Really? You think you’re so tough? Rugged versus Consumer Devices


There was a time when rugged devices were, well, rugged, but not particularly attractive. After all, they were designed to perform a function, which was to collect data in a place where there was a high risk of dropping the device—on a cement floor, in a puddle or a snow bank. These hardy devices also had to stand up to the dust, dirt, and debris that are commonly kicked up in an environment like a warehouse, production floor, in a police vehicle, or a delivery truck. A dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Then we all fell in love with the sleekness of consumer devices—the smartphones and tablets with so much functionality. Tens of thousands of apps could be at your fingertips in mere moments, enabling you to do everything from planning an entire vacation to paying your bills to keeping tabs on your kids. We loved our electronic gizmos so much that we took them to work. And within a short time, consumer devices blended right into the workplace, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) was born.

Frankly, we love the advances that mobile technology has made. We have the ability to communicate from anywhere, at any time. Mobile devices enable us to be more flexible, responsive, and informed.

But…(you know that was coming, right?), we can’t assume that the consumer mobile devices present the solution for every task and every environment. There are some important considerations when choosing between the two, particularly when you will be operating your devices in a challenging environment.

Failure Rate. A consumer mobile device simply won’t last as long as its rugged counterpart. According to a VDC Research Report (March 2013), non-rugged devices are 100% more likely to fail than rugged devices. The lifecycle is measured in months, while a rugged device’s projected lifespan is measured in years.

So, although you can get great deals on the first consumer device, when you need to replace it (sooner than you hoped), suddenly the price tag is hundreds of dollars higher, obliterating the savings you thought you gained from buying the less expensive consumer model.

Over a five-year period, the total cost of ownership of a consumer device is 50% HIGHER than a rugged device.

Downtime. This is an off-shoot of the failure rate, but worth noting. The VDC study also showed that the average device failure creates 80 minutes of worker downtime. It’s not just the replacement and repair costs, but the lost man-hours.By using a rugged device that minimizes downtime, you increase productivity. A 2% increase translates to a $3,000 return per worker per year.

Security Risks. Consumer devices have built-in security, but not at the tighter level of an enterprise-grade device. With BYOD, you’re opening up your network to all sorts of risks. That smartphone or tablet that is accessing your enterprise data might also be used for Facebook updates, downloading videos, and careless browsing that could compromise your network. A rugged device is designed and engineered for enterprise use, including the security features.


Convenience. This is an area where the consumer devices used to outshine the rugged ones. The sleek design, touchscreen, and wealth of app choices of consumer models made the rugged devices look clunky. That has changed. Today’s rugged devices look and feel like a consumerized smartphone or tablet. Put them side by side, and you’ll see the likeness. Turn on the rugged device and you’ll also recognize the operating system, because they’re now Android and iOS compatible.

FACT: I was enjoying my favorite mocha latte in a café recently, while working on my Zebra TC55. The barista asked me where I got my tablet. “Is that one of those prototype things?” I casually knocked it off the table and watched it hit the floor. The young barista’s eyes were wide. She bent down and picked up the TC55, slowly turning it over. I could tell she feared the cracked screen. It was intact.

“No,” I said, brushing my hand over the screen, “this is one of those rugged things.”

Long story not so long, don’t assume that the rugged devices haven’t progressed at the same rate as the consumer devices. The better value is in the rugged devices. If you need more information, contact me at Vision Computer Works