The Jury is In: There is No Rugged Vs. Consumer

Only What’s Best for your Mobile Technology Needs

By: Greg Henry, Vice President of Client Solutions

I began writing about the introduction of consumer-based mobile computers, such as smart phones and tablets, as an alternative to the traditional, purpose-built industrial or rugged mobile computers found in business applications like retail stores, warehouses, field workers, etc., back in 2014. In those early days, the debate was price verses durability and specialized functionality, such as integrated barcode scanners. At that time, there were two major camps. Those that took the position, “consumer devices are inexpensive and if it breaks I will just buy another one” and those that focused on “total cost of ownership” and “product lifecycles of 18 months are not sustainable for business applications.” A small minority of us thought there was room for both. I often argued that consumer class computing was opening new down-stream market opportunities that the industrial class devices could not penetrate due to pricing pressures.


Over the last three and half years, we have seen a significant change in the mobile computing market. First and foremost is that the market continues to grow, the infrastructure is vastly improving, and mobile applications are numerous. From an adoption point of view, we have seen small organizations adopt consumer devices to improve their operations and customer satisfaction levels as well as large organizations make significant investments in consumer devices as an alternative to traditional industrial devices. However, over the last twelve months, this pendulum is shifting once again as many of the large organizations that invested in consumer devices are converting back to rugged devices.


There are several reasons for this shift. First, industrial device manufactures are producing better devices with faster processors, current operating systems, smaller form-factors and higher resolution displays. Second, companies are tired of trying to keep pace with the 18-month product release cycles of consumer products, as well as the higher damage rates and lack of necessary specialized features, such as barcode scanners and replaceable batteries. In the last 6 months, we have seen multiple large retailers that had deployed consumer devices announce that they are moving back to industrial computing platforms. Their top three specific reasons are:

• Lower failure rates of industrial devices = improved employee productivity
• Replaceable batteries = better device utilization as spare batteries are charging with the device is in use
• Integrated barcode scanners = fewer peripherals to deal with and fewer devices to charge

It’s Your Choice!

In the end, it comes down to this. You have a choice and the choice is not consumer or rugged, but rather, evaluating your specific needs, prioritizing those needs, and then selecting the mobile technology that works best for you. Here are some things to consider when making a mobile computing decision:

• Do you work in a harsh environment?
• How long do you intend to support the application?
• Do you need more than 8 hours of battery life before recharging?
• Do you run multiple shifts?
• Do you require barcode scanning?
• What type of peripherals do you require? (battery chargers, truck mount kits, RFID, etc.)
• Are you willing to purchase a new unit when the display is broken or case cracks?

Contact us to find the best mobile solution for you.

Greg Henry, Vice President of Client SolutionsAbout the Author
This blog post was written by Greg Henry, vice president of client solutions at Barcoding, Inc. He is responsible for designing and delivering solutions that increase customer efficiency and accuracy and is creating lasting connections with customers, clients, employees, and partners. Prior to joining our team, he spent 16 years in senior level positions at a mobile and wireless systems integrator and 13 years at Symbol Technologies, now Motorola Enterprise Mobility Business.

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