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Choosing the right Mobile Data Device


Once you have considered the type and frequency of the data you want to send and receive as part of your mobile data solution, you will have more of an idea as to the type of device considered fit for the purpose.

You need to consider the type of working environment in which the the device will be expected to perform.

Is the unit going to be a handheld device, truly mobile, going everywhere the engineer goes? Or is it a fixed data terminal situated in the vehicle?

Will it be susceptible to the bangs and knocks of everyday use out in the field; in possibly hot, damp and dusty conditions?

Some devices, though not all, are ruggedised and fit for purpose in these challenging conditions. These ruggedised devices are typically more expensive. You need to weigh up cost and benefit of buying these higher end devices.

Equally important is the level of training your team will need, to not only get to grips with the technology, but to fully understand the benefits and make full use of the opportunity that mobile data solutions present.

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There are hundreds of mobile data hardware devices available on the market.  A solution for your needs is probably available.  The table below gives just a few examples of the categories of device you may come across.

Quick Reference




Storage Capacity

E-mail PIMs

A variant on the PDA, these devices provide e-mail and PIM functions on the move. Key features are e-mails that are pushed to the user, with fixed monthly costs. Increasingly with web browsing and SMS functions too.

RIM Blackberry

Personal communications for senior and operational management, plus anyone who needs to react and electronically communicate decisions quickly and effectively without fuss. Software applications increasingly available.

Typically 8 Mb . Hundreds of emails, diary entries, and contacts.

Voice-enabled PDA


All the PIM functions and add-on software of a PDA, but with integrated mobile ‘phone and GSM/GPRS network access making SMS, web and WAP browsing more convenient.


A good compromise for those wanting the best of both worlds, good voice capabilities, and excellent data/web access – at a price. Application software readily available from many suppliers.

Typically 32 Mb to 64 Mb, but expandable to greater than 128 Mb. Thousands of emails, diary entries, and contacts. Enough room for application data too.



Approaching the communication and PIM capabilities of a laptop PC without the storage. Data networking is typically via add-on GSM/GPRS modules, or connection to a mobile ‘phone.


Palm OS

Windows OS (Pocket PC)


Some prefer to keep data and voice separate, allowing the use of a ‘phone alone when required. This can restrict the “always-on” convenience of GPRS for some devices. Application software readily available from many suppliers.

Typically 32 Mb to 64 Mb, but expandable to greater than 128 Mb. Thousands of emails, diary entries, and contacts. Enough room for application data too.


The latest mobile phones sport PIM functions, SMS, web and WAP browsing, and increasingly e-mail capabilities.

Nokia 6600

Sony Ericsson P910

Suited to those who require a very small device, albeit with a restricted screen size. Best suited to low-volume data or e-mail applications

Typically  less than 8 Mb. Hundreds of emails, diary entries, and contacts

Tablets/ Laptops

When you have to take the office on the road. GPRS data cards and wireless ‘phone connections now make the laptop an effective “connect anywhere” tool.

Various. Most major PC vendors.

The ultimate flexibility when out of the office. Many of your normal business applications can be made to run from anywhere. When “no-compromise” functionality is needed in the field.

Huge storage on-board. Total storage runs into many Gigabytes. Millions of emails, diary entries, and contacts. Application data also handled.


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Mobile Glossary


Personal Digital Assistant – small (pocket sized) handheld computers that store diary, contact, task lists etc. Most also handle email, and custom software applications


Handheld computers with a screen the size of an A5 or A4 sheet, but with no keyboard. Text entry is usually drawn using a pen (or stylus)


Personal Information Management – a set of mobile functionality typically including diary, tasks lists, note taking, and contact lists/phone book


Smartphones are a handheld device that integrates mobile phone capabilities with the more common features of a handheld computer or PDA.


Mobile data

Buying a handheld mobile data device

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