Strong and stylish: rugged devices get a face-lift

by Steve Norris: Managing Partner, Criminal Justice and Emergency Services, Telefónica UK

Back in February, Wired magazine made a bold statement in predicting that in less than two years smartphones could completely replace the need for a computer.[1] But is their statement really that shocking? Smartphone capabilities are continuously improving, but it’s not just the capabilities that are changing, the designs are too.

Consequently, the consumer accessory market is enjoying a revival with more and more cases being developed to protect smartphones without ruining the wow factor of their design. I remember the chunky leather case for the Nokia 6110 that featured a (at the time) handy credit card holder, which is just unnecessary now thanks to mobile payment and digital wallet services. Simpler cases are now favoured, designed purely to protect not smother.

So what’s the story in the business world? Well rugged devices (specifically designed to be durable) are still popular because, of course, businesses want their investment to last.  Previously, these devices were more expensive but perhaps not as effective as the consumer models. This just isn’t the case anymore.

Within the Emergency Services, Police have been equipped with a variety of smartphones to help officers do more on the move.  But I haven’t seen rugged devices given to them yet which I find surprising. Rugged devices typically have a 3-4 year warranty which is longer than most airtime contracts. In addition, many have the PTToC (Push to Talk over Cellular) capability which is a future proofing feature when networks deliver VoLTE (Voice over Long Term Evolution).

Also, many of the latest rugged devices have an International Protection Rating of IP65 or IP67 which means that they can resist dust and water. This means they are almost guaranteed to last longer than a traditional smartphone. But it’s still early days in seeing Police with smartphones and, with the Emergency Services Network modernisation project on the horizon, only time will tell if the standard smartphones can last. In my opinion, rugged devices are the smart choice for the Emergency Services to make sure they get quality technology and a long-lasting investment. And, thanks to advances in design, rugged is no longer synonymous with ugly.

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[1] http://www.wired.com/2015/02/smartphone-only-computer/