The Raptor Hub guide to ruggedness

Everything you need to know about ruggedness and choosing the right rugged phone or tablet for your business

Other rugged mobile learning articles

What's this ruggedness guide all about?

As a guide, ruggedness isn’t just about drop specs and IP ratings, it’s about keeping your business running and can sometimes be more "art" than analytical "science".

This guide covers the basics of ruggedness which will give you a head start understanding the methid and what it takes to be fully rugged from the ground up so not only your ruggedized handhelds but your mobile business solution too.

Ruggedness has changed over the years so also take the time to check out the last section which has some handy links to our more recent guides, articles, opinions and debates on ruggedness.

The Rugged PDA is not the best tool for 2016

The 5 tests of Ruggedness

These are the basic elements, methods and validations of robustness in our humble opinion.

Waterproof and dust proof

To be rugged a mobile device has to be waterproof and dust proof to certain levels.

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Drop, shock, tumble and general tough ness

Rugged by design

Users, knowledge and behaviours

Repair and Support

How Ruggedness changes

Waterproof and Dust proof

We use an industry standard "IP rating" too certify just how waterproof and dust proof a rugged mobile device is.

Every device will have an IP rating from the table here which denotes just how durable it is to water and dust.

An IP rating has 2 numbers after it. The first one denotes how dust proof a device is and goes from 0 to 6.

The 2nd digit denotes how waterproof a device is and goes from 0 to 8.

Watch out for...

To be dust proof you need to be at least IP5x, most rugged phones are now IP6x so we wouldn't bother with anything less than that.

IP 67 is more than adequate for most businesses needs, IP68 is user defined so read the spec sheet carefully.

Many consumer devices state they're IP67 but with an open USB and headphone jack they actually fail IP4x. Dust, mud and fluff could all damage the connectors or even short circuit the device. How do they get away with it?

The IP rating is not a certification, it is a self test that anyone can do. Be careful of cheap phones that are IP67 or more, they often aren't.

Drop, Shock, Tumble proof

This is where most rugged or non-rugged hand helds will fail your business. Drops are common, make sure your device is rugged!

The Drop spec

Drop durability is measured in feet or metres and is a relative guideline as to how rugged the mobile phone is. This is the most common measure of ruggedness and you shuld always look for this on the spec sheet.

Anything below 5feet or 1.5M is not regarded as rugged so be careful of phone spec sheets with 1.2M on them, they're not rugged in our eyes!

Be careful what type of floor the device is testing on. Standard MIL-STD testing is on a wood covered concrete floo

Other drop tests

Whilst the drop test is the most important test to watch oput for there are other MIL-STD tests that a mobile device can achieve. Shock, tumble, vibration and more can all simulate every day abuse that's slightly different.

A word on MIL-STD

MIL-STD is siply a document written by the US military that set out guidlines on ruggedness for products it would buy form it's suppliers. It has since been adopted by many industries as a benchmark for testing durability.

MIL-STD is not a certification given by any goiverning body. It is simply a set of testing guidelines and the tests are performed internally.

Open to abuse...yes, but ask the manufacturer for videos or any kind of transparency in their testing to show proof.

Extreme Ruggedness needs more than MIL-STD

Clever and thoughtful rugged PDA design can often be the difference. Here's some things to look for


WHY - To stop your workers dropping the device in the first place

Is the device itself grippy or does it have a built in handstrap or clip to stop it being dropped in the first place?

Poor Case design

WHY - Because poor design can make iut luck if a dropped device survives or not.

Antennas that stick out, they often snap off leaving your device with a big gap in it.

Missing USB/headphone covers get filled with fluff, mud, dust and can short circuit your phone.

Recessed screens are not great to use with Android but the option or a small recess will keep the screen off the floor when laid down or dropped.

Weight and Size

WHY - Because heavy, odd shaped rugged devices tire your workers and they get dropped.

Rugged devices need to be familiar, so like consumer tablets and smartphones. Make sure they're not too heavy or oddly shaped offering poor ergonomics. They get dropped!


WHY - a £20 accessory can save £1000's in repair costs or down time.

A case, clip, hand strap, screen protector or simple holder can often mean the difference between mobile solution success and disaster.

Make sure your rugged device has these options, they're life savers.

User's Knowledge & behaviours

Businesses need rugged devices, but worker education, managment buy in and a little bit of knowledge also go a long way.

Mobile Workers


Workers will use mobile phones in there own unique way and often this can lead to even durable mobile computers getting damaged or mis-used in some way.

Listen to users, give them the right tools and accessories and use a device that fit's their job.

Mobile system behaviour


A little education always goes a long way with workers.

Make sure workers know how to use their mobile handhelds, how to respect them and how not to use and treat them to keep them running. Education fixes many types recurring issues and it's free!

Mobile solution management

Managment buy In

Company management that are engaged with suppliers, listen to workers, keep an open mind with issues will form the back bone of a mobile system that stays running.

Issues with mobile computer durability are often fixed by process or behaviour changes.

Rugged mobile computers still need great support

Repair and support is inevitable as accidental breakages and the odd warranty issue will raise their ugly heads every now and again.To close the ruggedness circle you also need to ensure that when things do go wrong, they're fixed quickly, with minimal impact to your business.

Fast, inexpensive rugged handheld repairs offer the basic level of support, but look for flexible, comprehensive support that focusses on all levels of your business.

Remember Rugged devices are only the core of your mobile solutions, Things can also go wrong with the operating system or apps and sofwtare or even your workers and business processes.

Make sure you're provider can supply you with the help you need when you need it and you'll have a truly "Rugged" mobile solution.

A final word on Ruggedness.

Like all mobile technology, Ruggedness itself changes over the years. What was considered the core of durability 5 years ago, is all but ignored today, and what we never thought about has become hugely important.

We're always blogging about ruggedness so if you want to know more about ruggedness then start with our sticky articles on our blog that delve a little more into the facts, opinions and debates over ruggedness.

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