The changing role of the Rugged PDA

28 09 2012
Where Next, the changing role of the Rugged PDA will see great changes in the future...

Where Next, the changing role of the Rugged PDA will see great changes in the future…

We’re shallow on articles right now largely due to the fact it is manic here at Rugged and Mobile and we have been hit by this dreaded chesty cough bug too!!….Double whammy and even us rugged folk are staying in bed to try to get better again!!!  I can only apologise and say that we’ll be back on from as soon as we’re all back on form!!!

Anyway lets end the week with a thought article and one that follows on form the last article we did about How rugged PDA’s have changed.  Today I thought we could take a look at why the Rugged PDA has changed specific to the roles it taking today, compared to yesterday.

The Rugged PDA of yesterday.

Think back if you can?  The lowly beginnings of the PDA saw early adopters, all yielding stylus’ wanting a Windows experience on a PDA.  I know, I was one of them!  A techie who thought nothing of spending hours of my life trying to get email to work over WiFi and syncing to work over RS-232.  If you;re under the age of 25 then you have no idea how easy things are now!!!

But at the same time there was a merry Windows CE and Palm thing going on too which brought rise to mobile “devices” too but from the more rugged, factory side of things.  We started to see warehouses adopting bar codes and mobile devices and we saw EPOS starting to move into the mobile arena too.  You see this a lot with the older manufacturers coming from one of these backgrounds.

The Rugged PDA of today

However today we see the role changing hugely and the PDA has partly driven this but has also been dragged along by other needs too.  Firstly the ever improving features of a rugged PDA have meant it can be used in so many more scenarios.  Battery technology has allowed them to be smaller and lighter so we’re seeing a push into Field mobile and even into business and sales automation areas too where people demand a functioning and smaller device.

RFID, Bar coding and data capture have seen the role in the supply chain change.  Not only have the early warehouse adopters extended their use of devices but also other markets and businesses saw the potential too.  We saw couriers, ticketing people, security, inspection and a whole host of new customers adopt a mobile device and then try to take advantage of all its features as much as they could.

The Rugged PDA of tomorrow

So whats happening in the future?  Firstly devices are still getting smaller, batteries are getting better and the features are getting better and more reliable too.  I think 4G will see a real huge trust of mobile working grow and as we take being connected 100% of the time for granted, a whole new generation of kids will grow up with this mentality, rather than the one I have where I never ever assume you can get a GPRS signal!

Rugged PDA manufacturers are also responding to this changing scenario with more and more niche devices being created and as such more and more manufacturers from the east bringing new and exciting kit we’re going to see resellers taking different approaches to what and how they sell and support kit.  Can we remain totally impartial when there are 1000 devices, not 100….who knows, we’ll sure as hell try but I think, like we’ve seen in the car industry, there will be an explosion of devices for all occasions as the need for a PDA expand in the market place.

Along with this maybe we’ll start to see different form factors, wearable devices, devices not from an Android or Windows background but more simple M2M PIC or Arduino type things that will leave us humans out of the communication?  All I know is these are exciting times!

Right where did I put my cough mixture….

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

How Rugged PDA’s have changed in the last 10 years

24 09 2012
Rugged PDA's have come a long way in just 15 years

Rugged PDA’s have come a long way in just 15 years

We’re spending a lot of time updating our Rugged PDA Repair and support site at the moment and one of the things we’re really noticing is how the requests for FAQ’s and KB articles have changed over the years for Rugged PDA’s.  I thought it would be cool to take a candid look at what has changed and why.

Technology itself

When you look at the first PDA’s rugged or not, the thought of having GPS, an SD card reader and even a phone/3G were things left to Star trek movies to tackle, but now-a-days we’re seeing more and more being packed into the Rugged PDA as it becomes a technology haven and the focus point of innovation for many manufacturers.

Technology as enabler

If you have a gadget that can suddenly tell you where you are then a whole bunch of requirements, solutions and applications are going to spring up that take advantage of this.  We saw in the early days how SatNav grew on the back of GPS enabled PDA’s with no connectivity and how today RFID, NFC especially, 3/4G, GPS and all kinds of data capture features are bringing more and more businesses into the mobile fold.


