Thoughts about the rugged computer “drop spec”

About the drop spec

Why do companies purchase ruggedized handheld computers instead of buying smartphones? There are plenty of reasons — durability, connectivity, and overall suitability for use in tough work environments come to mind — but one stands out: the device must not break when it falls. Anything can and will slip out of one’s hands. And when that happens — not if, when — the handheld must not break. No cracked screen, no broken housing, no dead device.

That is why the “drop spec” is so important. It is the one environmental specification that shows up more often than any other, even more than ingress protection from solids and liquids or the operating temperature range. But what, exactly, is the drop spec? And what should it be?

It’s quite simple. A device that’s designed for work must not break or fail while it’s being used on the job. How are handhelds used on the job? They are held in the hand to look up or enter data, and they may be held to the ear if they are also used as phones. What height will they fall from? That depends on the user, but by and large, it’s between 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 feet for lookup, and 4-1/2 and 5-1/2 feet for phone use. So devices ought to be able to consistently survive such falls without damage.