Choosing the right Mobile Operating System

21 07 2014
What mobile OS's are there?

What mobile OS’s are there?

Good morning from a gloriously and rather unusual sunny Liverpool! 7AM and 18 degrees Celsius, you can’t ask for more!!!

Never before have we seen such diversity in real industry strength operating systems and whilst choice is normally a good thing, too much of a good thing can often be confusing and paralysing when it comes to actually making that choice.  Mobile operating systems used to be easy. Windows mobile was the go to OS, some liked CE but even that dried up so everyone knew where they stood.  These days there are a plethora of OS’s and this week I wanted to make sure you understand exactly where you stand with them, starting today with an overview of all the mobile OS’s with their pros and cons.


Windows mobile is still the live operating system from Microsoft and these days it has been rebadged “Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.” It’s still largely the same OS from when WM 6.5 was launched way back in 2009 but to be honest it was never meant to be anything more than a stop-gap OS so its not much different to WM 6.1 which celebrates it’s 6 year anniversary this year.

Windows Embedded 8 has been talked about more recently due to some handsets finally sporting and testing it but licenses are extremely restricted for the OS and as I sit here today, I know of no WE8 handsets that are freely available for purchase just yet.  WE8 is the next OS in the Windows Mobile/WEH range and will the OS that sits on data capture equipment.

Microsoft have another OS called “Windows Phone 8″ but this is for consumer smartphones only, we don’t really do much with it here.  WIndows 8 and Windows RT are seen on tablets.

Android goes from strength to strength!

Android goes from strength to strength!


Android is the OS of the moment. It’s taking up market share in all of the consumer, business and enterprise markets.  We’re selling as many Android rugged devices as we are Windows Mobile ones these days and it is here to stay.  You can tell from the version adoption figures on Google’s own site that the OS is no longer only used by those chasing the latest version, but by businesses who want the most stable releases a few points back and Android is now officially eroding market share in established Apple iPhone countries like the UK, Europe and even USA.

Android is so easy to develop, tweak and install that pretty much every new rugged device we’ve seen this year has been Android based or at least has, had an Android OS option.

Just 1 OS version sits on any mobile smart phone, Rugged PDA or tablet making it simple to get familiar with.

Apple IOS

IOS is still a strong contender in the mobile market and depending on your country makes up for 15-50% of mobile devices. Apple kit is a closed OS system so you can only use it on Apples hardware.  This brings IOS  the hard-fought reputation that it just works, however you are at the behest of Apple and when they decide to stop developing for or supporting a version of IOS you are using.  Apple are the king of “Early redundancy of hardware” so versions tend to go out of support a lot earlier than people think making IOS not the best choice when it comes to enterprise solutions with 3-5 year ROI.


Once the darling of the business world, BB has slipped to almost nothing in the past few years. Dependant on a shaky OS platform that couldn’t support the demanded features that the latest OS’s could bring, they decided to switch to an Android platform with their latest handset releases in the hope could plug the gap but haven’t really done so.  Even Blackberry Messenger has been released for Android and IOS, now meaning there’s no real USPs in having a Blackberry solution any longer, and you might as well not lock yourself in.


There are other platforms but they make up so little of the market I’m not going to go in to them here. next we’ll talk about the pro’s and cons of each OS in the Rugged/Enterprise world.


Phone and 3G what the spec sheet means

21 05 2014
Do you know what networks your rugged handheld will connect to?

Do you know what networks your rugged handheld will connect to?

In the last blog I did a quick update on the different levels of 3G your smartphone or rugged PDA or even tabvlet can have so today I thought i’d help extend that knowledge into underdstanding exactly what the “phone and data” section of the spec sheet actually means!

So as Judge Jules always used to say, “We continue!”

If we look at a typical phone and data section of a rugged pda we’ll something like this:

A typical phone chip spec

A typical phone chip spec

Type of 3G

This explains the level of data connectivity the device has and this is what I explained in the last blog.  So you’ll often see 4G at the top, followed by all the 3G prototcols, in this case HSPA+, HSDPA, UMTS and then the 2G protocols such as Edge and GORS and lastly the modem base protocol, GSM. The rule of thumb here is that all data connection are backward compatible so if the device has 4G, it’ll work at any speed downwards.  You’ll see in trhis case the device in question can operate on HSPA+ and below, which is 3.9G and below.

