The following post was previously published on Field Technologies Online, and is re-posted here with permission.
Just because these consumer-grade devices are cheaper to obtain and replace doesn’t mean that end users want to burn through multiple devices each year; the downtime caused by failures eats into productivity, and the replacement costs add up more quickly than you may think. To address this issue, a number of third-party companies now offer rugged, protective cases for the most popular smartphones and tablets (iPhones and iPads, Android smartphones and tablets, and BlackBerry products). The rugged, protective cases for these devices range from $20 to $50 each and provide varying levels of protection against drops, shock, dust, and water.
“With all of these smartphones and tablets going to work, companies are scrambling for technology that protects their investments,” says Gary Rayner, CEO of LifeProof. “iPads don’t do water. Nor do they do dust, snow, or shock. Whether out at a construction site with dust, shock, and weather to contend with, or in a classroom where accidental drops and sticky fingers can wreak havoc, businesses want their employees to be able to conduct business as usual without worrying about their investment going down the drain.”
The bulk of these cases are targeted at Apple products. According to The Mac Observer, as of last spring some 94% of Fortune 500 companies were either testing or deploying iPads for business use, and at least that many have introduced iPhones to the corporate network. According to OtterBox’s Hicks, the most highly utilized devices in the enterprise area are iPhones and iPads, followed by the Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung tablets, and some Motorola and RIM devices.
“These devices have been commonly deployed without a ruggedized protective solution, which has led to a surge in device repair and replacement costs,” Hicks says. “With this rapidly becoming the most unrecognized and explosive cost associated with mobility deployments, the industry has quickly realized rugged cases are no longer a luxury — they have become a necessity.”
How To Protect Your Mobile Investment
So exactly how rugged can these cases help you make a device like the iPhone? Most of the major protective-case manufacturers can meet common MIL-STD and IP standards. The cases are made with anywhere from two layers (a hard outer shell and a softer interior for impact absorption) to upwards of five layers of material, such as mixtures of polycarbonate, silicone, and thermoplastic elastomer.
For example, the OtterBox Armor meets IP67 and MIL-STD 810F ratings for dust, water, and drop protection. The Ballistic Hard Core cases meet the MILSTD 810G specifications. The Griffin Survivor also meets the MIL-STD 810G spec. These manufacturers have also gone to great lengths to demonstrate their durability — a company called G-Form dropped an iPad from a weather balloon hovering at 100,000 into a rocky desert terrain, and the device still worked. (You can see the video on YouTube.)
Likewise, LifeProof’s frē case for the iPhone 5 meets or exceeds the IP68 standard and the MIL-STD 810F-516 specification for dust, dirt, water, and drops. “It has been difficult for external cases to provide the protection needed while not compromising the functionality of the device,” Rayner notes. Case manufacturers have solved this problem, however, to the point that these cases offer an option for consumer devices to be used in field service and maintenance applications.