Is a smartphone really the right tool for a dirty job?

That’s the big question that emerged from a LinkedIn group discussion on the use of rugged versus regular mobile devices in field service. Smartphones and rugged devices are certainly buzz words in the industry these days, but many pointed out they don’t always make sense for a gritty job.

For some kinds of work, a smartphone or even a ruggedized device is unlikely to last very long, argued Thomas Bodine, an electrical systems engineer for Advanced Micro Devices in Austin, Texas. So why not just use cheaper “feature” phones and avoid costly repairs and replacements?

“Can ruggedized phones survive a fall from a 40-foot or 140-foot platform or be retrieved from the bottom of the sea and be useful? I think not,” Bodine wrote.

Others like Ian McLean, a tech at Sound Environments in Toronto, extolled the virtues (and the apps) of his Android-powered smartphone. “Basically most situations where I would need to lug around a laptop, I can simply pull out my phone,” he wrote. “I walk into many jobs with my phone, cutters and a screwdriver and can take care of most jobs,” he says.

Does your company still use feature phones, or have smartphones and tablets reshaped how you do your job? What’s the best mobile device for field service — or does the perfect device not yet exist? Let us know in the comments, or in the LinkedIn group.

More: Are Smartphones Tough Enough for the Field?

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ABOUT Tiffany Kaiser

Avatar photoTiffany is a tech journalist turned full stack developer who's passionate about the design of a site, the code I write and the people I'm writing it for. I can OO JavaScript, style a sidebar and query a database while upholding that human element needed to communicate with team members and clients.