The smartphone’s near ubiquity among service pros in the field raises important questions for managers trying to figure out what type of device is best for business. Should a manager choose a consumer phone, such as an Android device or an iPhone, and risk the phone not holding up under harsh conditions in the field? Or is a “ruggedized” device, which may cost five times as much, more appropriate? The choices parallel similar technology purchasing decisions managers must wrestle with when adopting new technologies.


Brian Albright tackles the rugged vs. consumer conundrum on Field Technologies Online. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both groups of device, rugged and consumer. Beyond the durability features, rugged devices are often offer more specialized functionality that consumer devices just aren’t designed to handle. Scanners, for example, are typically native in rugged tablets and smartphones, but consumer devices such as the iPhone and iPad include built-in cameras that double as scanners with the correct apps.

Cost of ownership

Total cost of ownership is another important consideration according to Albricht, who cites data from VDC Research that found “the replacement rate in the first year for non-rugged enterprise handheld devices is 18%, compared to 3.3% for rugged devices. By year three, that replacement rate rises to 82.6% and 18.2% respectively.”


We’ve previously covered the selling points of both consumer and rugged devices previously on The SmartVan. Consumer devices, such as iPhones, iPads and other tablets, are affordable, familiar to service technicians and can be adapted to many uses in the field. Rugged devices, produced specifically for use in the field, are generally more durable and offer special functionality necessary for certain jobs. But they’re more expensive, sometimes substantially so. Both types of device offer advantages and disadvantages — managers must weigh the requirements of their service operations when considering the appropriate device for their workforce.

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