Choosing the Best Barcode Scanner in 2015: Understanding Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Imagine you’re a manager who needs to purchase barcode scanners for 100, or even 1,000 employees. Which devices should you purchase? Should you choose a traditional mobile computer, or are smartphone devices a reliable and cost effective alternative?

In order to help answer this question, we developed a comparison of the cost and feature differences between popular barcode scanning devices. The comparison focuses on establishing one of the most important metrics for decision makers: total cost of ownership (TCO).

View Barcode Scanner TCO Comparison

The Juicy Stuff

  • A popular mobile computer can cost over 5x as much as a rugged smartphone throughout the lifetime of the device, despite having less functionality.
  • Rugged smartphones produced by traditional barcode scanning hardware manufacturers cost almost 3x as much as alternatives over the lifetime of the device, despite having less functionality.
  • Even a relatively expensive and fully featured device like the iPhone 6 (with a IP68 rugged case) is cheaper than alternative rugged smartphones produced by traditional barcode scanning hardware manufacturers.

The Fine Print

Our comparison found that the TCO of the Motorola MC3190 mobile computer is 512% more than that of a Kyocera Brigadier industrial smartphone running Scandit, and 280% more than a ruggedized, encased iPhone 6 running Scandit. Additionally we found that the TCO of the Honeywell Dolphin 70e industrial smartphone is 287% more than that of a Kyocera Brigadier rugged smartphone running Scandit, and 157% more than that of a ruggedized, encased iPhone 6 running Scandit. For a complete explanation of our calculations see our comparison.

Let’s See How That Scales

Strap in and hold on:

Lifetime TCO Calculations (4 yrs)10 Devices100 Devices1000 Devices*5000 Devices**
Kyocera Brigadier w/ Scandit$14,780$147,800$1,330,200$5,912,000
Encased iPhone 6 w/ Scandit$27,000$270,000$2,430,000$10,800,000
Honeywell Dolphin 70e$42,440$424,400$3,819,600$16,976,000
Motorola MC3190$75,780$757,800$6,820,000$30,312,000

*10% Volume discount applied

**20% Volume discount applied

But Can Smartphones Actually Scan Barcodes Reliably?

The truth is that enterprise-grade, camera-based barcode scanning has been a reliable alternative to laser scanning for several years now, and it’s continuously improving. Here are three things to think about if you doubt the power of smartphone-based barcode scanning:

1)   Watch this.

2)   Even Honeywell is in the smartphone business these days.

3)   Still aren’t convinced? Ok. Download this and test for yourself.

Even traditional manufacturers of barcode scanners have introduced a new class of smartphone devices designed to ease the passing of the traditional mobile computer. These companies are relying on the trust they’ve built through their strong market positions as well as the high cost of legacy scanning solutions to demand higher prices for their hardware and software than comparable solutions.

Why Our Numbers Are Conservative

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is calculated by assessing two categories of costs over a 4 year period: hard costs and soft costs. Hard costs involve the device itself, the software that runs on it and associated software development costs; while soft costs involve the training, operation and downtime costs.

We suspect that both our hard costs and soft costs are overstated for iOS and Android-based smartphones. The hard costs of these devices may be overstated because the VDC study we used to for our calculations was developed in the era of Windows CE. Many traditional mobile computer devices operate on Windows CE or Windows Mobile, which have higher associated development costs due to the difficulty of programming and the likelihood of bugs. Another consideration that could impact costs is that not all employees necessarily need dedicated scanning devices, and apps that leverage a smartphone’s camera can be extended to employees personal devices via BYOD policies. Additionally, soft costs such as training are likely overstated for iOS and Android-based smartphones due to the familiarity of the devices to users and the consumerization of IT trend.

The Conclusion

Smartphone-based barcode scanners can be significantly more cost-effective than traditional alternatives, while providing access to a broader range of functionality.

Additionally, it appears that while smartphones produced by traditional barcode scanner hardware manufacturers are an attempt to evolve from their traditional product offerings, the hardware is underwhelming (see comparison) and is currently sold at non-competitive price points.

The dramatic price gap between the systems offered by traditional scanner hardware manufacturers versus the systems that leverage Scandit’s agile smartphone-based barcode scanning software represents the power software has to reshape traditional markets. As they would say in Silicon Valley both mobile and software are eating the world. Yum.

Disagree? We’d Like to Hear from You

If you have questions or challenges to the assertions made in this blog post we invite you to email us, and we will attempt to address all of your questions and comments in a follow-up post.