Selecting the Ideal Mobile Computer

Recognized as an important factor to keeping mobile workforces competitive in this economy, the mobile computer marketplace has exploded over the past few years offering on-the-go workers countless new tools and features to streamline their responsibilities. But with so many tablets, smartphones, and handheld terminals on the market now, the question for managers becomes: which is the right mobile device for my company? When making this decision, it is important to analyze the application it will be used for and identify what key features you will need. How much protection will it need to last for years to come? Does my device need to have a professional look? What additional tools and applications will give my employees the ability to work efficiently? What communications capabilities will my device need? Questions such as these should be asked when looking to equip your company’s workforce with the ideal mobile computers.

Perhaps the most important factor when deciding upon a mobile computer is the amount of protection it needs. No matter how useful a device may be, if it breaks, your investment goes to waste. While light consumer tablets such as the Apple iPad may be suitable for light business applications carried out by management, such as sending and reading emails, many applications demand a tougher, more reliable device capable of withstanding the inevitable bumps, knocks, and drops. A variety of levels of ruggedness are available and, with the knowledge to do so, the optimal balance between weight and protection can be found for your specific application.  For businesses looking for a durable, long-lasting device, today’s market offers a whole line of lightweight, fully-rugged mobile computers as well as ultra-rugged devices for heavy industrial applications. These devices are built to handle drops and significantly reduce the probability of drop damage from occurring.

The next aspect to take into consideration is where the device will be used. Many mobile computers are purpose built to accommodate specific environments. For applications where contact with water or other liquid may occur or in dusty or humid environments, many devices offer sealing that protects the device’s electronics from damage due to dust, moisture, and liquid; even devices resistant against low pressure water jets are available. Rugged devices are often built to handle temperatures ranging from -20°C to 60°C (-4°F to 140°F) and can be designed to handle even more extreme temperatures. This is something consumer devices do not offer and is actually more important than one might think. For instance, when field workers leave the device in a vehicle during a hot or cold day, it can quickly reach very high or low temperatures. Consumer devices have been reported to temporarily stop functioning even at 35°C; the ability to operate in these temperatures means users can make use of the device without having to wait for it to cool down or warm up. Shock protection is another important feature to considering investing in, especially if the mobile computers will be used on a vibrating vehicle such as a forklift or highway truck. Whether or not you need an easily viewable screen in varying lighting conditions is another function to consider. All in all, it is important to analyze the environment the device will be used in and invest accordingly.

After narrowing down the choice to those devices which are capable of thriving in the environment it will be used in, one must be selected based on the functionalities needed to complete the intended task quickly and efficiently.  Nowadays, a device can be designed to suit specific software. Many are built with integrated cameras, scanners, and more, allowing users to employ intuitive, advanced data collection software. A variety of battery and power saving options are also available, such as power saving automatic sleep modes, extended life batteries, as well as hot-swappable battery systems which maximize uptime. It is also recommended to purchase a device compatible with the current systems you have in place. For example, if most of your business runs on Windows operating software, you may choose to purchase a device which also runs on Windows based software to provide better synergy. To further ensure seamless integration with your workplace, as well as maximize flexibility, many devices can be purchased with a variety of built-in connectivity options, including Bluetooth, GPS, wireless LAN, wireless WAN, multiple cable ports for different connectors, and more. A countless combination of features makes it possible for you to find the truly ideal device for almost any application.

These are just some of the important factors to keep in mind while selecting a mobile computer for your business. Though it may seem like a daunting task to find the ideal device, OCR’s professional services team, equipped with extensive knowledge of the industry, is sure to be able to work with you to select the device that is purpose-built for your application.

5 Thoughts on “Selecting the Ideal Mobile Computer

  1. Ryan P. on September 9, 2014 at 1:40 am said:

    We found the most important factor to us was the battery management options. Being able to hot swap a battery was important to us when selecting our handheld mobile computer because most devices had batteries encased in the unit and had to be charged by plugging the unit in. We need the unit ready at a moment’s notice and being able to swap in a fresh battery at any time was very important and it eliminated many of our choices. Great article and you make a lot of good points.

  2. Tarik N. on September 10, 2014 at 12:19 am said:

    I have a real problem with Microsoft and their support for the latest mobile computers. We wanted to buy a rugged mobile computer and integrate it into our Microsoft back-end. Well, more and more of these rugged devices are turning to Android because Windows 8 just doesn’t seem suitable for enterprise grade mobile devices. If we want a Microsoft device we have to use 2008 technology to support it! What’s up with that??? It seems that Microsoft is abandoning the rugged handheld stage and has lost focus on the mobile market. Someone over at Microsoft needs to wake up. Our software team was pretty perturbed when they found out that they would need to write software in Visual Studio 2008! That is development platform was superseded with 2010, and then by 2012, and then by 2013!!! Well, if they need to support software in such an old version, then they may as well support a current Android version.

  3. Justin M. on September 21, 2014 at 10:29 pm said:

    We are looking to deploy a field service application in the near future and are at the point of evaluating different hardware options. First, I would like to thank you for this article because it speaks to us and is easy to understand. Identifying the features we require was very hard for us since we just didn’t have much experience with a mobile deployment, but this article helped point us in the right direction and re-examine what we need to look at when selecting our mobile computer hardware. Thanks again!

  4. Dennis M. on September 22, 2014 at 6:08 pm said:

    Quick note to let you know that I really appreciated this article. You need to highlight the trend of consumerization in the mobile computer sector as more and more companies adopt smartphones to do business applications with. But, you are right that these do not always make a good fit.

  5. J. Summers on October 2, 2014 at 1:56 am said:

    Wonderful article, good on you! This is just what we were looking for. We are evaluating some handheld computers for our field service application and this is a good reference article that we can use as a guide. I actually like what you’ve written, really enjoyed the information and the way in which you say it. Simple for someone not technical like me to understand. Thanks again.

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