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Consumer Devices: Are they the Best Barcode Scanner for the Warehouse?

At RF-SMART, we get a lot of questions about automating data collection with consumer devices. With their low price point and familiarity, consumer devices may seem like an easy choice for your warehouse. But is there more than meets the eye?

Consumer Devices Blog


You’ve heard the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While the convenience and cost of a consumer device can be appealing in the beginning, most companies we work with choose to go with an enterprise (also known as rugged) device almost every time. Here are four things to keep in mind when choosing the best hardware scanner for your warehouse:

1. Battery Life

While consumer devices may be inexpensive and compact, a scanning application can drain the battery in a matter of a 2-4 hours. However, an enterprise device uses a lithium ion battery that is specifically designed for full-shift scanning and can last up to 12 hours in production. 

Keep in mind that you could have a whole fleet of back-up consumer devices, but you would need three times as many to make it through a whole shift. With an enterprise device, you can swap out the removable battery without disrupting the workflow when the battery runs low.

2. Durability

If you have a smart phone, you know that it takes a special (and expensive) case to protect your device. Even with a rugged case, two or three good drops can mean the end of your phone. In an industrial world filled with concrete floors, dust, and varying temperatures, it’s vital to have a dependable solution that will outlast the elements and normal wear and tear.

If you are using automation in a traditional warehouse environment, you may want to consider a device that has been tested to withstand drops to several feet of concrete. A recent study conducted by VDC Research Group states that consumer devices are three times more likely to fail in their first year and 77% of those cases are due to a dropped device.

3. IT Management and Support

Much to the chagrin of your IT team, consumer devices do not offer much security because they do not comply with typical enterprise business standards. These holes in security could increase the risk of a security breach at a huge cost. Enterprise devices, on the other hand, are purpose built to protect against security falls and bring organizations end-to-end protection.

For many organizations, centralized management is a requirement for IT. Unfortunately, consumer devices do not typically support industry standard MDM solutions, which can make it very difficult for IT staff to monitor and troubleshoot issues, decreasing productivity.

According to another VDC research study, failure rates for non-ruggedized devices can run as high as almost 40%costing workers an average of 75 minutes each time their mobile device fails. When a device requires a repair, consumer devices may take days to be repaired and are often returned to the facility with cleared data. Enterprise device repair centers minimize the time a company is without a device through their multiple service contract options – including overnight replacement.

4. Lifecycle

iPhone users already know—there is a rapid turnover rate when it comes to the consumer device market. One year is typically the maximum amount of time a consumer model is available. This fast-paced turnover time does not ensure that the next model will be compatible with the applications, software, and most recent iOS. With enterprise devices, models are available for purchase for a minimum of three years, with an additional three years of support once a product has been retired.

When Would Consumer Devices be a Fit?

In the end, it all comes down to design. Consumer devices were not designed to be long lasting or withstand drops and dust. While the cons seem to outweigh the pros when it comes to consumer devices, there are a few circumstances where they may be a fit. A retail environment, for example, can be cleaner and more relaxed and is one of the places that can get away with consumer devices.

If you think that consumer devices might work for your business, we recommend checking into a fusion device. Hardware manufacturers Zebra and Honeywell have done a great job bridging the gap between consumer and rugged devices for companies that are sticking to a tight budget—that way, you can stay low cost without sacrificing quality.

If you are looking to deploy hardware in your operations and are unsure what type of hardware will help you the most, RF-SMART can help.


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