Whilst Smartphones seem to be getting bigger these days, Rugged Handheld’s are still trending smaller as they strive to become the centre point of the worker both for the solution at hand but also as their main point of communication and collaboration.  Rugged PDA’s have to become usable and as such we’re seeing so many new models now flood the market.

Ruggedness is cheap!

Well it’s certainly easier these days to get a device that’s rugged enough.  You can design, fabricate and fill a rugged PDA in a comparatively low time frame with little risk these days and we’re seeing huge increase in the number devices now available for users, all providing a niche feature as the market grows.

Battery power

One of the biggest reasons Rugged PDA’s are the size and shape they are is the batteries they use and battery technology improves so rapidly that we’re able to pack more and more punch into smaller devices.  Along with this more powerful features cam be driven so VGA LCD’s replace QVGA ones naturally and more features can be used like NFC readers in devices that would have once struggled to work for a few hours.

Reduced functionality

OK, so sounds a bit hypocritical but actually in the past few years we’ve seen demand for less technology being included in PDA’s.  I think this is largely due to the expanding role the Rugged PDA has to take these days so many people don’t want Barcode Scanners in them, RFID or even BT and GPS in some cases.  So despite the “core” specs and features of devices improving every month, there is demand for devices that do far less too.

What next…. you’ll have to wait for our end of year blog for that in full! but what I am seeing right now is huge progress in mobile payments, mobile receipt printing (or lack of) and huge need to manage mobile devices that can put a business at as much risk as they bring fortune.  What I do know is that every new rugged PDA we see has to have something special these days to stand out from the crowd.  Brand isn’t enough any more.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Rugged PDA Showdown – Pidion BIP-5000 V’s Dotel H300

21 09 2012
Can Dotels H300 knock out the Pidion BIP-5000?

Can Dotels H300 knock out the Pidion BIP-5000?

So it’s winter, the blog has been quiet largely due to flu, colds and sore throats here at RAM but we’re soldering on today with a look at one of the most popular Rugged PDA’s we sell, the Pidion BIP-5000, or should we say used to be the most popular.  We get a little bit slammed at times for perhaps leaning towards certain brands, however I can honestly say we’re totally impartial, we just rave about stuff that’s great and that we have sold for many years and if anything we knock the kit that’s at the top, there for being knocked a bit in our view!!  So we’re starting a series of rugged pda showdowns that get us back to our PDA roots whilst giving our customers a flavour of what choice is out there.  There’s a longer tail of kit every single day and there’s a lot more out there than you think!

We’ll keep to a rigid set of rules and fight each PDA off in each category.  Will the BIP-5000 be knocked from its perch!

In the Red Corner from South Korea, we have the ever popular Dotel H300….In the Blue corner, also from South Korea we have the champion, the undefeated Pidion BIP-5000.  Ding, Ding, Ding…!

Spec – Winner Dotel H300

This is purely about the spec and features of the device.  Both of these devices are very similar at the heart with the Same CPU but that’s where the similarities end.  The H300 has 256MB RAM though, the BIP-5000 128MB, WM6.5 V 6.1 and it’s simply newer in every aspect.  The H300 also has the option of HSPA (3.7G), the BIP-5000 is showing its age with only an Edge (2.5G) chip.  Camera, BT, GPS and WiFi are also all better and newer in the H300.

Configuration – Winner Dotel H300

Well the BIP-5000 comes in many configurations but the H300 is freely configurable.  Want a BT only device, no problem.  Qwerty or numeric keypad…no problem, Want a device with UHF reader, gun handle and larger battery to run it…no problem!  The H300 can also come with GPRS or 3G options, a standard or SUMMIT WiFi chip and QVGA or VGA screen.  It’s just totally configurable to any config you want.

Service, Repair & Support – Draw

Both devices enjoy the exact same service products which will beat any Motorola, Psion or Intermec service product hands down in my humble view.  This one’s a draw.

Usability – Winner H300

The H300’s keyboard in numeric or qwerty guise is a joy to use.  Big spaced out buttons are superb and remind us of Intermec devices of old!  The H300 is also much lighter, largely due to it’s smaller Lithium Polymer batteries that last for ages.  The H300 also has a big backup battery which means swapping batteries does not require a reboot.

