It wasn’t so long ago that we were all still paying £1500+ for a “rugged PDA” and thinking we’d got away with a great deal.  Sure you can still pay that much for a traditional brand of rugged device if you really want to or you could turn to one of the new wave of rugged “hybrid smartphones like our Raptor R5. Sorry for the plug, but it just seems to me that something has happened with the price of smartphones in general where some are still paying for the traditional brands and some are seeing the light. So I also understand how this can happen in the shiny, consumer world of Apple, Samsung and Huwawei where brand and aspirational qualities still appeal to us all as individual consumers, but in the B2B and Enterprise does brand matter that much?

I’m not going to lie to you, we still get the odd customer who doesn’t buy us here and it’s for the same old reasons of mis-trust in the low price, maybe a lack of belief that we’re able to deliver 5 day support for free (It’s actually a 3.5 day average!) or maybe in a corporate world it’s just safer for you and your job to choose the brand leader because you did your best then hey?  But the thing is, I saw this phenomenon years ago too when we started to sell, then unknown brands, like Bluebird Pidion, Dotel, Winmate that were half the price and people lapped them up.

So just what are you missing if you opt for a less expensive the reasons some rugged devices are cheaper and are they any good?

The China effect

So is it that all the parts of a cheaper device are built in China, whereas other brands some how use better parts made elsewhere?  In fact the worlds most expensive smartphones, namely Apple are built in China in the same factory that  makes a whole host of other brands too.  Key tech that goes into almost every mobile phone like RAM, CPUs etc are made in Taiwan, S. Korea even Europe and add to this that arguably China now has some of the best and most advanced manufacturing centres in the world.  So if your product is made in China these days then it’s actually made well.  Add to this that LCD’s and other components are so cheap these days you’ll find that the top AMOLED QHD lcd is only a few pounds more than the most popular HD basic one.

Patents and innovation

You know I used to work for HP (Hewlett Packard) back in its hey day where we used to revel about all the patents we had.  Patents and innovation cost money sure and that reflects in the price of the end product but at the same time none of the cheaper brands are breaking any patents so Rugged phones these days should not have that cost associated with them surely?  In fact one could argue that companies that have all the data capture barcoding patents like Motorola/Zebra, Honeywell etc are still cashing on that side of things by OEM’ing that tech into just about every barcode scanner on the market.  Add to this that these days China isn’t just a mass of factories stealing everyone else’s ideas.  Just go over there and you’ll see way better investment on innovation that you see in the UK, sorry tpo break it to you folks.  So is it about this…I don’t think so.

Cheap rugged smartphones are nbot all they're cracked up to be

Certification

So cheaper kit is certified and missing vital safety checks?  Well yes, cheap kit is and you should go and read this article if you want to understand how to spot a cheap rip-off fake device versus the real thing.  Everything has what we call a “tribute band” these days but our Raptors come with CE, we use a mix of the factories testing and our own, we have our own TAC codes so we can ensure IMEI’s are valid and basically drop and IP testing can be done very cheaply now, we borrow an environmental lab for free ion fact here!  So the kit that’s cheaper is no less safe if you buy from the right people.

Specification, surely it’s the spec?

So we turn to spec. Surely a cheaper device has to have a lower spec but alas you’ll be disappointed here too!  Take or latest Raptor R44 4G for example.  It has a quality MTK6735 CPU, used in many brands and known for its power and energy consumption.  It has a 12MP camera, a full HD screen, lots of RAM and ROM, Android 5.1 and more.  Its not the latest and greatest but a rugged device never is and it certainly holds it’s own against any rugged device.  However it also has some features you’ll struggle to find elsewhere like dual SIM’s, an SD card reader, IP68, a handstrap, a p[lethora of accessories and dual size replaceable batteries.  So if it’s about spec then i’ll have to eat my hat!

Business model

So what is it down to?  We turn to business model then which is where I think we start to see a difference.  You ever heard of the “Polish or Chinese work ethic”?  Well just maybe newer cheaper devices are from harder working companies that truly have customers and employees at heart, who can react quickly, are lean and agile, who take less, spend less on marketing and who really do this because they want to not because they say they do or have to.

I think there’s an element of truth in this area but i also think that the average western business struggles to trust this model too.  Sure if you want “Great” then you do have to pay for it, but some things also change and you can have your apple and eat it.  Just in case you;re wondering, you don;t have to buy an Audi to get you to work every day for the next 3 years.  A Ford or Kia, or Hyundai will be just fine, in fact possibly better and also a lot cheaper when they do go wrong!

So maybe just maybe we’re finally starting to see a revolution in the Rugged world, rather than the murky, crappy evolution we’ve been used to where everyone is buying the competition out, maintaining high prices for no real reason and putting themselves and their shareholders before customers and employees.  Oh by the way did I tell you that you can go and borrow one of our devices and see for yourself?  Just ask, we’ve got plenty to give out, so you really can see for yourself if you want to.

 

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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