Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Field Service Mobile Device Selection

Yogesh By Yogesh
field service tablets

Mobile devices are like the lifeblood of field service ops. They are in the thick of it all, day in and day out, crunching tons of data and keeping the whole organization connected. They are the key to communication, insights, and decision-making.

But what if your device decides to call it quits at the worst possible moment? That’s a recipe for disaster. We’re talking about some serious consequences here:

First, your employees’ productivity takes a major hit. You can’t get anything done without your trusty device. Then there’s the damage to your brand’s reputation. Customers start questioning your reliability and that isn’t good for business. And let’s not forget about the revenue loss. If your mission-critical equipment relies on those devices, you’re looking at a major dent in your wallet.

And guess what? Your compliance efforts might go down the drain too.

Honestly, it is difficult to achieve absolute stability in the field. Fieldwork conditions are prone to unpredictability; as one slip-up, or even a casual drop of a phone could lead to major mishappenings, thus disrupting the operations.

But with the right choice of mobile devices, situations can be controlled or minimized for a negligible impact.

Here, FieldCircle team discusses critical factors to consider when buying the best field tablets or mobile devices to use apps for field service technicians with field service experts and our customers, which could be boiled down to these 5 points.

The Field Service Mobile Device Selection Hack: Your Definitive Cheat Sheet

In the ever-evolving world of field service, staying connected and efficient is paramount. To empower your technicians with the right tools, investing in suitable tablets or the best mobile devices for field services is crucial.

However, with the multitude of options available, choosing the perfect device can be a daunting task. Below are the five critical factors to consider when purchasing mobile devices for field service technicians, ensuring seamless app usage and maximizing productivity.

Get Your Gear Right: Where You Work Matters!

The location of the maintenance and service sites plays one of the biggest roles when it comes to selecting the right type of device.

At service operations sites, such as mining, oil and gas, solar, and wind power units, service and maintenance teams need a device that keeps them connected to back-office staff, the CMMS app, and the system in all conditions, not just for the sake of collaboration but to their own safety as well.

For instance, if the maintenance sites have difficult terrain, you might want to explore rugged field service tablets with IP68 specifications, which are resistant to dust, shock, and rain. Tablets with high processing power and battery life allow quick access to data and ensure consistent communication.

In recent years, there have been advancements in rugged field service mobile devices that offer even better alternatives to tablets with IP68 specifications. One such alternative is the introduction of rugged smartphones specifically designed for field service use.

Rugged smartphones combine the functionalities of traditional smartphones with the durability and ruggedness required for field service operations. These devices often come with military-grade certifications such as MIL-STD-810G or MIL-STD-810H, which validate their ability to withstand extreme temperatures, shocks, vibrations, and drops. They also typically have IP68 or higher ratings for water and dust resistance.

Although, according to Robert Hurt, General Manager, EMEA with Janam, “Rugged on its own, is not enough in a real-world field service environment. True ruggedness is not just about IP ratings or rigorous testing to ensure it can withstand frequent drops, tumbles, and shocks across a wide temperature range.”

He says that it is about the device that “optimally performs well beyond the life expectancy of a consumer-grade device.” It is crucial to have a device that offers secure and reliable connectivity, and in line elevates your service and maintenance team performance.

One such device is the Panasonic Toughbook series. Tough books undergo rigorous testing and adhere to military-grade standards such as MIL-STD-810H for durability and reliability. They are built with reinforced casings, shock-absorbing materials, and specialized seals to protect against drops, vibrations, dust, water, and temperature variations. These devices are engineered to perform optimally in challenging environments where consumer-grade devices would fail.

Smoothly Sail through the Daily Grind!