Which rugged pda would you rather use?

Which rugged pda would you rather use?

Developer friendly – Winner BIP-5000

The BIP-5000 has far better software support.  It has Pidion based applications that help you use the device, better scanner apps and most importantly a far fuller and more usable SDK.  The H300 has all of these, they improve every month but it’s still a way behind the BIP-5000.

Also the connector development on the BIP-5000 is way easier to use so if you need to talk to other machines using serial, the BIP-5000 has been there and done it.  The h300 can do it, but it needs some work!

Ruggedness – Draw

Both have a similar drop spec and recessed screens.  The BIP-5000 has an IP65 rating with the H300 at IP54.  The plastics of the H300 are better and its better screwed together in my view.  I think the H300 just pips this one in my opinion but on paper this one’s a draw.

In the box – Draw

Both these devices enjoy the same “in the box” accessories as part of the price and you’ll have everything you need to get running without having to buy extra’s.  Both have a cradle, PSU, all leads, an LCD protector, stylus/tethers and batteries so this ones a draw, well done to both!

Acessories – Winner BIP-5000

The Pidion BIP-5000 has a lot more accessories but they’re arguable a bit of a jumble too.  It enjoys more 3rd party involvement like Brodit for its car cradles and it has quad cradle options as well a better lead support.  However the H300’s accessory list, small as it may be is extremely  modular, clever and better value for money.  I think the BIP-5000 just pips this one although its close.

Price – Winner H300

This is a close one.  If you go for a common model of BIP-5000, say the MG2 then you’ll find simply through competition it’s a tickle cheaper…but not much.  However add in a 2D scanner and it starts getting cheaper.  But and this is a big BUT.  You can have the H300 with no scanner which makes it terrific value for money and you can spec out everything you don’t want too so I think this one goes to the H300.

Quality – Draw

This explores the components in each device and in both cases you won’t be disappointed.  Both use decent Centerion based chips, have extremely good scanners (Opticon and Adaptus in H300) (Moto and Own brand in Pidion),

USP’s – Winner H300

We’re always looking for something unique or special in a Rugged PDA and the BIP-5000, over time has lost all of its USP’s.  The H300 however has a list as long as your arm.  Lithium Polymer batteries, HF and UHF RFID options, the way you can configure it, QVGA or VGA screens, a lovely modular field accessory charging and syncing setup and more.  This one is a hands down H300 win.

So there we have it a 5-2 win for the Dotel H300, also knocking off the BIP-5000 from it’s best value Rugged PDA title too.  Come talk to us if you want to know more.  However with the newer Pidion HM50 coming in the next 6 months or so maybe we shouldn’t hold our breath for too long.  We’ll see how that fairs when we get one!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

The difference between 3G, HSDPA and LTE Mobile Networks

17 09 2012

Some time ago we wrote about the differences between GPRS and all the different versions of 3G and what they meant to Rugged PDA users.  However since then time has moved on and so has the technology so we’re going to look at the very latest in mobile network technology today, namely LTE or 4G.

So what is LTE?

LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution” and is the next generation in mobile network, commonly referred to as “4G”.  As you’ll have probably noticed last week the new iPhone 5 is an LTE enabled phone and pretty much every new release of smartphone will probably now sport LTE connectivity.  There is a rival to LTE in the “4G” stakes in WIMAX with the USA and countries like S. Korea taking this technology on instead but it seems to be LTE in the UK that will be the technology the we base our new super fast 4G mobile networks upon.

Whats the difference from 3G or HSDPA?

Well 3G technologies are the way we currently connect to the mobile networks for data usage and up until now have been the fastest way to do so.  3G kept getting upgraded so you’ll see terms like HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA, HSPA+ all being incremental upgrades to the technology.  4G is a totally new technology, it requires a full new rollout across the countries mobile network masts and it is a far better technology to grow with our ever growing data consumption needs.

Why is the technology different?

3G has really reached it’s limits.  When it was originally deployed I don’t think anyone imagined that 100Mbps or even more speeds were going to be demanded by users.  4G not only enables these kinds of speeds but it is also built to be far more flexible with data needs.  It should be far more future proof with fixed speeds already reaching Gigabit levels, it also uses bandwidth far more economically and the systems has a better coverage so we should get a more level coverage as its rolled out.

