Rugged PDA’s, like all technology, are getting smaller as they get more powerful but as we’ve learned in the smartphone market, small isn’t necessarily good!  I spoke to as many end users as I could last month that are still buying classic, large PDA’s and asked them why they aren’t going for a slimmer, lighter design and here’s what people said.


The top reason by far was the bigger the device, the bigger the battery and the battery and this does hold true as battery technology consistently lags what we all want to do with our devices.  There are now some great smaller rugged smartphones that have large 4000mAh+ batteries but the fact is larger rugged PDA’s still have bigger batteries, they have classic VGA 3.5″ screens that use less battery and they are still trusted the most to carry out full shifts of work on 1 charge.


Putting size and weight aside, the ergonomics was also a big factor. Larger Rugged PDA’s have lots of nice buttons, often customisable, with lots of space around them. Not focussed on being small, they also have years of ergonomic data capture thought and design behind them so they do specific jobs very well. Where the end user was doing somehting specific like reading meters or scanning barcodes frqently, this was often given as the top reason.

Perceived quality

This was for 2 reasons, the first was to do with the larger, more classic PDA’s having been around for longer so they’ve had time to iron out the issue and bugs that all technology has in it’s infancy so this was a pure quality of service thing.  However the second reason was the general support for any smartphone, whether rugged or not,  was not perceived as being the same as for the more classic Rugged PDA. One customer actually cited an example of Motorola who consistently pull their lower end devices with little warning such as the MC35 or ES400.

Lack of change

I personally think the whole mission critical thing is under pressure as ROI times decrease inline with increased innovation and the need to compete on a technology level but Enterprise still likes to not have any change and larger rugged PDA’s still represent the “Servers of the mobile world!” It is still true that a decent WM6.5 device will give you a solid non-moving platform that you should be able to trust for years, not months.


It was alarming how many people actually said they didn’t know of any smaller rugged smartphones.  That’ll teach them not to read our blog or newsletter!! But it is still apparent that there’s still a role to help educate businesses into what choices they have when choosing their enterprise mobile devices.


… or lack of it!  OK, I lied, there’s 6 items in this post but people just don;t like to see the number 6 in the titkes of these blog posts!!

I have to say it we get told this a lot here with customers often asking for something that isn’t going to get pinched if left around and find it’s way onto Ebay!  Whilst keeping users happy is more important than ever, it’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that these rugged devices are firstly tools to run your business processes.  If they aren’t there, they can’t do that!!

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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