Rugged Smartphones in the Enterprise: Overview and 2015 Buyer’s Guide

Are you looking to buy a rugged smartphone for your business or employees? Whether you are running a small business or an international corporation, smartphones can play a vital role in business operations. From back-office processes to customer transactions, today’s smartphones provide the performance and flexibility to empower employees across virtually every industry.

Unfortunately, most consumer smartphones are not built with the enterprise in mind, and can’t stand up to harsh workplace environments. This means that many businesses embracing mobile have to consider rugged smartphones or cases to meet the demands of their industry. With many manufacturers, devices and rugged options to consider, it can be hard to identify which device is best for your business and budget. That’s why we have created our 2015 Rugged Smartphone Buyer’s Guide. This comprehensive guide covers the best rugged smartphones to help you make the right purchasing decisions for your business. We outline full device specs, highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each phone, and go on to make recommendations for specific enterprise use cases.

What is a Rugged Smartphone?

So what do we mean by a “rugged” smartphone? There is an entire spectrum of standards, most notably ingress protection (IP) and military drop protection, which specify the level to which a device is rugged. IP ratings measure the environmental protection from dirt, dust and water on various scales of intensity and prolonged exposure to the elements. Military drop protection measures how well an object or device holds up to conditions while being used, transported and stored. These ratings involve dozens of tests (see below), measuring variables such as temperature, impact, vibration, humidity and more. We cover the IP ratings in more detail in our 2015 Rugged Smartphone Buyer’s Guide.

The rugged smartphones we’ve reviewed meet IP Environmental Sealant ratings of IP58, IP67, IP69 and IP69. Additionally, many of them meet MIL-STD 810G ratings as well, meaning they are suitable for a variety of industry use cases based on our research. You can find our industry specific ruggedness recommendations below.

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Advantages of Rugged Smartphones in the Enterprise?

The main advantage to using rugged mobile devices in the enterprise is the reduction of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). VDC Research and other industry research firms have established that environmental sealant and military drop protection ratings can drastically lower the TCO of mobile hardware. Rugged smartphones are far less expensive than rugged mobile computers, making them an effective replacement for outdated mobile hardware.

Another thing to keep in mind is smartphones are easier to use than dedicated hardware. Rugged smartphones running Android, or iOS devices using ruggedized cases, are much simpler for employees to operate, especially since most of them already own and use a personal smartphone. Combine this with the fact that smartphones —unlike dedicated hardware— also provide employees with telephone, GPS and mobile apps that make them many times more valuable in the workplace.

In the past, only handheld mobile computers equipped with laser scanners could be trusted by businesses to deliver the speed and precision they relied on. Today, thanks to vast improvements in mobile hardware and camera technology, our software-based barcode scanner can provide the same performance for a fraction of the cost. With rugged smartphones, employees can scan barcodes in the toughest environments —like warehouses and packaging facilities—without having to rely on expensive, bulky dedicated hardware. Let’s take a look at an example use case that is already utilizing rugged smartphones in place of traditional dedicated mobile computers.

Rugged Smartphone Use in Field Service:
Field Service technicians are already using rugged smartphones to complete important tasks on the job. Since a majority of their work occurs in the field or outdoors, they need devices that can both perform and survive the elements. Traditionally, Field Service has required the use of dedicated devices, but today’s mobile technology has changed that. Whether technicians are accessing repair manuals or filing field reports, rugged smartphones can be used to make the process more efficient and cost effective.

Making the Right Choice: Rugged Smartphone or Rugged Case?

There are many options to consider when deciding upon a rugged smartphone device. First you must decide whether you’d like to purchase a rugged smartphone or a rugged case. Rugged smartphones tend to be designed with the enterprise in mind, while rugged cases provide the means to protect consumer smartphone devices. Both strategies have distinct advantages and disadvantages. Once you’ve figured out which levels of ruggedness you require, and decided upon a case or device strategy, you’re ready to pick your device.

Our 2015 Rugged Smartphone Buyer’s Guide can help you decide which smartphone is best suited for your specific use case. With comprehensive reviews on 20 of today’s best rugged smartphone devices, it gives you the insight you need to make the right choice for your industry.


Are you interested in mobilizing your enterprise with rugged smartphones for barcode scanning?
Contact a Scandit representative today.