Consumer or Rugged Devices? The 3 Questions You Need to Ask

Broken Phone
 Author: Tim Gribler, ADI  |  February 19, 2015


In years past, durability wasn’t as much of a factor concerning data collection technologies. Computers and phones simply sat on a desk or work station. Separate from that, rugged devices were deployed in manufacturing and warehouses for data collection. Today that line is blurred and workers no longer just do their jobs from a stationary location. They are mobile. The challenge today becomes, equipping workers with the right tools for decision making on the move.

There are numerous device options available for the mobile worker, ranging from consumer grade devices like smart phones and tablets to rugged devices specifically built for demanding environments. What’s the right choice for your business?

More than ever, personal devices are being considered for mobile workers. How do they stack up against rugged devices? Which is the best choice for your business? The answer is . . . “It Depends”.

To clarify the “It Depends”, you’ll need to answer these questions:

1. Do I require scanning for data collection?

If scanning is currently required or anticipated, then a rugged device with an integrated scanner is the best choice. Here’s why:

  • Though smart phones and like devices can perform bar code scanning, the application generally requires additional programming
  • Decoding time and “no reads” are significantly higher with a personal device than with a rugged device
  • Rugged devices are built for high volume scanning and offer flexibility in the type and size bar codes they will read and the distances they can read at

2. What is my environment?

Ultimately the device you choose needs to performance the tasks to get the job done. Environmental conditions are a big factor in deciding between a consumer and rugged device. Considerations include:

  • Is the device being used outside? Will it be exposed to high and/or low temperatures, rain, snow, fog, dirt etc.?
  • Will users be wearing gloves?
  • What does the battery life need to be?


Typically consumer devices have performance limitations when used in outdoor and harsh environments.

3. How long do I plan to use the device?

The expected solution cycle is a critical consideration when choosing between consumer and rugged devices.  The desired life of the solution impacts a number of factors including purchase cost, ongoing operational expenses for wireless service plans, software maintenance and equipment warranties.

Simply put, if the expected life cycle of the solution is greater than 3-4 years, a consumer grade mobile device is not the best choice.

Generally, 2 years is the life expectancy of a smart phone at which time battery life among other things, becomes an issue. Research indicates that support costs for consumer grade devices are always higher.  Though the initial cost to purchase a consumer grade device may appear to be less than an enterprise device, when calculating the TCO for any device, the cost of service and support, recurring operations service costs and the indirect cost of downtime due to device failure all must be considered to reach the true TCO.


There is no question that many factors should be considered when deciding what type of device to invest in for your business. Afraid you might neglect an important consideration? ADI can help. Download our Consumer vs Rugged Device Checklist or contact us today to start the conversation specific to your business needs.

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