When us “rugged” folk hear the word “Smartphone” all it conjures up are the 100’s of customers we see every year who used the wrong device for their business application which is now costing them dear.  Rugged means a lot more than IP Ratings and Drop specs and you can see our ruggedness series here for more about that.

Getac are positioned here as a proper, tablet/laptop company, so what did we think when they decided to launch a Rugged Smartphone into the market?  I’m going to be honest about this, if you want to go and read about the blurb then there are other reviews from the same old publications and paid for sites that will give you the same “spec sheet” information as always.  Here we give you the lowdown on everything we sell with a sprinkling of our expertise and experience added in and the MH132 has some areas that we feel also need bringing to your attention:

Overall Design

The Getac MH132 is not actually that small (See below for comparisons), it has a large case with tiny looking screen in it, PDA format with only 4 hard buttons.  It’s also a larger device than most of what we categorise as “small” and it is larger than anything in the semi-rugged category.  The design is not going to set anyone on fire as it should do in the Smartphone category, and the colour is very retro 1990’s too!

Old Processor

OK lets move on to the stuff that matters.  The ARM6 MSM7227 CPU is old, and we only tend to see this in older devices or cheaper kit bought out from Dopod or HTC (Same company).  Whilst it was a decent all-rounder a year or so ago, it’s not a great chip, never set anything alight and is not actually designed for smartphones like the newer XScale or Qualcomm 7600/ARM9 + series are.  This CPU is not going to compete against the Intermec CS40 or the ARM9 and PXA320’s seen in most new devices today.

LCD – Small

The LCD is 3.2” in size which might be OK for some but it is small for a PDA style device where there is no hardware keyboard and you just have to ask our motorola ES400 customers all about this.  The onscreen keyboard will be small and from our feedback on a range of devices this could be a show stopper for many.

LCD – Odd Size = Porting Issues

More concerning though is the HVGA resolution which is a rather odd size for a screen and will definitely present a challenge for applications that are generally built to run at QVGA or VGA in the rugged market, which share the same screen same ratio.  HVGA is actually not quite specified 100% as a standard for obvious reasons but here it’s a 480×320 resolution.

The big question here is how your existing applications will “Stretch” in only 1 way to fit this screen?  >NEt ancoring and stretching will not be able to cope with this automatically and the screen estate will be pretty bespoke in this market.

The LCD is also covered by a flush plastic cover which at first does give you an extra bit of ruggedness to the screen.  However in a rugged scenario this panel is going to get scratched and hinder your workers if you’re not super careful and you need to make sure you can get spare case fronts easily to make this approach a safe one.  A recessed screen with a protector could have been 1 less thing to worry about here though.

No Barcode Scanner

Our two top-selling semi-rugged devices have camera based Barcode scanners, whereas the small fully rugged pda’s have to have a built-in dedicated scanner to be called “Rugged PDA”  The Getac is missing this and to our knowledge here has no camera based scanner .

Tiny Battery

If there’s one thing that sets Rugged or Semi Rugged PDA’s aside in this market its battery sizes and life.  The battery in the Getac MH132 is tiny.  The standard battery is 1030mAh which is small for even stand alone GPS units these days and even Smartphones carry 1200-15000mAh batteries now.  The extended battery is 2000mah which is again very small.  To put this into perspective, the ES400 has 1500 and 3080mah batteries, the Pidion BM170 has 1600 or 3200mAh batteries and the CS40 a 1430mAh one.  I worry if the battery is going to be up to much at all in this device.

It’s big!

It’s actually quite large in this class of device, here are some comparisons with leading devices (l, w,d):

Getac MH132:                136         x              70           x              25

Motorola ES400:          129         x              60           x              16.5

Pdion BM170:                 130         x              72           x              17

Intermec CS40:              133         x              63           x              24 (Includes EA11 2D barcode scanner)

Every mm counts in this area of the market especially depths and lengths.

No USB Host

A small issue for some but this device is being targeting at markets where serial connections from the device are commonly used to talk to other devices so we’re slightly confused at this and it normally points to bought off the shelf designs being used.

Micro USB Port = NOT RUGGED

Ok so the Getac MH132 is not alone here but it also harps on a lot about being “rugged” and this brings me on to the USB port used for syncing and charging.  Micro-USB is more rugged in terms of connect/disconnect cycles than mini USB but an IP65 device can only be IP65 if the rubber covers are attached properly on the device or water gets in through USB ports.  The reality of devices we see in the field is that the rubber casings get easily damaged or lost and users do not realise that the moment the connector is in the device the IP rating is gone!!  Try charging your IP65 phone in a dusty environment and see what happens after 2-3 months.  I just can’t understand why you would go to all the trouble to create a screwed down battery casing if you can make the device non IP rated every time you charged or synced the device?

Mini USB is also connected directly to the main board and it will snap easily, it’s not considered a line of business “rugged” connector and whilst some people think a proprietary rugged port is trying to lock customer into buying their own accessories, it is and for good reason.  If customer s can use standard connectors like this then end users are going to be using cheap cables off Ebay, and vehicle chargers and adaptors that are all out of control of the manufacturer and potential achilles heels to your mobile solution as they put their estate at risk by using cheap and unsuitable accessories.

Conclusion

So the word Smartphone turns out to be clearly the right word to use here, and I have to be honest that I am left quite puzzled with the MH132 as I can’t see how this device is going to work in this market.  People aren’t looking for a waterproof smartphone, if they were we’d get more sales of the Motorola Defy.  The low spec is also not up to smartphone Standards.  The term “Rugged” on the other hand is a stretch in my view when you scratch deeper than the IP and drop specs.  In a funny way I think I’ve hit the nail on the head here because the biggest problem with this device is that unless it comes in at a sub £400 price tag to the customer, where it is basically selling as a “rugged” semi-rugged device, it’s not going to have a USP at all.   We are seeing RRP’s of £700 in some channels but this is unconfirmed at this point.

You all know by now that we stand out here.  We’re bold but honest and truthful with a business model that extends far beyond that of profit and costs savings.  I hope to have covered the areas that most won’t be telling you about here.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.