Happy st Patrick’s day by the way everyone!  Being a rugby fan myself and, alas English too, I was biting my nails to the bitter end on Saturday but have to hand it to a great Irish team and also wanted to say farewell to Brian O’Driscoll who has been nothing short of an ambassador of the game.  Anyway Rugby aside lets get talking about this weeks topic which is all about the year end.

Today we thought we’d kick off with an article about price.  Not “cheap” per-se but simply to open your eyes on what you can get for your money these days in the rugged world. Being rugged used to be the domain of the £1000+ device, it was niche and even the simplest deployment was deemed very specialised. The cost also warranted that the project had to make a return, which was equally difficult when they outlay was so high!  Like everything else the cost of Rugged PDA’s, Tablets or mobile printers has dropped and dropped to a point that is now able to fuel the mobile revolution and I wanted to talk about why, the main gotchas to look for in buying cheaper brands and to also allay some fears and beliefs that certain brands make you feel that are simply not true!

Why have rugged handheld computers got cheaper?

It’s no big secret and it’s largely due to 3 main things:

Firstly technology has gotten cheaper which not only makes the parts cheaper but also the processes to get IP and MIL certified are easier too. It’s basically easier to make a rugged PDA than it used to be.

Secondly mobile technology has got a lot more ubiquitous and this has had 2 effects.  The first being that more means cheaper fabrication as factories can tool up better for quantity, second this has then fuelled a move into the mobile market which proves the return to business which then further fuels better more rugged equipment.  Either way we all want mobile everywhere now which makes it cheaper!

Lastly due to the high take up, we have more suppliers which in turn means more choice.  This drives the market down as suppliers and resellers fight in a red ocean where price is king.

But the incumbent brands are still the best right?

No, no, and some more no! Let’s get this straight. The “prestige” brands like Motorola, Honeywell, Psion and Intermec still make largely very good equipment.  Their support is good if you buy into certain levels but the truth is that everyone else has caught up in my opinion.  We should stop referring to any brands as cheaper because they’re not any more.  We test and tinker with anything we sell here so I can say with 100% confidence and passion that brands like Pidion, Winmate , Dotel, Gen2Wave and creating more and are making as good, if not better hardware than any brand out there.

Support

This brings up the matter of support and it’s one thing that the prestige brands will bring up.  Of course many of the Asian brands don’t have a UK base, but actually they often have a European one.  This is countered however by letting resellers innovate in areas support, why not, we know all about the issues on many brands not just one, and what is starting to happen now is that the competition is now warming up and service and products are getting better and cheaper for the customer.  By the way, if you need help from one of the prestige brands then how do you do that?  With Pidion, you just ask us!

So what do you need to be careful of?

So the grass is green on the other side indeed, but things are also different too, I wanted to ,list a few captures many get caught out by:

You need to select your reseller well if you buy one of the lesser known brands. Buy cheap from a web shop or from someone with no stock, no accessories or worse still no real knowledge or background of what they’re selling and like with anything else you can get into trouble.  Look for a passion in the reseller, a history and knowledge of Asian based kit and you’ll be fine. We work very hard to understand brands we sell on a technical level and I’d say that it turns out that we know more about what the lesser known brands are doing than anyone else, it’s also easier to get information from them, often a quick Skype to an engineer these days and we hear about new kit 12 months in advance so what’s wrong with that!

Granted some brands might have more limited SDK’s (Some have better), however if you can have a quick conversation about your technical needs from your mobile computer and work out that you’re never going to need fine control of your barcode scanner then why pay for that technology.  The fact is that a lot of data capture in many small simple mobile applications doesn’t need to go that deep any more.  A rugged device that’s reliable and gets fixed quickly and cheaply if it does go wrong is all they might need.

Lastly make sure you know how support works if buying a lesser known brand. Because a lot of support is now bespoke, there are some very good products out there and some very bad ones. Make sure you delve deeply into the service and warranty on offer with everyone you talk to because you might not get it form everyone.  Beware of comments that paint over cracks or hand the service over to someone else.  Look for 1 point of service that is clearly responsible for all issues.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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