When it comes to field service tablets, the functional capabilities need to empower your technicians to breeze through their tasks. Think about the routine activities they handle on a regular basis. They should be able to effortlessly:

  • Check their schedules using a calendar.
  • Stay on track with online maps to monitor their location.
  • Access job details, and perform inspections or audits, all within a user-friendly app.
  • Seamlessly handle documents by uploading, downloading, viewing, adding, and editing files.
  • Keep track of their time logs, updating visit-in and visit-out times.
  • Capture customer sign-offs when necessary.

Now, here’s the thing: the capabilities of the device they use play a crucial role in how well they can perform these tasks. For example, the camera quality impacts the images they capture, and inadequate screen size can make it uncomfortable for employees to use various applications.

To ensure optimal performance in field service tasks, it’s important to choose mobile devices that align with the specific needs of your technicians. Here are a few mobile devices that justify the factors mentioned:

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Active3: This rugged tablet is designed to withstand tough working conditions. It offers a large display size for clear visibility, a high-quality camera for capturing detailed images, and a long-lasting battery to support a busy day of work.
  • Apple iPad Pro: With its powerful performance and user-friendly interface, the iPad Pro is a popular choice among field service professionals. It boasts a large, high-resolution display, excellent camera capabilities, and sufficient storage capacity for storing important documents and photos.
  • Google Pixel 6: Known for its exceptional camera quality, the Pixel 6 is a reliable smartphone option. It features a vibrant display, sufficient RAM for smooth multitasking, and ample storage for storing task-related files and media.
  • Panasonic Toughbook: Built for rugged environments, the Toughbook series offers durable tablets and laptops. These devices come with reinforced screens, long battery life, and ruggedized exteriors to withstand drops, shocks, and extreme temperatures.
  • iPhone 13 Pro: Apple’s flagship smartphone, the iPhone 13 Pro, offers a powerful processor, a high-resolution display, and a feature-rich camera system. It provides a smooth user experience and ample storage capacity for field service tasks.

So, whether you’re considering a smartphone or a tablet, Android or iOS, or a device on the cheaper or premium side, there are certain features that you should prioritize. Look for a device with:

  • A proper display size that ensures clarity and ease of use.
  • A camera lens that captures high-quality images.
  • Ample battery capacity and fast charging capabilities to keep up with a busy day.
  • A smooth and well-protected touchscreen for effortless navigation.
  • Decent RAM to ensure uninterrupted performance.
  • At least 16GB of memory for hassle-free photo and video uploads if needed.

While it’s easy to get distracted by irrelevant features, always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to deliver efficient and quality-driven service while effectively monitoring tasks.

Have Accessories that Won’t Make You Sweat

Imagine being a field service technician, tasked with delivering exceptional service to customers. The last thing you want is to be constantly worried about your mobile device and find it hard to handle, right? That’s why it’s crucial before buying mobile field devices for your team to check whether it can withstand the tough working conditions in the field, without weighing them down.

When purchasing mobile devices for your field service team, consider a few key factors. Firstly, look for devices that are robust enough to handle the challenges of the field, yet slim and lightweight so they don’t become an additional burden. But it doesn’t stop there! To truly optimize their experience, providing them with the right accessories is equally important. Here are a few examples:

  • Mobile holder for the car: Equip them with a reliable mobile holder, making it easy to track their location while on the move.
  • Mobile holster for effortless carrying: Give your technicians a mobile holster that allows them to carry their devices conveniently, ensuring quick access when needed.
  • Dust protective cover: Fieldwork can be dusty, and you don’t want debris clogging up your technicians’ devices. A dust protective cover will keep their mobiles safe and operational.
  • Waterproof phone case: If their operations involve exposure to water, such as in outdoor repairs or installations, a waterproof phone case is a must-have. It provides an extra layer of protection against accidental water damage.

You might think that investing in these support accessories is trivial or an unnecessary expense, but it’s worth it. The convenience and peace of mind it brings to your field service technicians are invaluable. By ensuring their devices are well-equipped and easy to handle, you empower them to deliver their best work while minimizing distractions and concerns.

