Smartphone Versus Rugged – Counting the real cost


We’re turning our blog tapping fingers back to our roots and talking about all things rugged for a the next few weeks. What was interesting in particular was to see how smartphone based providers talk and then to see the difference in opinion that the rugged ones had.

What we agree on

What all providers in the mobile space do agree on is where it’s going. We all see past the “eliminating paper” app now and we all see the demand for way more mobile use in businesses who are keen to take the next steps in what it can bring them.  Hardware guys (like us) know we have to do more to support and also step into the software world more. Software guys know they need to work with better hardware if they want to keep customers longer and have less issues.

However above and beyond this, customers top 2 requirements in their mobile hardware are its quality and it’s price.

So lets take these 2 requirements and delve further shall we!?

The facts about non-rugged

All manufacturers agree that non-rugged kit has a far greater failure rate. Everyone showed us 20%+ with rugged coming in at 5% failure rates and this really is going to cost any business dearly in the long run. Rugged = quality.

Lack of roadmap

Yes I know Android is way more portable than Windows Mobile is but the fact is can you really run your business critical business solution on top of hardware that can change at a moments notice bringing all kinds of training, familiarity, support and possible technical issues with it?  Rugged devices might be boring, might not be 100% up to date in terms of features but they’re stable, here for the long run and allow businesses to focus on what they do, not on their problems. Rugged = Quality!


Actual ruggedness always comes further down the list when it comes to customer requirements. The reason is that customers see ruggedness as a feature, not necessarily a true quality requirement but being rugged has a definite impact on the quality. If your devices are working more of the time then the quality of your mobile solution will be higher.


Manufacturer lead support, like any other support any of us use, is crap. There I said it. You’re treated like a number, the communication is diabolical and whilst I am a firm believer that Indian technical expertise is able to compete with the best we have in Europe, they’re not here and remote support brings many issues.  Anyone working in a large company will also know how poorly they treat their staff these days and that translates into Zero passion, zero loyalty and pretty much crap service.

If you can build an ecosystem of passionate hardware suppliers who also understand and support the kit they sell then you have a winner.  There’s nothing like this in the smartphone world, but in a certain area of rugged there is.

The challenges

The problems are 2-fold in our eyes.


Price will always play it’s part and as you can see above is the number 2 requirement mobile device customers ask for. However rugged devices are no longer twice the price of smartphones. Indeed a Samsung galaxy S4 will set you back the best part of £600 as will a decent iPhone. Yes we still have £2000 rugged handheld units, but we also have a plethora of £500, £400 and even £300 ones too now.

Features and familiarity

So why do people still buy smartphone? Well you can still buy on price, if you look then you can find unbranded £100 ones and these will always find wins where money matters.  However I think it’s more to do with features and what you can use them for.  Smartphones will always have the latest and greatest tech in them. They’ll always be the quickest to react to users needs and they’ll always be shinier and more alluring, even to businesses.  Add in the fact that 90%+ of us have a personal Android or Apple based smartphone and the familiarity thing really can win out.

However the rugged market has really being playing catch up this year and with new phones sporting the latest Android versions, at pricing that matches anything in the smartphone world, I think we’ll see a shift back to rugged now where business users truly belong.

Let me know what you think, there’s always interesting debates on this one!

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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