Rugged vs Consumer Devices: Which Inventory Scanner Is Right for Me?

A rugged scanner identifying a barcode on the left and a man using a smartphone on the right. Text overlay reads: Which Inventory Scanner Is Right for Me? Rugged vs Consumer Devices.

In the past decade, smartphones have advanced rapidly, and with them, so has the usage of smartphones in work environments.

As of 2018 about 77% of Americans own a smartphone while just seven years prior the number was about half of that.

As smartphones become ubiquitous, some asset managers wonder how to use this widespread technology in their business. But not many know if smartphones will be better than traditional asset management devices.

Today we’ll explore the benefits and flaws of traditional (aka rugged) devices and smartphone (consumer) devices. We’ll also give examples of businesses that use each, and why.

Rugged Devices


Rugged mobile devices have higher durability & reliability than smartphones. Rugged scanners are purpose-built for especially harsh environments. Even the average rugged device can handle more wear and tear than the average smartphone.

Purpose-built means they often have additional capabilities you may find useful. Many find they can scan from a longer distance with rugged scanners. Replaceable batteries, a common feature of scanners, can also be very useful for decreasing downtime.


Using rugged devices can incur a higher cost for your business than using smartphones if your office has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. With rugged devices you will have to purchase new scanners, which can add up quickly.  

These scanners may have higher learning curve for users than consumer grade scanners. Some have found consumer grade devices easier mainly due to the fact that they’re already familiar with using smartphones. The scanning app can feel more intuitive than a scanning program on the rugged scanner interface.

Best for:

Rugged scanners are ideal for businesses located in harsh environments because they’re more durable and can be more easily repaired than smartphones. 

Rugged scanners may be a necessity for businesses who contract for the government and must maintain a secure environment.

Overall, rugged scanners are a solid option for businesses with large barcode scanning needs. They are reliable, tough, and are purpose-built for what you need. If the price tag is manageable, rugged scanners are a great way to go.

Consumer Grade Mobile Devices/Smartphones


The majority of people in the U.S. have a smartphone. Many businesses have leveraged how common smartphones are by implementing a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. With a BYOD policy, leveraging customer grade mobile devices could cut costs for your company.

Because most people in America have or have used a smartphone, technology adoption will be easier with smartphone scanners. When integrating a new tool or system to your business, having some familiarity with it can present an enormous advantage.


Consumer grade devices are more fragile than rugged scanners. While most smartphones can handle movement and the occasional drop, they can’t typically handle high drops, harsh weather, or repeated rough use.

While a BYOD policy may serve as a great way to introduce inventory barcode scanning to your business, creating and managing that policy can be tricky. Your business’ BYOD policy should be carefully considered, based on security needs and general management goals and problems. This takes time, making consumer scanner implementation take potentially longer than you may think.

Best for:

Consumer scanners are great for small- to medium-sized businesses that want to offset costs by using a BYOD program.

This system is best for businesses that don’t require the rugged scanner’s durability. Most modern smartphones can handle day-to-day use in an office or warehouse. You also have the option to add protective screens and cases to consumer grade smart devices, making them a bit durable.

Overall, smartphones are great for businesses just starting to use barcodes, with fewer assets to scan, or who want to leverage a BYOD policy for quicker implementation and lower costs. Consumer grade devices look to be the future of asset tracking, so if it fits for your business, now may be the time to hop on board.


So, rugged vs consumer devices: which should you choose?

While asset managers around the world debate over the superiority of one device type or another, we’ve found that each has their use.

When considering new asset management devices, don’t immediately dismiss one or the other. Consider how each device type will fit into your business, and the flaws you are willing to put up with. Keeping an open mind will ensure you

If you’d like to learn more about mobile asset management, check out our page on eQuip! Mobile. eQuip! Mobile works on smartphones as well as rugged scanners, so whatever you choose you’ll be glad you chose eQuip!

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