As mobile manufacturers respond to the demand for more durable hardware, field service organizations can take advantage of less expensive and more reliable rugged goes mainstreamdevices to run their operations

Mobile device developers have been improving software functionality in leaps and bounds. With each new phone or tablet edition, the camera takes better shots, the screen has a better display, there are more and better apps, etc., but the hardware hasn’t changed more than a different shaped button, a slimmer design, or a larger screen in years.

Mainstream device manufacturers are finally catching the drift that people want more durable and functional devices for everyday use. Sure a sleek design looks cool, but if it shatters the first time it slips out of your hand, it loses its cool factor pretty quick.

With the desire for more durable hardware, mobile manufacturers are beginning to ruggedize their devices, or at least make them friendlier for rough or outdoor activities. For field service organizations looking to invest in mobile, this opens up a range of options beyond standard rugged devices. No longer are you forced to fork out tens of thousands of dollars to outfit your technicians with top-of-the-line rugged devices.

The new trends and features in hardware design outlined below suggest that durability is the next big thing in device manufacturing. Hold onto your hats, cause rugged’s going mainstream!

5 Ways Mainstream Manufacturers are Ruggedizing Devices

1. Dust and Waterproof—Samsung has taken the first step toward ruggedizing mainstream devices with its Galaxy S5, which is dust and waterproof. Assuming this level of durability sets a standard for consumer devices across the board (I for one hope it does!), we’ll no longer need rugged phones or even cases to protect our devices from a little dirt or dampness.

The new Sony Xperia ZR is also waterproof and can even take pictures and video underwater. Though this appeals to a niche crowd (most likely not field service) it foreshadows a future in which waterproof devices are standard across the board.

2. Flexible design and cover—LG sparked the flex phone trend with its new curved-device, the LG G Flex, which fits the curved shape of your palm and face. While this doesn’t necessarily make the phone more rugged, it is flexible and increases the ease/comfort of use of the product.

The back of the LG Flex has a self-healing coating that’s designed to help recover from the minor scratches from every day wear and tear, which helps when you’re working in a rough environment.

3. Outdoor readability and picture taking capabilities—The Nokia Lumia 1520 doesn’t improve durability necessarily, but it’s great for field work because of its six-inch, super-sensitive, full HD display and outdoor readability in sunlight and other conditions. Technicians working in bright sunlight or inclement weather will appreciate the ability to read and work from their phone without interruption or delay.

4. Rugged cases—Regardless of which device you’re using, there’s probably a relatively inexpensive rugged case for it, the most popular being the OtterBox, which provides three layers of protection, screen protection, a rubber grip for handling, and a holster.

Some of the cases for iPhones, iPads, and other devices can get pretty rugged, which negates the need for an expensive rugged device. Most rugged cases run between $50-$150 and offer full protection from dust, water, weather, etc.

5. Cross-platform mobile field service apps—Sometimes the biggest “rugged” improvements take place on the inside, not the outside. The best rugged feature for mobile devices today is a cross-platform field service management application that empowers service technicians with real time customer, asset, inventory, warranty and other call resolution information.

All the rugged accessories and waterproofing in the world aren’t going to prepare you to collect information and increase performance the way a mobile field service app can.

What Rugged Consumer Devices Mean for Field Service

With more mobile device companies manufacturing more durable devices and accessories, mainstream consumer electronics are looking more and more appealing for field service organizations investing in mobile devices for their teams.

Not only does investing in consumer devices open companies to options like BYOD and an infinite number of apps, it also lowers the initial cost of investment in mobile since mainstream devices are only a fraction of the cost of rugged devices.

It seems that just as the mobile scene in field service is taking off, device manufacturers are designing hardware that can withstand the pressures of the field–Good timing.

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This article originally appeared on MSI Data and has been republished with permission: Rugged Goes Mainstream: 5 Ways Consumer Electronics are Becoming Field Friendly