Phone networks compatibility

There are in fact 2 completely different phone networks in the world and where there are multiple network operators working on the same network type, they have to work on specific frequencies. Here in Europe we have the luxury of only ever connecting to one and this is known as the GSM network. Where you have multiple operators, for example EE, O2, Vodafone and 3, these all operate on their own different frequencies.

To be honest, I can’t even think of any phone that won;t work on any frequency any more so if you buy a Rugged PDA in the UK that works on the GSM network it can be connected to any operator.  Many manufacturers omit this off the spec sheet now to reflect this but if you do see things like 900MHz or 2100MHz then this is what they mean!

In other continents the CDMA network type is used and in some, like Africa and the USA both are present.  This is what the second section on the spec sheet is talking about so you’ll see lots of Now it’s often not cut and dry but generally if you see terms like GSM then the phone can be used on GSM networks and like-wise terms like CDMA/EVDO then it works on CDMA based networks.

To give you a real world example in the USA. AT&T is a GSM based network and if you were from the UK years ago then your phone would probably have connected to this network.  Verizon is a CDMA based network and this probably explains all the bother about the iPhone only originally working on AT&T.  The reason was it only had a GSM chip in it.

Now-a-days, especially if the device has a 4G capable chip, this has all become a little bit pointless, however with Rugged devices having longer technology refresh cycles, there are still some that you have to be careful of and choose the right chip for.  Always ask if in doubt!

Everything you need to know about Windows Embedded 8 Handheld

12 03 2014
Windows Embedded 8 Handheld - What we currently know!

Windows Embedded 8 Handheld – What we currently know!

So With Microsofots successor to Windows Mobile now piloting in the states I thought it would be a good time to answer all the questions we have had about WE8H, here’s most of them.  We’ve done our best on this so we hope this stimulates conversation and more questions.  That way we all keep learning, so just ask in the comments below or tweet us at @ruggedandmobile if you want to connect.

How do I develop WE8H applications?

You basically use the Windows Phone 8 development tools and SDKs to get set up and then you install the WE8H SDK to use the specific features of this OS.  You need the latest versions of Visual Studio from 2012 onwards. VS 2008 is no good any more.  Now the catch is that you can install VS 2012 on a W7 machine, but to install the WP8 components you need to have a W8 machine.  Good luck with that!!

When is WE8H released officially?

Still not sure, nothing has been set in stone yet and there are no devices at all.  We constantly pester distributors and manufacturers and none of them can answer that question. Form experience I would say that 2014 is possible but i’m not sure if it’s probable.

What Mobile devices are available to test on?

In short none yet, but there are a few announced ones.  Motorola have a device that was piloting on the Home Depot pilot in the USA and their CEO also mentioned a tablet in a recent interview.  Pidion have announced 2 new devices the BM180 and the BP30 which are a POS and PDA style terminal running both Android 4,2 and WE8H.  We sell more Pidion than anyone in the UK and we’ve not seen one yet!  Panasonic are rumoured to be developing a tablet and Honeywell and Ingenico (Who bought Baracoda recently) are both partners in the pilot schemes.

Will we see WE8H on Nokia or consumer devices?

No, WE8H is intended only for pure business devices where data capture and POS is at the core of the solution.  COnsumer devices will continue to run Windows 8 Phone edition or WIndows 8 RT/Pro on tablets.

Do my old Windows Mobile based apps port easily?

We work with IOS, Android, WM and WP8 and we’ve also tinkered with WE8H here so we can answer this categorically.  Nothing will port at all from the older Windows Mobile or Windows Embedded Handheld OS.  We have found porting to Android far easier which sounds bazaar but at least we can make those apps more hybrid right now and reduce future risk for clients.

Is this just Windows Phone with some tweaks?

WE8H is based on the WP8 core and it does look a lot more like WP8 and what you see on the Nokia Lumia range.  So usability is up, however there are a lot of differences between the 2 OS’s.

So it’s as easy to port to Android?  Why would I port to WE8H?

Well firstly it’s easier if you already know Android and Java.  Many Microsoft houses don’t so you still get to work with familiar tools and technology like C# if porting to WE8H.  There is work required though and I will share that some Microsoft people here struggled more understanding the W8P solution process than the IOS/Android ones.  I’d go as far as saying though that in this new multi-os hybrid world we live in WE8H is not as familiar to many as you might think.  Also WE8H is designed to integrate far better with back end systems that are Microsoft..yada yada yada…yawn.  We heard it all before.  IOS and Andoird have way big enough app producers to get round all of that!

