So after a being a few weeks later than thought, the TC55 is now on general release with 3G and WiFi only models now available so we thought it was time after a week playing with the TC55 to deliver our verdict on the new rugged android smartphone.
The first thing you notice about the TC55 against all the other “Rugged” Android smartphones in this class is it’s form factor. It’s the most smartphone-like rugged device out there and with the standard 2940mAh battery it’s slim and still has a whack of power. The 4410mah extended battery puts a bump in the back of the device but the TC55 carries this battery well and in the hand it feels nice, light and generally feels good.
The barcode scanner is also beautifully hidden. No bumps and you hardly know it’s there. OK so the 1D scanner isn’t out of Motorola’s retail top draw but it works and even managed to scan through our difficult barcodes with comparative ease.
Lastly the device felt well put together, it’s clearly not as rugged as others in this category and we’d put it behind the likes of the Winmate e430 and Pidion HM45 but it’s certainly better than the Honeywell 70e in our opinion. The tC55 definitely has an expensive feel to it though and represents a new breed of device for the workplace.
So at first glance a well put together device.
This is where the TC55 will win out against the competition with 2 big battery options that are basically like saying to customers “If you want all day working then there it is baby!” The standard 3940mAh affair will be genuinely enough for most, but the 4410mAh battery ends the argument as it’s almost up in the top 10 of large batteries full stop! The device is feature packed so you need to keep your eye on all the functions that sap energy and Android is a rafty OS for doing this but this is like starting 20M ahead in a 100M race.
Only thing we would mention is that the batteries are an awful shape and size with all kinds of clips and extrusions that made it really hard for us to get them out of a pocket and also fit quickly. We’re not sure if this is an Achilles hell just yet but what we do know is that this could be a problem if changing the battery outdoors in the rain.
The barcode scanner is clearly a budget 1D imager but it works really well and we have no complaints scanning 1D barcodes, however 2D barcodes are left to the camera which means they’re slightly better than you get on your smartphone but not much.
The scanner button is in the wrong place though. Up on the top left it’s really awkward to use for right handers and you have to physically move your grip to use it often resulting in a dropped device!
RFID is built into the back case. There’s no demo app but there are plenty about you can use.
In use the TC55 is great. It’s fast, slick, has all the apps we’ve come to expect from a Motorola Solutions device and it just works. We liked the way the manuals and app galleries were integrated but of course this won’t be for everyone. Dare I say it just felt like you had a n HTC smartphone in your hand with only the weight of the battery giving it away.
There are 4 Android hot keys on the device. For us this is a big no-no! It’s like taking the generic Android experience and then changing it and it won’t compute with many but its a small thing really!
There’s also no Play store, but this is pretty typical of the rugged market. Limiting Google’s prying eyes on the data of your business and customers is something that is a requirement for business mobile devices.
The screen was bright too and did well to stop reflections which will be great for outdoor users and the phone had a really load speaker to it as well as a quality that we think is lacking in some PDA’s.
Again this is where the TC55 will score. The accessories are in abundance and we’ve been playing with lots of them. What is especially worth mentioning is the cleaver vehicle cradle which holds the device securely with rubber boot on or off. You’re really not going to need a case in most scenarios but a nice holster would protect the screen when not in use and we’d recommend asking about your options here as the Moto one is the same belt holster as the ES400 and MC45 so it’s a bit marmite!
There are 5 slot charge cradles too so they’ll work in the depot quite well.
The TC is rugged enough. It is a bit smartphone-ish in naked guise but with the optional rugbber boot it becomes a fairly rugged piece of kit. It’s nowhere up there with true proper rugged but I would say that the TC55 is aimed at a specific set of mobile adopters and for the mainstream its going to be rugged enough. This end of the rugged market is about features, keeping up to date rather than rugged devices that last 5 years.
That’s said it’s refreshing to see a rugged connector for charging on the device. This not only allows for a quicker charge, which is essential with a 4410mAh battery, but it also means you can buy the rugged charge accessories that will ensure you never break the micro-usb adapter.
We have a few issues with the TC55’s ruggedness though. Firstly the Micro USB rubber cover is now missing from both our test TC55’s. ONe has gone missing and this leaves the device totally exposed to the elements. There are no replacements unless you have the full Service from the start cover for the device, although we’ll remedy that for our warranty only customers.
Another issue we had with the TC55 just like we did when testing the 70e was that the battery cover is a clip on affair just like the Samsung Galaxy/Note devices so it has already seemed to get slightly loose over time. We’ve seen this on other devices and we’ll have to wait and see if it does create an issue for the TC55. Its also a little bit awkward to fit on so you need to make sure that it’s fully clipped in or the device is exposed to water/dust.
What’s more worrying is that we have had reports of it pinging off if the device is dropped leaving the battery and the device totally exposed. We did manage to replicate this ourselves here but only once.
So down to the nitty gritty! You wont get much change out of £600 for the standard battery 1D barcode version of the device. Removing 3G takes about £50 off the price as does removing the barcode scanner but that’s about it. The equivalent Winmate or Pidion devices are coming in at around the £400 mark so at 50% more than the competition, it’s a decision that will need consideration.
Support with Motorola is getting tighter and tighter so let me just lay it out for you. If you go for warranty only then expect high repair bills and at least a 3-4 week delay on getting anything back. Stop moaning and stop putting pressure on resellers nothing will change! If you want faster support then the @Service form the start@ packs are available
Motorola still see the TC55 as a quality offering in this market and as such it’s pretty much coming in at the top of the price range in this market so it’s going to need to be a considered buy. However the device is well put together, despite some foibles, and it works well and so the question