19 July 2022

Businesses now have more options than ever before when it comes to mobile technology supporting their operations, with the decision on which devices to use becoming increasingly difficult.

Businesses can choose from a large number of devices with a variety of operating systems and features to support manufacturing, logistics, cold storage and other enterprise activity. Before diving into a comparison, businesses should consider a fundamental decision - whether to use rugged or consumer devices. After all, making the right choice could save your business time and money, so do not treat this decision lightly.  

What is a rugged enterprise mobile device?

A rugged enterprise mobile device is a smartphone, tablet, or another electronic handheld that is built to withstand the demands of commercial use. There are three types of rugged: semi-rugged, fully-rugged, and ultra-rugged (i.e. indestructible), and the level required by a business is determined mainly by the operational environments.

Many rugged enterprise devices have additional options and features such as barcode scan engines and longer-lasting batteries, as well as higher IP ratings against water and dust.  

What is a consumer enterprise mobile device?

A consumer enterprise device is a smartphone, tablet, or another electronic handheld that can be used for business but also can be used as a personal device. For example, a personal smartphone that a line manager uses for business purposes such as looking up inventory data.

There are two options for using a consumer device; purchasing consumer devices expressly for a business, although some major modifications might be required, or Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) when employees supply their own mobile devices and access the company’s applications.  

Key considerations between rugged vs consumer devices  


When considering costs, it’s important to consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) and not just the initial buying costs of devices. This is because the TCO also takes into consideration fail rates, costs of repairs, replacement, productivity and device maintenance.

Although consumer devices are cheaper to purchase initially, they have a shorter lifespan and are more likely to be damaged during their use, leading to downtime, repairs and potential replacements. On the other hand, rugged devices will last longer and withstand harsher conditions, making the need to repair/replace them less. Therefore, when comparing the total cost of ownership, rugged devices can cost a business less in the long run compared to consumer devices.  

Ease of use

Consumer devices are used by workers every day, and due to their continued development, are more familiar and easy to use compared to rugged devices. This familiarity, plus their compact size, makes them more appealing to businesses looking to invest in technology. A consumer device also has an advantage in terms of screen size and convenience, making them a favourable choice to many.

On the other hand, it’s important to note that newer rugged devices are now using an Android Operating System which makes them more similar to many consumer devices. Many are also easier to use in harsh environments compared to consumer devices as their toughed touchscreens are glove-friendly and resistant to cracks.  


Consumer devices are more likely to fail, and have a shorter life cycle compared to rugged devices, with technology also becoming older and phased out more quickly. Plus, consumer devices rely on the user purchasing protective covers whereas rugged commercial devices already have them built-in. These hardened rugged casings are all assigned an IP rating for users to understand their protection level and are designed to withstand drops and shocks. Therefore, rugged devices are the clear winner when comparing durability, and can be used for many years.  

Work environment

Choosing between rugged and consumer devices will also heavily depend on the business’ specific work processes and environments, as some can be more hazardous than others. Consumer devices are not designed to operate in the harshest environments and therefore wouldn’t be suitable for all users.

In comparison, rugged devices are specifically made for tough situations with built-in protection against dust, moisture and heat. These devices are also designed with longer battery life, high processing speeds, screen resilience and larger memory, all ideal for use within a challenging work environment. Therefore, rugged devices are more robust in a range of scenarios and don’t require extra care or protection when in use.    

Software customisation

Customisation for some businesses is very important, and unfortunately, many consumer devices are limited in customisation options. On the other hand, with rugged devices, businesses can have more say and adapt the device’s software to meet their needs. These customisation opportunities can range from custom branding to a fully modified rugged device in line with business operations. These modifications to the software are there to improve the overall experience of users and help increase work productivity, such as adding key features to the home screen.  


Depending on the consumer device, there are a number of built-in features that can be more susceptible to cyberattacks, allowing unauthorised access to any stored data which may include sensitive business data. Although some consumer devices are now increasing their built-in security features to prevent data breaches, there is still a high chance of the device being stolen from a user’s pocket and re-sold. Therefore, consumer devices can not only provide easier access to a device’s data, breaking data protection policies but are more likely to be stolen.

In contrast, rugged devices have enhanced built-in security features such as the lockdown of applications so that only authorised users can have access. This enhanced protection helps prevent cyber attacks on a company network. Rugged devices are also unlikely to be used for personal use, and so would be kept on-site, helping to prevent theft.  

Find out more

The choice between rugged and consumer devices is always a personal one and will depend on the business and its operations. The most important thing for a business to consider is whether the device is fit for its purpose.

If you decide to invest in rugged devices, we have you covered. We have over 30 year’s experience and can help transform your operations with rugged devices to provide you with a robust solution to your process and procedural needs. You can rest assured that you’ll receive all the help from TouchStar you may need. To find out more about our rugged solutions and how they could benefit your business, please get in touch.     

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