If the peripheral integration into the SDK lives up to what I think it is, then that will be nice.  If you can have pure, direct data capture from within the SDK then that will be a big benefit for building solutions with data capture.  Trick is how many businesses going mobile today actually see that as a benefit?

Is there an SDK and is peripheral support in that?

Yes and Yes, download it here and as far as we have worked out the SDK does have a lot of the peripheral support in it already but it’s currently limited.  It’s

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2014, Android even more popular, but what’s the whole story?

10 02 2014

Operating System

3Q13 Shipment Volumes

3Q13 Market Share

3Q12 Shipment Volumes

3Q12 Market Share

Year-Over-Year Change













Windows Phone
























Android is here to stay in the rugged market now and according to latest figures it’s still growing globally, pushing past the 80% of the market figure at the end of 2013.  However overall the OS market share doesn’t tell the whole story so I wanted to highlight a few things that m ight be changing in the OS market.

1. Android is the biggest but is it the best?

Whilst 80% of the planet use it, the up take in the newer versions isn’t what you think with most people sticking at Jelly bean 4.1, that leaves the 3 latest versions lagging on up take.  Are people fed up with the amount of change and vendors also aren’t upgrading existing phones, trying to get customers to buy new models so the story isn’t quite all rosy perhaps?

Android platform versions 2014

Android platform versions 2014

2. Weak foundations?

In the rugged market Android devices are still not as supported as their Windows Mobile counterparts. SDK’s aren’t as deep and whilst the OS itself is more open and programmable it’s still a sign that vendors are still possibly hedging their bets. Smartphone vendors too, can’t seem to get a hold of the market with  Samsung taking the lions share of 40% of those shipments with everyone else in single digit share and many under 1%. With Samsung already working on it’s own OS (which recently saw a major Japanese pilot pull out on it), the platform for Android could easily be drawn out from under it.

3. The Apple’s still fresh

Despite falling market share, Apple still saw growth and is still dominant in the developed world. IOS still has a wonderful platform to build on and whilst Apple needs to make some right decisions, it’s still in a hugely powerful position to win back market share at any time.

Smartphone average selling price by OS

Smartphone average selling price by OS

4. Microsoft bounding back?

Windows phone posted the largest year on year growth. OK so most of that came from buying Nokia, which accounts for about 93% of all WP sales but either way Microsoft are slowly but surely starting to gain traction and are pulling ahead in the race for 3rd place.  There’s still time to get Windows 8 embeded right and with that they could build a string business based platform to grow back from. Having Bill Gates back will also make a difference to them. Don’t forget that the “Gates” factor is as strong as the “Jobs” one!

5. Blackberry sized up by the undertaker

BB continued it’s slide with the largest decline it’s ever had year on year as well as putting itself up for sale, at least informally anyway! The new Android based BB10 OS simply didn’t hit, demand for its older BB7 OS held its strength in developing nations but even with a new CEO and $1B of investment I think BB is the place i’d least want to be working at right now.

So on the face of it the mobile OS market probably doesn’t give us any surprises but have a look at the currents underneath and there seems to be plenty of change going on that could impact it hugely in the year to come which will probably bring a lot more uncertainty to the market as it still tries to find it’s feet.  One thing is for sure though…We’re certainly employing a deeper multi-OS strategy to everything we do here now so everyone is rolling up their sleeves and working on multiple platforms from now on.

Difference between GPRS, 3G and 4G

24 06 2013
GPRS or 3G still need to be carefully considered

GPRS or 3G still need to be carefully considered

Working out what rugged handheld pda’s have what kind of connection to the mobile network can be fought with unknowns so this article clears up everything you need to know, in layman’s terms what all the different types of mobile network you chips you can opt for.

We blogged about the difference between GPRS, 3G and HSDPA some time ago now and it turned out to be a really popular blog so I wanted to drag the advice into 2013, by adding a little bit about 4G too.

Mobile data can be explained easily using the “2G, 3G & 4G” terms but you’ll see a lot more than this on the spec sheets so below is a quick overview of some of the most important things you need to know about GPRS.

3G in a nutshell

Just to quickly explain 3G comes in 3 broad types:

2G – This used General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and was the first kind of mobile data technology we had.

