Choosing a Mobile, Wearable, or Tablet Barcode Scanner for your Warehouse

If you’re implementing scanning into your warehouse, you’re probably researching and deciding what hardware will best fit your needs. The market is saturated with cool gadgets to keep track of your inventory. For example, ring scanners (also known as ‘wearables’) and tablets seem to be on-trend in warehouses today, and we get many inquiries surrounding the use cases for this new technology. 


While hands-free or mountable barcode devices may seem like an obvious choice, it's helpful to know when they are and are not practical. To start, let’s examine the different types of scanning devices and determine which might be the best fit to automate scanning and data collection in your warehouse: 


Rugged Tablets (like the Zebra ET50) can be used as a mobile solution for scanning barcodes. They have a larger screen, which makes it easier to toggle between different apps and webpages. Additionally, they can be mounted to vehicles – making them a cost-effective alternative to bulkier, permanent hardware fixtures. However, they are often heavier than a handheld due to their size. 

Mobile Handhelds

Mobile handhelds (like the Honeywell CT60) are all-in-one scanners that do not require additional parts to utilize scanning. They are ideal for long-range scanning and can perform many functions such as receiving, picking, putaway, and shipping. It's important to note here that we are talking about enterprise devices specifically crafted for the dirt, drops, and unique environment of a warehouse, and not consumer-grade devices

Wearable Scanners

Wearables (like the Zebra TC52) can help workers to complete tasks more efficiently and ergonomically. They are especially useful for workers that need to be hands-free and are often light-weight as they are intended to be worn by the user. Wearable devices eliminate thousands of movements created by holstering and un-holstering a device each day and alleviates the concern of misplacing scanners because it is worn at all times. However, cost can be a factor when considering wearables because you will need to purchase the touchscreen devices and the ring scanner separately.

The below chart can help you decide which path to take when it comes to your scanners:





Ideal Application

Ideal for managers with light scanning applications


Ideal for anyone; Traditional mobile scanning solution

Ideal for hands-free scanning and standard range

Long Range Scanning

Can be paired with a Bluetooth scanning device to accommodate long range scanning

Can accommodate
long range scanning


Cannot accommodate long range scanning. The ring scanner for a wearable will be for standard range scanning only (2in to 6ft)


Ranges in ruggedness (light industrial to ultra-rugged)


Ranges in ruggedness (light industrial to ultra-rugged)


Rugged; however, they are not available in an ultra-rugged version, as users are not worried about dropping


Vehicle Mount (Mounting accessories available to absorb vehicle shock and vibration)

Different carrying accessory options available (such as holsters)

Ideal for applications where users need their hands

Keypad Options

Physical key pad/virtual
keypad option

Physical key pad/virtual keypad option

Only touchscreen
options available


WAN & LAN capabilities

WAN & LAN capabilities

WAN & LAN capabilities


No matter what device trends you decide to follow, talking with a hardware adviser is always our recommended first step when implementing new hardware into your warehouse. At RF-SMART, our dedicated hardware team works hard to certify the devices that we sell, guaranteeing that no matter which device you choose, you’ll have a great fit for your warehouse.

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