So as part of our series on Understanding the Rugged PDA we’re looking at Keyboards! Often overlooked, the keyboards on a rugged PDA are often an afterthought but careful consideration can be the difference between a harmonious solution or a user disaster!
As you can see form the image above keyboards can come in all shapes and sizes,but most of the long complicated ones come in a particular “Warehouse” format device where easy access to shelf and product codes can be entered. However on the “field” style PDA the differences can be far more essential.
3 types of keyboard for 3 types of solution
Numeric is the classic style keyboard shown on the left above. Look for big buttons, ease of entering missed bar codes and giving your users a usable keyboard in gloves that’s optimised for phone usage.
Qwerty gives a fiddly keyboard at best that’s optimised for data entry. If you need to enter data and lots of it then a qwerty is possible the way to go for you.
PDA style gives a smart phone experience which is useful in the semi-rugged market as it allows for the largest screen in the smallest form factor. For solutions that have been written well with clear onscreen, mobile design this can often be the best choice.
Usability is Key
So even if you know what keyboard you need, you still have to look at the usability of it. You can see from the image below that 2 numeric style keyboards can offer a vastly different set-up making life heaven or hell for users.
Can you change the keyboard functions and map them to do different things. What about those scanner buttons if you opt to not have a scanner and how easy can you lock the keys down too?
Don’t forget the scanner buttons
How easy is it to scan with the Rugged PDA? How many and where are the scan buttons and can you operate them easily with gloves on?
Can you swap the keyboard after sale? Some devices you can do this. This means if you ultimately make the wrong decision or if you want a multi-keyboard / same device platform then your choices of rugged PDA might be limited by that.
As you can see there are many considerations when choosing a keyboard and we always help customers here with this early on as it can be a pain for the next 5 years of usage. Always ask about what other users are have chosen and why and also be up front with your reseller about what you are doing so they can help steer you to the right decision.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.