3G – Superseded GPRS and was a more robust and faster technology

4G – Recently launched, is new technology designed for 100MB per second with models to support data consumption in the year 2013 and beyond.

Your rugged handheld or smartphone will support some or all of these and we go into detail below.

Before we grew legs and left the ponds!

Way back it all started with 2G!  As mobile phones became ever more popular we all started to think of ways we could use our phones like we used our computers, so 2G was born.  2G was pure GPRS, the first of its kind and it was slow.  When launched you were lucky to get the theoretical 40Kbps and I never heard of anyone getting close to the 170Kbps that the last versions of 2G theoretically gave.

You couldn’t take calls and sync data at the same time and you’ll probably not find 2G on anything these days.

Enter 2.5G

2.5G is commonly referred to as “Edge” or Enhanced GPRS, depending on where you’re from or how you talk!  The “E” is key though as this is what you’ll see on your smartphone mobile data icon if you’re in a 2.5G zone.

Edge brought along the ability to take calls whilst syncing data in the background and with better encoding methods it also brought 3-fold improvements in speed with theoretical speeds of 400Kbps.

Even today Edge is still available as an option in many rugged handheld PDA’s because it’s robust, it uses less power than 3G, its cheaper to spec and many applications still only require GPRS speeds.  Indeed in the UK, you will also still regularly find you’re in a 2.5G zone anyway so that’s all you’ll get in terms of speed anyway!

However edge was really a stop gap technology as we all knew 3G was coming.

3G Arrives!

Soon after 2002 and those rather exciting and hugely expensive 3G license auctions, 3G was released and it not only gave us more reliable faster data rates, initially up to about 384kbps but because it was based on a far better and newer technology that allowed truly synchronous voice and data usage as well as supporting far higher future speeds.  With 3G, the web and data tasks that we take for granted today, suddenly became truly usable and an explosion of mobile data usage followed driving improved speeds almost every year 3G existed.

3G Technologies you’ll see – HSDPA, 3.5G, 3.75, 4G and beyond

Even today in 2013 3G is still the most prevalent mobile data technology.  Most of the smartphones we use are running on 3G so lets talk about the types of 3G you’ll find on the spec sheets of rugged PDA’s or smartphones here:

  • 3G – Was the first type of 3G to hit the market.
  • 3.5G (HSDPA) – is still the standard for many Rugged Handhelds.  Running initially at 1.3mbps networks have been slowly upgraded across the UK to run at speeds of up to 7.2mbps.
  • 3.75G (HSPA/HSUPA) - Improved speeds to 14MBps.
  • 3.8G (HSPA) - 22MBps
  • 3.9G (HSPA+) - Theoretically designed to support 80MBps + speeds.

Now which one your device runs needs a quick check of the spec sheet.  However be aware that in the UK, despite the chips in your smartphone being capable of 22MBps, the networks have all largely not been upgraded since the 3.5G updates so we’re all running at theoretical speeds of about 7.2MBPs.

Mobile data needs explode – Enter 4G

in 2012 4G was launched which is again a brand new mobile data technology and designed to support our mobile data consumption habits into the future!  GPRS largely supported a bunch of early adopter users that were happy checking emails on the move with businesses happy to sync small amounts of application updates every few hours.

3G supported the smartphone user explosion, allowing us to share photos, browse maps and browse or use the internet pretty freely but it still thought of mobile data as something we wanted to download.

Today however we are all constantly creating data and we need a more robust, faster and secure technology to allow us to do this.  4G supports 100MBps+ and is designed to support all manner of streaming and heavy data use so not only is watching BBC iPlayer on the move a formality but taking video, editing and then sharing online is also something we will be able to do with 4G.

In fact 4G theoretically now surpasses the fixed fibre option broadband services we buy so we’re now in an age where our smartphones and rugged PDA’s have a faster connection to the internet than our businesses and homes do.  Wow how Star Trek is that!!

We’ll end with the  most common questions we’re asked about 4G

Do I buy a 4G device yet?

The answer to that is complicated but at the end of the day many newer devices already support 4G and will degrade back easily to 3G or even GPRS when they have to so we say if the device has 4G go for it!

if you still need some help then don’t forget that you can get in touch with us at Rugged and Mobile anytime and we’ll only be too happy to help you choose the right device for you and your business.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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