Rugged or Consumer Smartphones: What’s Best For Your Fleet?

The word on the street is mobile. Now more than ever, fleet managers are integrating smartphone and tablet technology to boost efficiency, increase driver accountability, and improve customer service quality on the road.

They’re on to something huge. In a recent survey of 430 fleet leaders in North America, 82% of respondents across industries said they were either very or somewhat interested in using mobile technologies to manage their fleet. And with 67% of respondents saying that all or most of their drivers have smartphones with them on the job, it’s clear that the influence of mobile devices on fleet operations will only grow stronger.

Is your fleet ready?

When it comes to equipping your vehicles with mobile technology, you have options. The ROI impact often comes down to that first choice: rugged or consumer smartphones.

Here are 4 questions to help you assess which is best for your fleet:

1. Where will your fleet mobile devices be used?

Traditional, enterprise-ready rugged smartphones meet military standards for durability, meaning these devices are tough enough to withstand extreme weather conditions. If your drivers need to bring smartphones on-site in harsh or unpredictable work environments, rugged could be the right choice.

However, consumer-grade smartphones such as Android and Blackberry can be ‘ruggedized’ with protective casing to protect against drops, shock, dust, and water; sufficient for moderate damage risk in a variety of industries, including shipping, taxi, HVAC, plumbing, and construction.

2. Will the devices be customer facing?

Consumer-grade smartphones are ergonomic, user-friendly, and have better functionality for customer-facing tasks such as barcode scanning and generating invoices.

Rugged devices don’t look pretty, but do offer better protection from drops and exposure to heat and water than a consumer device that has not been ruggedized.

3. What do you want to use the devices for?

Consumer-grade devices can host a variety of apps and programs for everything from GPS tracking to mobile transactions, which is ideal for a fleet that wants the freedom to adapt its strategy over time. Many apps offer robust capabilities for streamlining mobile data with existing administrative software, making it easy to install and integrate right away.

Most rugged devices are geared towards specific field tasks such as parts inventory and scheduling, but can also be customized to deliver a variety of software options.

Before you make a choice, consider how much time you are prepared to invest in streamlining mobile with your current program operations and reporting systems. Can you commit to the mobile hardware overhaul often demanded by customized rugged devices.

4. What can you afford?

Rugged devices are more expensive than consumer-grade devices, though some experts argue that the total cost of ownership for rugged is in many cases lower – mostly due to fewer replacements needed over the years.

Indeed, while much more affordable upfront, consumer-grade devices are prone to damage or replacement if not treated properly by staff.

Fleet managers can integrate BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – to lower costs and eliminate the risk of damaged company equipment. With BYOD, mobile workers use fleet technology, such as Scout PT, on their personal smartphones. This is the often most cost-effective way to integrate mobile technology within a fleet operation.

Want to learn more about BYOD?

Take a look at this article from The Smart Van for a quick overview of implementing BYOD in your fleet operations.

Rugged and consumer smartphones have their pros and cons, but at the end of the day, we all want the same thing: the highest achievable ROI for our efforts. With so many options available, we shouldn’t have to settle for anything less!


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