Field services worker hands typing on a Zebra Technologies L10 tablet

Backward Compatibility: Why It Matters for Field Services

Tablets and phones are now essential in the field services industry. As these devices become more prevalent, it is important to consider their backward compatibility. This refers to the ability of a device to be used with older versions of hardware accessories like chargers or cradles. When mobile device manufacturers release new device models, there is no guarantee that the next generation device will be backward compatible with the accessories from older models. When investing in mobile devices for field services teams, backward compatibility should be near the top of your requirements list.

Here’s why it’s so important…

Give your field services workers the tools they need

Many field services organisations use a mix of older and newer phones and tablets. If mobile devices and their accessories are not backward compatible and cannot be mixed and matched, workers with older equipment may not be able to use the same tools as workers with newer devices, and vice versa. For example, a new device may not fit into a company’s existing vehicle mount. Workers with these phones or tablets may lose out on functionality that is beneficial for them in their work. Backward compatible mobile devices and accessories mean that all of your field services workers can utilise the tools they need to do their job.

Field services worker using Zebra ET8X tablet
Accessories for Zebra Technologies’ ET8X rugged tablets, like the expansion back and kickstand, are compatible with all Zebra docking solutions.

Save your field services company money

Another reason why backward compatibility is important for field services is that it can help to reduce costs. If a company only had mobile devices that were compatible with the newest accessories, then it would need to constantly update its equipment as new models are released. This would be very expensive and could lead to disruptions in service if some workers are using outdated equipment. By having backward compatible devices and forward compatible accessories, a company can keep mobile devices and their accessories in service for longer and save money. This also allows a company to run a mixed fleet. In the past companies might have replaced all of the phones and all of the vehicle mounts at once. Having this compatibility allows you just to replace kit that fails, allowing you to maximise device life.

Increase worker efficiency

Finally, backward compatibility is important for field services because it can help to improve efficiency. If accessories like chargers or barcode scanners aren’t compatible with the whole of fleet mobile devices, the risk of field services workers picking up the wrong kit and having to return to the office increases. This can be time consuming and expensive. When ‘one size fits all’ with accessories, this risk is removed.

Consumer vs. rugged for field services

When choosing phones and tablets for your field services workers, consumer models often appear the cheaper option. However, device ‘churn’ means that these mobile devices and accessories may only be available for as little as 12 months. When buying consumer grade mobiles, you risk incompatibility with your current accessories, such as chargers. Buying new accessories for every new mobile can be expensive, and results in redundant components and electrical waste as old accessories are no longer used. You may also face compatibility issues with future device releases when manufacturers move on to the next model of phone or tablet. Therefore both forward and backward compatibility should always be a key consideration.

Field services worker in vehicle looking at Zebra TC57 rugged phone
Investing in rugged phones like Zebra Technologies’ TC57 reduce the long term total cost of ownership for your mobile devices.

When choosing mobile devices for field services, a safer choice is rugged. Rugged phones, tablets and accessories are often designed with backward and forward compatibility in mind. Rugged mobile manufacturers, like Zebra Technologies, design accessories and devices so that they can continue to be used when the next models are released, extending their lifecycle far beyond what can be expected from consumer devices.

Overall, backward (and forward) compatibility is important for field service because it helps companies save money, improve efficiency, and make sure that workers can stay on the same device throughout the day. When choosing phones or tablets for your field services company, compatibility is a key factor. It is one of many reasons that rugged devices beat consumer mobiles, hands down.

Nuffield Technologies can help you to find the right rugged phones or rugged tablets for your business. Get in touch to talk through your challenges, and we can recommend and source the best mobile devices for your needs.

If you’d like to learn more about the differences between consumer and rugged mobiles, you can download our white paper ‘Consumer Versus Enterprise: Why Choosing Consumer Devices for Your Business Might Cost You More than You Think’.

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