So we come on to the most hard-fought and popular rugged PDA class in the field mobile world, which is the class we call lightweight Rugged PDA here at Rugged and Mobile. These handhelds are now becoming larger though so why do we call them lightweight? Well whilst we’re seeing a push up through semi-rugged and small rugged PDA classes, the lightweight class has really been a drive down from the classic, older and larger devices. Whilst the larger devices still have their place and still have a USP, as technology has improved and mobile has become the standard we’ve simply seen things get smaller.
I think to sum up the lightweight Rugged PDA class, it represents the natural progression of the fully rugged PDA and it’s where the core of most rugged manufacturers still focus. It’s a very popular, and probably the most important class of device in the industry today.
Well, I said it in the last post about Small Rugged PDA’s, these devices are an attempt to give highly rugged devices to users but in a smaller form factor. Everything has gotten smaller over the years and these devices have shrunk with that trend, however they have done so without many of the compromises that you might expect and this is the key difference. You’ll find flagship scanning technology, full-sized 3.5″ LCD’s, superb ruggedness and an absolute supermarket of add ons, software, accessories and service products for every device in this class. It’s hard to really see a lot of the difference though and the Motorola MC65 and MC75A show this in the image below.
Why lightweight over heavier devices?
In the old days you could simply get more in larger rugged PDA’s and the market was also very much smaller so the number of devices was smaller that served our market. So the choice was easy, if you wanted HSDPA then you had to go for the larger device as this was the established device and where the new tech was going. No-one was going to risk pushing a smaller form factor device into the “rugged” market. How things have changed now though and with more and more classes of device sprouting up all the time we now see the same tech levels in everything. It’s just the same as we have seen with cars. All the devices in this class have top end specs so why would you opt for them over the classic larger rugged PDA?
Ruggedness is no longer a trade-off here on paper and up to a point with most devices in this class being dust tight, waterproof and with decent drop specs. These devices are also still large enough to have rugged design features too with recessed screens, decent buttons and with room for §§. In a world where a certain level of §is rugged enough, they represent what 80-90% of the market needs.
Everything that needs to be big is big enough on these devices. The LCD’s are all a full 3.5-3.7″ in size, the batteries are all around the 3600mAh size and the widths are relatively the same as any rugged PDA making the keyboards easy to use. They are lighter, they are slimmer and they are as well made though.
I’m not totally sure why, I think it’s largely due to the numbers sold but this size of device are also typically less expensive than their larger siblings, despite the tech being pretty equal or even older in the larger devices. If we take the MC75A and MC65 then you;re looking at a typical £150-200 saving off the RRP, the same goes for Intermec with their CN50/CN70 and Pidion too with their BIP-6000 being about £100 more than their BIP-5000. So if you’re one of those 80% where these devices have everything you need then there is little argument against saving the money here too.
We tend to think of this class of rugged PDA as the “Ford Focus” of the rugged PDA world. Whilst a Mercedes might make you think it’s better, its largely a branding exercise and it actually doesn’t do anything better than the Focus at all. In fact there is evidence now to say the focus is more reliable, more up to date and you certainly get more bang for your buck. I think the Lightweight Rugged PDA is where customers who are bought in to the rugged requirement have pushed our market and the result is a whole range of devices that won’t let you down whatever you buy.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the heavier stuff!
The Rugged and Mobile blog.