Enterprise-Grade Barcode Scanner Comparison: Smartphones Provide Massive Cost Savings

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Enterprise-Grade Barcode Scanner Comparison: Smartphones Provide Massive Cost Savings

Today we’re very excited to release an enterprise barcode scanner comparison chart that looks at the differences between total cost of ownership (TCO) and feature sets associated with popular mobile hardware including dedicated handheld scanners, smartphone-based scanners and mobile computers.


How We Constructed our Barcode Scanning Hardware Comparison

For the comparison we evaluated one low-cost scanner—the Motorola LS2208, one popular mobile computer—the Intermec CN4, and two smartphone devices running the Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK—the Motorola Admiral (durable smartphone with QWERTY keyboard) and the Samsung Galaxy SIII (a Samsung SAFE smartphone with a rugged Seidio Obex case). What we found was astounding, but we’ll get to that in a moment—first we’ll explain how we put the comparison together.

Following the well-known VDC mobile hardware TCO study from 2007, we came up with the estimated TCO for the hardware in our comparison. The VDC study established hardware cost as a percentage of lifetime TCO (assumed to be 4 years) for four categories: Non-Rugged, Durable, Semi-Rugged, and Fully Rugged Mobile Hardware (for mobile computers, laptops, and PDAs). They place smartphones in their own category, which were assumed to be non-ruggedized. You can reference Exhibit 2 from the VDC study to get the percentages:

Non-Rugged Mobile Computer/PDA Hardware: 8% of overall TCO

Durable Mobile Computer/PDA Hardware: 11% of overall TCO

Semi-Rugged Mobile Computer/PDA Hardware: 18% of overall TCO

Fully-Rugged Mobile Computer/ PDA Hardware: 27% of overall TCO

In our comparison, we used these percentages to establish lifetime TCO for the included ruggedized smartphone devices.  In 2007, when this study was written, enterprise-grade smartphone devices were in their infancy so they weren’t evaluated in their own category. These percentages above do however apply to ruggedized PDAs, and we’ve logically assumed that a ruggedized PDA featuring the durability ratings set by the VDC study standards would be equivalent to a smartphone device featuring the same ratings.

In the comparison we used one smartphone device that is fully-rugged (Samsung Galaxy SIII utilizing a Seidio Obex case) and one is simply durable (Motorola Admiral).  Both smartphones contain the MIL-STD 810G military drop protection rating, making them very resistant to shock, dust and dirt. In fact they can be dropped up to 26x on all faces/sides from a height of 1.8 m (6 ft)!  The Samsung Galaxy SIII (with Seidio Obex case) is also IP68 rated, meaning it is completely dustproof and waterproof. For more information about how durability ratings work check out this great resource.

For the purposes of our comparison, we rely on the subsequent durability standards as established by VDC:

Fully-Rugged: Designed to meet at least MIL-STD 810-F and IP54 standards

Semi-Rugged: Designed to meet IP54 standards (but not MIL-STD 810-F)

Durable: Mobile hardware without military drop or environmental sealant ratings but with features such as shock-mounted hard drives; accelerometers; spill-proof keyboards; etc.

Non-Rugged/Consumer Grade: Mobile computers with no enhanced durability or ruggedness designed into device

And these are the referenced durability standards:

IP54 Rating: Environmental sealant rating that indicates a device is protected against dust and water spray from all directions.

IP68 Rating: Environmental sealant rating that indicates a device is totally protected against dust and can be submerged into water for extended periods of time.

MIL-STD 810G Rating:  Military drop protection rating that indicates a device can be dropped up to 26x on all faces, sides from a height of 1.8 m (6 ft).

In 2007, VDC noted that “mobile phone and smartphone vendors are starting to introduce rugged options that conform to IP/NEMA specifications (durability standards) and may compete for market share for applications such as field service.”  Nowadays, there is a plethora of these ruggedized smartphone devices made to enterprise-grade durability standards.  The market has changed and now these smartphones are just as tough as those bulky mobile computers used commonly for package shipment and delivery—and at a fraction of the cost.

Here are the TCO calculations for mobile hardware in our comparison:


Total Cost of Ownership Calculations (Lifetime* in USD)

[table caption=”” nl=”^” width=”600″]
Cost Type,Motorola LS2208,Motorola Admiral(Durable),Samsung Galaxy SIII (Fully-Rugged),Intermec CN4 (Fully-Rugged),
Hard Costs(Device)1,$120,$350,$555,$2074,
Hard Costs(Software and Development)2,N/A,$175,$154,$576,
Soft Costs(Training Operational and Downtime)3,$120,$2657,$1347,$5032,
Lifetime TCO,$240,$3182,$2056,$7681,

*Lifetime of the device is assumed to be 4 years per the VDC study.

1. Device cost as a percentage of lifetime TCO is 27% for “fully-rugged” devices and 11% for “durable” devices according to the VDC study. For the Motorola LS2208 we assumed device cost as 50% of lifetime TCO to be a reasonable conservative estimate.

2. Software and development costs as a percentage of lifetime TCO are 7.5% for “fully-rugged” devices and 5.5% for “durable” devices.

3. Training, operational and downtime costs as a percentage of lifetime TCO are 65.5% for “fully-rugged” devices and 83.5% for “durable” devices. For the Motorola LS2208 we estimated these costs as 50% of lifetime TCO.

Want to see more? Check out the full enterprise-grade barcode scanner comparison chart.

Take a look at that again. The Intermec CN4 will cost you over $7,681 over its lifetime, basically weighs a pound, has a pathetic feature set in terms of today’s computing power, and costs over 3.7x times as much money as an encased Samsung Galaxy SIII smartphone ($2,056 lifetime TCO). Not to mention that the hardware specs on the Samsung Galaxy SIII blow the Intermec CN4 away. The much smaller, lighter, and more user friendly (with a touchscreen and a modern operating system) Galaxy SIII has 2.5x as much battery life, boasts 8x the computer memory and comes stock with over 60x as much local disk storage. All of this is available at 26% of the cost of an Intermec CN4. This is crazy. It is time for the mobile computer to die.


Advantages of Smartphone-Based Barcode Scanning

The smartphone represents an opportunity for traditional peripheral hardware to be emulated through the creation of mobile apps. Barcode scanners, blood pressure machines, construction levelers, compasses and calculators are just some examples of real world tools that are being replaced by smartphone-based mobile applications.

There are many distinct advantages associated with deploying these smartphone-based barcode scanning apps, for one as you’ve seen above there are great cost savings and feature enhancements gained by making the switch. In addition, these apps can be distributed as software-based scanning apps directly to employee’s own devices, thereby significantly expanding barcode scanning and data capture within your enterprise to support both occasional and heavy users. The development possibilities are incredibly vast in the smartphone world, and the enterprise IT community is beginning to catch on.

Naturally people question the performance of smartphone-based barcode scanning. With the latest release of our Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK we provide enterprise-grade barcode scanning for both the iOS and Android platforms, alongside the professional support and reliability required by an enterprise environment. Check out the video to get a sense of the Scandit user experience:

One last thing to consider is that the two smartphones we used in our study are only two of a burgeoning market. There may be other smartphones out there that provide a better balance of cost and features for your vertical. To shed light on this market we’ll be preparing a guide to help IT managers select the best ruggedized smartphone for their enterprise. We’ll address each vertical and usage scenario in detail to provide the best advice and options. Stay tuned!