Tough 2 can survive more than a day away from a battery charger with ease. We're tempted to point out that battery life benefits from the fact that you're unlikely to use it for as long as you might a smartphone, as the design of the phone and the user interface make it far less accessible than the average smartphone is. Then again, that's rather the point; most folk who would want a phone of this style probably don't spend all day on Twitter in any case. If you do, in case it wasn't apparent, this isn't the phone for you.


The Tough 2 is undoubtedly a niche phone for the trades market, and perhaps for terminally clumsy folk — teenagers, perhaps — who are good at destroying phones without actually wanting to. It performs the basics of mobile telephony well and will even manage more upscale utilities with a bit of a struggle. Clearly, for the price Telstra's asking for the Tough 2 you could buy a much more richly featured smartphone. If you only needed a relatively tough phone on the Telstra network, the Motorola Defy would be an obvious alternative. If you need the mobile phone equivalent of a Toughbook, however, the Tough 2 might be just what you're after.

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