5 Mythbusting Reasons Smartphones Are Replacing Handheld Scanners in the Last Mile

We’ve all observed e-commerce sales and last mile deliveries skyrocket during the past year. According to the OECD, as lockdowns became the new normal, businesses and consumers increasingly “went digital”, providing and purchasing more goods and services online, raising e-commerce’s share of global retail trade from 14% in 2019 to about 17% in 2020.

Also, with global shipping volumes anticipated to reach 200 billion parcels by 2025, delivery companies are continuously under pressure to rapidly scale operations and digitalize delivery processes so they are robust and reliable as possible to meet the surge in demand and consumer expectations.

Global shipping stats

Barcode scanning is intrinsic to last mile delivery processes. And last mile workflows can be very demanding, especially during peak season, so frontline drivers and delivery workers need barcode scanning devices that won’t let them down. From heavy use to adverse weather (and the occasional drop from the cab) barcode scanning devices need to be fast, reliable, and designed to make the job easier – all without breaking, or breaking the bank.

Replacing dedicated scanners with smartphone barcode scanners in the last mile has gained increasing popularity in recent years. Smartphones offer a cost-efficient way to scale-up a delivery workforce quickly in the face of the e-commerce-led acceleration in demand. Yet despite this, there continues to be misconceptions about their suitability compared to legacy single function scanners.

Here, we explore five mythbusting reasons why smart devices equipped with high-performance mobile computer vision solutions are becoming the de facto technology choice for logistics and delivery enterprises – from depots to doorsteps.

1. Smartphone scanning is fast and accurate

The speed, performance and scan range of dedicated scanners can not only be matched with Scandit-powered smart devices, even in extreme conditions, but scanning-enabled apps can even outperform them in certain areas. And that’s not just high-end phones.

That’s why 3.5m drivers around the world use Scandit-enabled smartphones every day, performing billions of scans per year with speed and accuracy. In testing, Scandit achieved 480 scans per minute, meaning its single scanning speed matches hardware scanners, and to scan a normal sized EAN code, Scandit outperforms the range of many dedicated devices, and in the field  also effortlessly deals with challenges from damaged barcodes to awkward angles, low light in the van, sun glare on the doorstep and many other real life issues.

Speed, efficiency and particularly the ability to scan at distances have proven to be essential in supporting safe, socially distanced pick-ups and deliveries.

2. Smartphones simplify workflows and reduce errors

Time is money and no-one wants disrupted workflows, particularly when speed and time are critical factors.  Scandit’s barcode scanning and Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities allow both replication of existing scanner operations, for example through programming of push to scan buttons on certain smart device models, or the improvement of workflows with our advanced capabilities such as continuous scan and MatrixScan batch scanning.

Drivers can scan multiple parcels or an entire pallet of items in seconds, and receive instant AR feedback. From identifying wrong deliveries to providing special instructions or delivery schedule information for more efficient van loading, smart devices make it easier to identify high volumes of parcels and reduce the inevitable human error that comes with large numbers of individual scans. And these processes are intuitive, using familiar smart devices and converting even veteran drivers with the ease and speed.

3. Smartphones are rugged and operate for an entire shift

Manufacturers understand that many are used for both business and pleasure, so as well as being ergonomic and having battery life to last a whole shift, they have to be durable enough for harsh conditions and tough working environments.

On today’s market, there’s a huge choice of smart devices, including rugged ones specifically designed to work in tough delivery environments.

For example, when it comes to drop resistance and sealing specifications, a recent comparison showed the Samsung XCover Pro was just as rugged and resilient as a dedicated scanner, and is also resistant to rain, snow, dust, temperature and altitude, as well as falls onto hard floors.

Rugged smartphone specs

And in terms of flexibility, Scandit software works on over 20,000 smartphone models, and tough covers are available for the majority of models for extra ruggedness.

4. Smart devices deliver more, with less

From recording proof of delivery to navigation, to capturing signatures and photographing package drops, smartphones can do it all. And unlike bulky dedicated scanners, they deliver all this in one lightweight, slimline device. After all, no one wants to carry around multiple devices, when one can do it all.

By utilizing mobile computer vision and image recognition software, verification of an undamaged delivery to the right person is quick and reliable, and can be recorded into the operations system in real-time.

And Scandit even offers ID verification for parcels requiring age confirmation (handy with the increase in online sales of age restricted goods like alcohol and vapes) – all through a single pocket-familiar device.

5. The total cost of ownership is lower

The cost of a smart device is up to three times lower than a handheld scanner – that’s a huge saving when you are equipping an entire fleet of drivers. Even factoring in software and accessories, the savings seriously add up – without even considering the other benefits around efficiency, flexibility and driver satisfaction.

For those wanting to keep upfront costs even lower, a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, where delivery workers and drivers, use their own familiar smartphones, reduces the hardware cost to zero and makes it quick and easy to scale up when demand peaks – all with minimal training and no storage or maintenance costs.

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is low, operating costs are low, and utilizing smartphones also allows you to do away with separate communication and information devices, for even more impressive savings across the business.

For more comprehensive information and guidance about replacing handheld scanners with smartphone scanning in the last mile, please read our online guide or if you’d like to discuss your requirements in an initial conversation, please get in touch.