As the foreman or supervisor in the field, you can—and must—be mobile. Devices that can be used while in the field today are indispensable, when transmitting data across significant distances has become instantaneous. WIRED magazine shared in early 2014 that investing in mobility has become necessary for improved efficiency in the construction industry, where meeting the high demands placed on every project requires efficient access to the knowledge and skills of everyone in the operation.
As examples, GPS tracking and telematics packages allow managers to receive automatic reports and alerts regarding the location of assets, as well as information about driving behavior and engine diagnostics. This, along with greater efficiency, improved cost performance, and increased safety, contributes to notable improvements in worker productivity and customer satisfaction rates reported by at least half of the companies that use mobility tools, as detailed by the Technology Services Industry Association.
Inexpensive consumer mobile devices have been the go-to gadgets of field workers to this point, owning to their low price and durability, at least when compared to higher-end smartphones. At the other end of the spectrum, the more expensive options can perform better and faster, and have multiple wireless connection capabilities, but often lack the sturdiness that working in the field requires. With hardware and software performance increasing with each new device being released, the smartphone market has finally become ripe for several important niches, and one of the most exciting directions it has taken it toward ruggedness.
Here are some of the top-performing rugged phones available on the market today:
CAT’s follow-up to the successful S50 line is elegant, while maintaining the toughness you’d expect from this division of Caterpillar Company. It weights 9.8 ounces, and packs into its bulky frame several ports and useful features, including a thermal camera to monitor your mat. It does win in terms of form factor, with a slip-proof design emphasized in its smooth and rounded edges.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-X1
This phone-tablet is as tough as they get, able to survive a fall onto concrete from up to 10 feet. It has a long battery life, a decent 8-MP camera, and various other capabilities. Its durability isn’t questionable, but it is rather heavy. At 0.96 pounds and a thickness of 1.2 inches, it’s a phone that’s probably the strongest out there.
This phone has a sapphire screen, which is the second-hardest crystal in the world—much stronger and more expensive to work with than the industry standard Gorilla Glass 4. Its wining features meet the U.S. Department of Defense Military Standard 810G, protecting it from shock, vibration, extreme temperature, and other possible damage agents; a range of conditions that most other rugged phones would struggle to withstand.
A quality rugged phone at a less-than-premium price, the Armor features dual-sim capability and physical navigation keys under the screen. Operating within the temperature range of -40 to 80oC, it’s practically invincible against any weather conditions and is water resistant. While drop test results are unknown, this phone can be immersed in water up to 1.2 meters, and features a 13-MP camera that can work under water.
This brand has previously earned popularity for dropping its XP3300 Force model from a staggering 25 feet, and merited the Guinness World Record for highest mobile phone drop. It’s one of the sturdiest industrial-ready smartphones on the market, featuring resistance to petroleum oils and cleaning solvents. It comes at a rather steep cost, but has a serious competitive edge over other phones in terms of durability.