Bluebird Pidion BM180 – First look

Bluebird Pidion BM180 - First look
Disappointing all round, glitchy when we tested, poor support with high prices to boot. There's way better for a lot less in our opinion.
Value for money40%
Features70%
Spec50%
Battery60%
Support25%
What we rate
  • Big battery options
  • Big LCD
  • First WE8 OS device
What's a bit late!
  • No 4G
  • 1.2M drop spec
  • Not much!
49%First look

NOTE: THIS BLOG IS NOW CLOSED! VISIT OUR NEW BLOG FOR TIPS AND ADVICE ON RUGGED ANDROID SMARTPHONES

It’s all about the big screen this year and with the Apple iPhone 6+, Samsung Note 4 and the Raptor R5 leading the way delivering to consumers cries for a 5″+ screen, the rugged market is following suite too!

We already have our first 5″ Android Rugged smartphone available in the Raptor R5 and we also looked at the Gladius 5 last week, which brought built in barcode scanning, but in true Pidion style, the BM180 is going to bring some really nice features to the market in a device that I feel people will desire.  This could be largely due to the the BM180 being one of the first mobile devices to sport the successor to the Windows Mobile OS line, namely Windows Embedded 8.

BM180 or BP30?

First off lets get some facts out of the way! The BM180 and BP30 are the same device other than the BP30 has a more rugged case. Other than that they’re the exact same device so we’ll just refer to the BM180 in this article.  Also the BM180 doesn’t replace the trusty BM170 either.  Pidion are very good at filling the tiniest gaps in their range and the BM170 will still offer a budget semi-rugged device alongside the BM180.

In the hand

You know, when I first introduced the BM170 all those years ago I described it as the “Rugged iPhone” but I think when in the hand the BM180 is a lot nearer to that description.  It’s no slim and svelte Raptor R5  but the device is actually smaller than I expected but despite this it feels nice to hold and substantial. Only a few large screws give away the fact this is a rugged smartphone. Familiarity is the key here and anyone who’s used an Android or Windows Phone 8 device will find all the buttons in the right place, nothing less, nothing more.  I think Pidion have really thought about this and tried to make the BM180 as smartphone-like as they can and whilst it’s a bit quirky still, it works.

The screen is big, don’t forget that i’ve been a Note 3 user for more than a year now, but for a rugged PDA you can clearly see the extra screen real estate is going to be a boom for many users. The optional barcode scanner sits nicely at the top of the device. Other than that it’s just a well thought out device that runs stock Android or WE8.

Spec

Whilst the BM180 sports a decent spec with up to date features, in today’s competitive market it comes up a bit short.  Pidion went for a stable dual core 1.5GHz chip that isn’t and should help give the battery a decent life but it’s not going to set anything on fire. There’s a/b/g/n WiFi, HSPA+, AGPS, an 8MP camera, bluetooth 4.0 and 1GB RAM with 8GB onboard storage ROM that can be increased with a microSD card. The LCD is a healthy (1280 x 720 pixels) and the screen is fairly bright.  To me this spec is disappointing, whilst it fairs OK against other rugged devices, it falls way short of smartphone or Hybrid rugged devices like the Raptor R4/R5.

On a more positive note there are 2 batteries, one rated at 3000mAh and an extended option bringing a big 4500mAh battery to the device.  To behonest the 3000Ah battery is not going to be adequate on this device, testing barely brought me half a days full work but the 4500mAh version will keep things running for a full shift. Add to this there’s a big 60mAh internal battery that will make for uninterrupted work whilst hot swapping the battery in the field.  The extended battery does leave a decent ec=xtra bump on the back of the device though so it’s not going to be ideal for everyone and you also have to opt for the BP30 as far as my current knowledge is concerend to get it at all.

What I think sets the BM180 aside though is the addition of a whole host of payment features.  Bluebird come from an ePOS background and their experience really shows in the BM180.  Standard is a built in RFID chip that will scan various standards including Mifare and NFC. You can opt for an optional Mag strip reader that will read credit and store cards, the optional 2D scanner is fast and gives the device accurate efficient barcode scanning and a SAM slot will help take care of any PCI compliance you’ll need.  The device will be at home on a retail scenario.

Lastly the device will either run Windows Embedded 8 or Android V4.2, both of which are well outdated as we speak with no upgrade yet announced.

Ruggedness & build quality

Despite feeling like a smartphone, the BM180 is fully rugged. Not only is it waterproof and dust tight with IP67 sealing, but a 1.2M drop spec means it’s going to be durable too. A rugged connector at the bottom of the device will make sure the BM180 can withstand chargers being connected by clumsy engineers in the field for years, however there is a micro-USB connector for convenience as well which is a common sight on rugged kit as it becomes the norm for connectivity.

There’s a difference in the build of this device and that of the Motorola TC55 or Honeywell 70e.  This device just feels solid where the Motorola and Honeywell ones feel tinny and plasticity.  The BM180 is certainly going to be  a better quality device than these in my view, however compared to a Raptor it just doesn;t feel as well put together with a tinny battery back case and harder plastics.

Price & Availability

The schedule has slipped a little bit since we spoke about that but expect the following release dates:

October 2014 – Android Wifi only

Early Q1 2015 – Android 3G, WE8 WiFi only

Mid Q1 – WE8 3G

Prices look set to run from about £600 for basic versions and up to £1000 for full ePOS ready terminals, so the price is a bit steep for a Bluebird product.

These will be supported from right here in the UK too so they will have standard 3-5 day warranty+ service or a range of comprehensive service packs will also be available.

Support and firmware

Pidion products have a history of teething problems in our view where they need a great reseller to look after you and the devices.  I know it’s early on, but we had a lot of issues with our test BM180’s (which we had to buy BTW), with support from Bluebird becoming non-existent for us too so we’d be worried about that if we were committing to a number of these devices.  Even to date, I have no support products or services to share with you, other than our own.

The Range

The range isn’t quite 100% just yet but we know right now there’ll be Wifi only versions of the device and there’ll be options that will suit the mobile ePOS scenario as well as the standard field mobile scenario in both Windows or Android guise.  Pidion tend to grow their options quite quickly too as devices take hold in the market so expect to see battery options in the box too and more as the device matures.

What we rate
  • Good battery options.
  • 5″ screen is bright and big.
  • Not huge size, more familiar to users.
  • Will have a good options/accessories list.
  • Noise cancelling microphones with PTT facility
What’s out of date!
  • Very expensive.
  • There are plenty of devices out there with specs, sporting quad core CPU’s and more.
  • No 4G.
  • Poor support and firmware.
  • 1.2M drop spec is not technically fully rugged (We like to see 1.5M) but the BM180 is durable R5.

 

Our take

It has been a long time coming, largely due to Microsoft getting WE8 off the ground but the BM180 is going to be here very soon in WE8 form and in the next few weeks in Android form.  Whilst Bluebird had an opportunity here to build on their BIP series by offering a truly decent product at reasonable price with good reseller based support, they chose to over price, with a product that is glitchy, not ready and with poor support in my humble view.  This comes from a real advocate of Pidion produicts over the years. My advice is to avoid for the time being, at least until prices drop and glitches get ironed out.

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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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