So to round off a whole month talking about ruggedness I thought we’d end this week with a bit of real world practicality! Sure the tests, certifications and specs all matter, of course they do but there’s also loads and loads that you and your end users can do to help make sure things keep running.  I wanted to list a few of the most important things right here.

Tip 1 – Look after your screen!

Yes our mobile devices are rugged and they have design features to help against screen issues but remember the screen is a piece of glass and it still needs looking after.  Use a screen protector, I cannot stress this enough.  It will not only help against small drops but it will also stop the touch screen from getting scratched and worn out by gritty gloved hands or make shift Biro styluses! It’;ll be the best £5 you ever spend!

Tip 2 – Case up!

Again, it amazes me just how many people don’t use cases.  We know that mobile devices that have a safe place to be when not in use not only stand up to knocks and bangs that bit more but we see them less in our repair centres and they might just be worth a little bit more on the refurb market if they look less battered too! You can also use a case as a branding opportunity and a good one will also help with ergonomics of your users. Not bad for measly 25 investment!!

Tip 3 – Pick the right device

Again sounds obvious but you’d be amazed how many people we see who have struggled for years with a device that’s just not up to the job, whether that’s having been mis-sold a semi-rugged device or whether they have more focussed ruggedness issue.  Water, dust and drop specs are the obvious stuff, but what about temperature, mould resistance, salt corrosion and storage.  There’s plenty to think about so always check the spec sheet and make sure you understand the scenarios the devices will be used under.

Tip 4 – Test and find the foibles!

One rugged PDA might be perfect for 1 business but could be a nightmare for another. Make sure you test any device you’re buying to iron out any foibles it might have for your needs. Keypads, barcode scanners, buttons and size/weight are things that might make a device less easy to use and by default less rugged for users.

Tip 5 – Educate your users!

remember rugged handheld computers are still complex pieces of electronics and a certain amount of care and education about how you treat them can work wonders for your repair costs. Educate your users to remove usage frustration and to set expectations on the ruggedness of the devices. Throwing them in the air 30 feet and letting them drop onto concrete is not a fair test!!

Tip 6 – Use accessories

Using the right accessories can help hugely to stop poor working practises that can lead to repair issues. A decent vehicle holder for example will aid safety whilst in the vehicle and the user will always know where the device is. A cradle or snap on charger will remove any connector issues whilst charging.

Tip 7 – micro-USB is the enemy!

OK, OK so I am coming around slowly to Micro-USB but only on a certain set of scenarios. USB has a terrible connect/reconnect failure rating, it restricts the charge a device can take, they can get gummed up with mould or debris causing short outs and as they’re wired to the main board breaking a USB connector will often mean a costly new main board repair.

Tip 8 – Batteries are still batteries

They’re often bigger and wrapped in a nice rugged case, but rugged device batteries are still susceptible to the same issues any batteries are.  They can be  overcharged, overheated, damaged by the cold and can be

Tip 9 – Styluses are your friend!

Styluses are designed to be rubbed against the LCD, Biro’s, screwdrivers and anything else are not and will scratch or damage a screen very quickly.  If you must then at least use a screen protector but make sure your users have access to spare styles and styles tethers so they always know where their stylus is.  If your device doesn’t have one, then ask us and we’ll make one for you.

Tip 10 – Take control of you support process

It’s inevitable that you’ll break even a rugged device so when all else fails make sure you have a plan on how you’ll keep your business running. You can keep your own spares for fast swap outs even the best support can’t match, but make sure you understand the support you have from your reseller/manufacturer, what to expect and also how easy it is to log, track and report on your repairs.  It all adds up to a continual improvement cycle if done right.

That’s it, in the next blog we’ll close off with a summary for the series along with a final Q&A coming later on Friday.

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