When it comes to mobile devices that combine robustness and ease of handling, several options stand out:

  • Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro: Designed specifically for rugged environments, this device is MIL-STD-810G certified for durability. It features a slim and lightweight design, making it comfortable to carry during fieldwork. It also offers accessories like car mounts and protective cases for added convenience.
  • CAT S62 Pro: Built to withstand extreme conditions, the CAT S62 Pro is an ideal choice for field service technicians. It is drop-proof, dustproof, and resistant to water. The device is designed with an ergonomic grip, making it easy to hold and handle for extended periods.
  • Sonim XP8: Known for its durability, the Sonim XP8 is designed to withstand harsh environments. It is certified to military standards for ruggedness and features a glove-friendly touch screen for ease of use in various conditions. The device offers a range of accessories, including belt clips and holsters.

So, take action today and prioritize ease of handling for your field service mobile devices. Your technicians will thank you, and your customers will receive top-notch service without any hiccups.

Analyze Cost of Ownership

It is quite obvious that a lot of your buying decisions will be driven by the organization’s budget. However, while assessing the pricing, you must evaluate the current problems the product solves and its value over time in order to determine the total cost of ownership metric.

For instance, if the life expectancy of the device is short or the maintenance and repair are not easily accessible, it would ultimately increase the cost of ownership.

Besides, if the field service teams begin experiencing problems with the device in a short time due to quality issues or the low functional capability makes them unable to utilize critical software applications to their full potential, then also the device may prove to be a costly choice with respect to team’s efficiency and performance.

So, what is the ideal cost of ownership?

It varies depending on your organization’s specific needs and priorities. While it’s important to find a device that fits within your budget, it’s equally crucial to consider its long-term value. Striking a balance between upfront costs and the device’s durability, functionality, and support services is key to achieving an optimal cost of ownership.

By taking a comprehensive approach to choosing the field service mobile device, you can ensure that your field service team is equipped with devices that not only meet their immediate needs but also provide long-term value and minimize unnecessary costs.

Prioritize quality, reliability, and accessibility when making your purchasing decisions, and you’ll make a sound investment that benefits your team’s efficiency and productivity in the long run.

The objective here is not to instigate you to buy something expensive but to carefully review the device from a long-term perspective, covering aspects such as the feasibility of training, maintenance, upgrade, and repair.

Justify Perceived Brand Value

According to Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University, “We tend to notice negative more than positive.” Many studies suggest that “we are more likely to remember negative experiences over positive experiences.”

The slightest of problems faced by customers could create a long-term negative impact on them. The one “negative” be it in the form of technicians struggling with the mobile device during maintenance service or device-related issues during e-sign off could become the unwanted trademark of your company.

Also, human beings in essence are visual creatures. We believe what we see. When a customer sees a field service technician working swiftly with a great device, quickly processing the information, generating reports, or creating invoices on the spot, it leaves a good impression on them, which boosts their confidence in the company and increases the perceived brand value.

The use of apps for mobile service field technicians can have a profound impact on how customers perceive your brand. Remember, the key is to select mobile devices that not only align with your field service requirements but also exude a sense of quality and reliability.

By providing your technicians with devices that work smoothly, enable quick information processing, and enhance their productivity, you create a positive perception of your brand in the eyes of customers. This, in turn, strengthens their confidence in your company, fostering long-term loyalty and positive word-of-mouth referrals.

The Afterword

Choosing the perfect mobile device for field service operations is like picking a trusty sidekick. It’s not just about fancy gadgets – it’s about finding a partner that can handle the unpredictable and demanding nature of the field.

Think of mobile field service management software as the secret sauce that brings everything together. When choosing, picture your technicians battling rugged terrains or dealing with unexpected drops (we’ve all been there).

We have already seen why you must consider durability, battery life, and processing power, while not ignoring device management capabilities.

So, if you ever doubt your choice, you can review your requirements – why you made the decision and you will not be disappointed.

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