18 May 2022

Like many technologies, rugged devices in all forms have continued to develop and grow. Not just with the processing speeds and capabilities, but also with the different types of devices now available. With so many more alternatives on the market, it can be difficult to understand which device will fulfil your company’s needs.

Two options you might choose between are rugged handhelds and rugged wearables. Both have their advantages, but which is the best for you?  

What is a rugged handheld?

A rugged handheld device is an ergonomically-designed, portable, compact mobile computer. It’s created to be easy to use and hardwearing and is usually available in two forms: either with or without a pistol grip or similar to a smartphone. No matter the shape, a handheld is designed to either be operated with just a touchscreen that is toughened and protected, or both a keypad and touchscreen. The idea is that a rugged handheld device can be used in tough working conditions including the cold or being dropped, without significant damage.  

What is a rugged wearable?

A rugged wearable is a smaller device that is lightweight and comfortable to wear and use. They’re designed to offer a hands-free solution that can be worn on the wrist or belt of the user. Although small in size, a rugged wearable can incorporate touchscreens, barcode scanners and voice activation features. They’re also designed to be durable and able to withstand drops, dust and extreme temperatures.  

What impacts the suitability of a device within a warehouse?

When looking at the potential of each device, there are various factors which affect their suitability for certain warehouse processes which need to be considered, such as:

  • The types and size of goods being handled
  •  How the goods are packaged, such as single items or on pallets
  • The environment, such as cold storage
  • What a business hopes to achieve by introducing the device
  • How many devices a business will need
  • Warehouse worker preference

Which device is best?

Within warehouses and logistics, there are many tasks that can be completed with rugged devices. These devices are often deployed to help speed up existing operational processes and improve efficiencies. Although tasks vary per business, there are some general tasks which have to be completed such as picking products and dispatch. Some rugged devices are better than others depending on the activity, and we’ll explore this now.

Goods in

Bringing goods into the warehouse environment is a key part of operations, and often the first stage of a product’s life within this setting. For this task, you can use either a handheld or wearable rugged device, as they offer similar capabilities. With both options being lightweight and versatile, either of the two devices can be used to check-in new stock and ensure it’s sent to the right warehouse section for future use. For example, if your products are arriving in roll cages and boxes, both wearable or handhelds would work, suitability will however be dependent on the various factors we have previously mentioned. However, if you’re expecting pallets, a truck-mounted device would be a better option as goods will be moved via a forklift truck.


When picking products, the kind of device that is more advantageous will depend on the kind of products that are being picked. For smaller items, there may be less need for being hands-free and so handheld devices may be the better option. For larger items, workers still need to maintain an efficient picking process, hands free offer the ability for free and quick movement to support productivity. In this scenario, a rugged wearable may be the favoured device for such a task. It allows those in the warehouse to move through the space and select the items they require, without having to pick up and put down a device.


Similar to goods coming into the warehouse, goods leaving the space can also benefit from a rugged device. The choice will depend on the dispatch operation in place, the common benefit is that both devices can be used to increase productivity and ensure dispatch information is collected in real-time, allowing for greater business visibility. Rugged handhelds and wearables are more often used in despatch operations that involve roll cages that contain smaller boxes rather than shrink-wrapped pallets. Device preference again could come down to the type of environment, size of goods, business objectives or just personal preference.

Stock checks

Within this part of the operation, handhelds are more common within the stock check process as there is less manual handling of goods meaning there is no need for hands-free. A handheld device will allow the operator to collect stock levels without the need for paperwork and reduces the manual data collection needed, increasing accuracy and speeding up operations.[

Transform your business operations today

Here at TouchStar, we’re pleased to offer a variety of rugged mobile devices, including handheld and wearables which can be highly effective in a wide range of industries, such as logistics and manufacturing. With our years of industry experience and our in-depth knowledge about products, we’re on hand to advise you in finding the right rugged device.

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