Rugged Handhelds come in all kinds of formats but the screens are largely all the same size.  If there’s one thing that has changed extensively in desktop/laptop computers over the years it’s the screen format, resolution and size and I think we’re just starting to see  this happen as Mobile computing becomes truly mainstream and we’re seeing demand for larger and higher resolution screens on rugged PDA’s and mobile computers or tablets.

So to kick off this week of looking at niche devices, we having a look at what LCD types there are out there and what the current choices are in the rugged market.

Capacitive V’s Resistive Screens

Firstly a word on capacitive screens.  These are the screens made famous by the iPhone and you’ll now find on most, if not all,  consumer Smartphones.  They work by detecting an electrical current in your finger and due to the nature of a capacitive screen it allows for all kinds of multi-touch and gesture driven methods of “touch”.  Resistive screens are those found in classic Smartphones and in the rugged market place we still pretty much 100% find these.  The main reasons are that we don’t use Windows Phone 7, we need to capture signatures and the capacitive screens are also hard to get, run out, change format frequently and are more expensive to replace.  In effect a touchscreen is the right choice for a mission critical rugged solution.

LCD Resolution and Format

In the rugged market we tend to stick to QVGA or VGA screens, in the usual 240×320 or 480×640 resolution.  This has and continues to serve our market fine but we’re starting to see people demand VGA more and more with the extra pixels giving you a little mor flexibility with your software design and also giving you a nicer looking interface.

There are a couple of nice exceptions to the rule.  Partnertech supply a 4.3″ Windows Mobile 6.5 device with a 4.3″ screen with 480×800 resolution, “wide” VGA or WVGA.  The OT100 and OT200 are the only fully rugged PDA’s with this size screen and we know from the consumer class devices we sell that the extra length in the LCD is well received.

LCD Size

The most important aspect of a rugged Handheld’s LCD is its physical size.  3.5″ (measured diagonally) is the standard and I would always recommend not going below this size if you need a good “glove usable” solution.  Worth a mention for its unique size is the Psion IKON with a 3.7″ screen.  It’s not much but some say it does make a difference.

However if you want something smaller than we discuss this in tomorrow’s post

Aspect

Pretty all Rugged PDA’s have an upright screen format with the screen being taller than it is wide when holding the device. However the Skeye Allegro, has a 3.5″ landscape screen that is used by Swiss post for parcel delivery that has proved very reliable and popular with their users.  The Trimble Ranger is the other Rugged PDA with a landscape format QVGA screen.

2nd LCD Skin Protection

Lastly a word about protection.  There are some devices that have a second skin type of protection to the LCD rather than using the recessed screen method and whilst we see a lot of very rugged devices like the Motorola MC9090 using this it is also being adopted by some semi-rugged devices due to the recessed screen not being so well received by users.  Pidion’s BM170 and Motorolas ES400 are 2 very popular rugged handhelds that have this extra protection and usability.

So there we are, as you can see there aren’t many niche rugged pda’s in this area but we’ll see more no doubt as we see demand rise.  I have no doubt from daily conversations we have here that screen size will become a key factor in rugged PDA choice in the near future.

Tomorrow we’ll continue the “niche” theme by taking a look at small fully rugged pda’s

Dave

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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