OK, I’m a Layman, what does this mean for me?

It means far faster mobile access with proposed speeds of 100Mbps, compared to the 3 or 4 we get now.  In fact I’ve been checking my 3G data speeds quite regularly and I rarely get over 1.3 to 1.5 Mbps on my iPhone 4.  It’ll also be a more robust technology so coverage should be better and the general network should become slicker when using it.  Lastly the nature of LTE means that it should be far more power friendly, so running LTE instead of 3G on your device could also have many benefits other like extending the life of your battery.

backwards compatible?

Absolutely.  Your GPRS and 3G devices are safe for now and will still offer the best coverage until LTE rollouts are completed.  However any phone or RIgged PDA you have right now will still be able to connect t the 3G network and most devices coming out now will have dual 4G and 3G and GPRS chips making them work on anything!

When’s it coming?

Well it’s already here with countries like the USA and many others already adopting it and building the speeds up gradually.  In the UK Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile to you and me!) have got a head start on O2, Vodafone and 3 and are already rolling out their LTE service now with the rest about 6 months behind.  We’re told people are getting about 15-20Mbps out of their Samsung Galaxies right now!

Why bother with LTE?

OK, so we’re in the “Rugged” market, no-one is downloading movies, games or consuming data like smart phone users right?  Well I’m not so sure to be honest.  I think we’ve been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to Data usage and LTE will drive far more solutions, make flakey, beta applications far more robust and above all I think we’ll see far better connected, live and wonderful solutions built on top of a platform that can pump out 20Mbps when it needs to.  Machine to Machine communication is also growing rapidly but the data connection can often hold back M2M solutions both by its bandwidth and power usage.

We’ll keep you posted of devices as they come out and as the technology gets utilised.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

Top 10 features the iPhone needs to be Rugged!

12 09 2012
A glorious History but will the iPhone 5 live up to this today?

A glorious History but will the iPhone 5 live up to this today?

We thought we’d continue having some fun this week with the iPhone 5 with a candid view of the top 10 features we think it should have to make it a mission critical and rugged PDA, so here goes!

More battery options

The device needs to cater for different users and their power consumption so a bigger battery would be nice to see with more options for batteries in the accessory list.

Replaceable battery

The battery needs to be replaceable so that users can rely on the device for full shift working.  Also what happens if the battery fails after 12 months?

Better roadmap

IOS is great but it goes out of fashion too quickly (Yes I know so does Android!) so we’d like to see a committment of 3-5 years, much like WIndows Mobile that the OS will be available and new OS’s will be more backward compatible.  The form factor also changes too often making it difficult to rely on a device for any length of time.  Your workers will end up with multiple devices, all on different OS builds, able to do different things, all with a different set of incompatible accessories.

Bigger form factor

We all know small is good in the mobile phone world, but a bigger device would be easier to hold and use a solution all day with.

More Rugged

Less glass, more ABS plastic, less metal to withstand more rugged weather environments.

Better accessories

The iPhone has a tonne of accessories, mostly from 3rd party providers but to make it mission critical we need to see Quad chargers, Serial cables, better cases and holster, trigger handles etc!


We know capacitive screens are winning the war over touch screens but surely with all that money Apple can come up with an inexpensive and durable capacitive stylus to take those Signatures and pander to the stylus wielding PDA user?

Better Development Platform

Yes Xcode is nice to use but there is a learning curve, otherwise we’d have picked it up here.  With >NET or even Android to a degree you;re using familiar tools, it’s far easier, quicker and cheaper to get solutions built with far more people around able to do them.

Better repair and services

You can’t rely on network products any longer, so where do you go to get fast, genuine parts and repairs for your iPhone?

More buttons

IOS is a superb OS, still delivering the best smart phone experience on the planet in my view, but using the phone in gloves could be a pain and what about making it easier to answer calls or drive a business solution?  Maybe some extra buttons on the case would work better!

So we ran all of this through our servers here to see what the iPhone would look like if it had all of the above and the result are shown below!

If an iPhone was rugged it would look like this....

If an iPhone was rugged it would look like this….

Sorry just couldn’t resist that!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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