06 January 2022

Within any warehouse, operational efficiency, real-time visibility and operational accuracy are key. Trying to find a Warehouse Management System (WMS) and the mobile computing device that offers the best combination to achieve this is critical. It can also be quite a challenge given the number of device options available.

Whether you are looking to implement a new, or upgrade of existing warehouse devices, one of the biggest questions you’re likely to ask yourself is whether to opt for rugged, semi-rugged or consumer devices. It’s important to consider all the options for your business, as selecting the incorrect device could result in frustrated users, decreased productivity and increased costs. So, what is the difference between consumer and rugged devices and what would work best in your warehouse?  

What is the difference between a rugged and a consumer device?  

A consumer device is a smartphone or tablet that is used for both business and personal use. Looking up inventory data or sales reports are examples of common business uses, however, they are particularly common in “bring your own device” or “BYOD” scenarios, such as electronic proof of delivery (EPOD) applications, whereby a worker will download a mobile app on their own device to fulfil work-related activities.

The next level in rugged devices is a semi-rugged device which is a mid-way point between consumer and fully-rugged devices. These tend to have a low IP rating and are typically equipped with semi-rugged components. These components allow for them to be stress-tested and certified to industry standards.

Alternatively, a fully rugged device has been specifically designed to be used in commercial environments and boast features such as high IP ratings, barcode scanners and have the ability to withstand extreme conditions.

The main differences between fully rugged and consumer devices are:

  • Cost – Most consumer devices will be cheaper than rugged devices in the first instance and therefore can be tempting when cutting costs. However, when considering the cost of ownership over a longer period of time, rugged devices come out on top as they have a longer product lifecycle in both technology and durability.
  • Durability – Due to their design, rugged devices can withstand shock, moisture, heat and impact and so are less likely to fail compared to consumer devices.
  • Security – It’s important for businesses to be aware of potential security threats to their operations, and although any device can be susceptible to attack, consumer devices are more likely to be infiltrated than rugged devices are.
  • Ease of use – As most individuals use a consumer device day to day, they are going to look more attractive for ease of use as they’re familiar and smaller. Depending on their use, rugged devices are better suited to some conditions as they are glove operable and have better visibility in a range of lighting environments.  

Which type of device is best within a warehouse?  

Cold storage warehouses

Although consumer devices have evolved in recent years, they still don’t meet the demands of tough warehouse environments such as cold storage. Rugged devices, however, are designed to withstand the cold, wet and moist conditions they would be subjected to in low temperatures. Some devices are made specifically for cold storage warehouse environments and can be operated when the user is wearing gloves or in low light.

Hazardous environments

As well as cold storage warehouses, there are other types of tough and hazardous environments for which fully rugged devices are more suited for such as chemical, retail warehouses and port logistics. All of these hazardous environments have different needs and therefore impact the device specification and rugged requirements. This can include devices being ATEX certified and meeting other legal health and safety standards.   

Barcode scanning

As consumer devices continue to develop and become more technologically capable, some devices are now able to scan barcodes. Although it is possible, it’s important to remember that they may not be able to withstand a demanding warehouse environment. In comparison, rugged barcode scanners or the TouchStar TS5000 would be more suited to a busy and harsh environment. Specially designed to be resilient and consistent, investing in a rugged device would be better for warehouse environments where downtime caused by damaged devices would cost a business time and money.  

Find out more

If you’re looking to move from consumer to rugged devices or would like to find out more about our range, get in touch today. Our team of experts are on hand to help answer your questions so you make the right decision for your business.               


Peter joined TouchStar (formally Belgravium) in a sales manager role in 2001.  Prior to joining the company, Peter held Partner and National Sales Manager roles within the parcel and logistics industries. 

In 2011 Peter was promoted to Sales Director and is now actively involved in promoting the value of TouchStar’s Rugged Mobile Computing solutions to the warehouse, logistics, manufacturing and field service industries. When not involved in the business, Peter is a keen and enthusiastic football and cricket fan.

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