Choosing Between a Rugged or Consumer Smartphone? 5 Questions to Consider

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, field service organizations have been increasingly ditching or supplementing laptops and notebooks in favor of the more portable, easy-to-use devices. But for field service companies in particular, the question often arises: Do you go with traditional, enterprise-ready rugged devices made for field service or cheaper, more consumer-friendly devices like the iPhone, iPad and Android?

BYOD and more business-oriented apps and security features have certainly given consumer devices more traction within field service in the last few years, says Balca Korkut, an analyst at VDC Research. In fact, 35% of near-term opportunity for rugged-device makers is at risk, due to the rise of consumer devices in the enterprise, according to VDC Research.

But that doesn’t mean a consumer device is necessarily the right solution — or vice versa. There are pros and cons to both, says Korkut, and the right device depends on the priorities and needs of each organization. Korkut offers five questions to consider before investing in mobile hardware:

How much ease-of-use are you looking for?

Consumer tablets and smartphones are generally more lightweight, ergonomic and easier to carry than rugged devices — an important factor for field techs. Features like touch-screen capabilities, signature acceptance and direct payment also make tech-client interaction easier.

What kinds of functionality do you want from the devices?

Ease-of-use doesn’t necessarily equate to functionality, though. Rugged devices typically are not only geared specifically toward field operations, but can also often be customized. Think about what exactly you want to use the device for, says Korkut. Do you just want it for payment options and Web use, or will you be using it for parts inventory, real-time scheduling and and business visibility? What apps or programs may you need?

What level of reliability do you want?

Long battery life is critical when you’re out in the field all day, and rugged devices generally have batteries that last longer and can be easily swapped out. And, of course, they’re made to withstand the weather and rugged use. If you go the consumer-device route, what add-on protection might you need?

What’s your price point?

Consumer devices are cheaper. “Their failure rate is still unclear, but some say they are cheap enough that they can just be replaced when they break,” Korkut says. “Of course you then have to take into consideration the amount of down time for when they do break.”

How much integration with ongoing systems do you need?

Will the addition of new mobile hardware require an overhaul in the IT department to integrate program operations and reporting systems? If so, is it worth that?

Read More: DIY: How to Ruggedize a Mobile Device

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