Buying Cheap Rugged Smartphones: All You Need to Know

Rugged devices are expensive but buying a cheap one is not the right option. So what should you look for to avoid buying cheap rugged smartphones?

For a business, investing in new rugged devices can be a tough decision to make. “There’s so many to choose from so where do I start?” And it’s easy to fall into cheap rugged smartphones. At the end of the day, your budget is the priority.

At Raptor, we’re known for great value and our range of rugged devices, no matter how small or large, are based on a flew core simple principles that our beliefs. One of those principles is great value. And we don’t understand why rugged devices from classic brands are so expensive. However, there’s a big difference between inexpensive or great value and “cheap” so this post takes you through some of the pitfalls of buying cheap rugged smartphones and what to look out for.

However, there’s a big difference between inexpensive or great value and “cheap”. This post takes you through some of the pitfalls of buying cheap rugged smartphones and what to look out for.

Beware of copies

We’re not talking about re-branded hardware. We’re talking about copied hardware. Nowadays is easy to find copies of everything. If you understand China the way we do, then you only need to go and visit the areas where electronic devices are made to understand how easily copies can be made. We’ve seen Panasonic and Motorola/Zebra copies. Anything you see new and cheap with a Samsung or Apple brand on eBay is probably a copy. And let’s not forget that the copied iPhone was the biggest selling smartphone in the world for many, many years.

Buying a copy of a device can bring a whole host of pain with it. And whilst it might look exactly the same from the outside, the OS will be different, the quality is usually poor, things such as battery life will suffer and parts are different. Above all, the support for the device is often non-existent too.

But how do you get around this? Firstly, we don’t recommend buying electronics from eBay. If it’s cheap then it probably is just that…cheap. Beware of websites selling copies or even genuine articles at low prices. These often source from China directly and you’ll be waiting weeks for them.

Buying local

As a consumer, we always try to buy as cheap as we can. We understand that. We hunt high and low for some things sometimes, in search for a £5 lower price. But if you’re buying for your business then remember that the hardware and its upfront cost is only about 30% of the total cost you’ll need to account for. Most of the cost comes after the initial purchase in the form of repairs, problems, training and help to use the device and lastly liaising with the supplier for more kit or problems with existing kit.

By buying from a UK brand with a clear base in the UK, a repair centre and some kind of commitment, you’re not only helping a UK business survive but you’re also making life a lot easier for yourself in the medium/long term. It also means that you’ll get all the laws and rules on your side when it comes to support or warranty. You’ll get hardware that should have the correct certifications like CE or FCC and you’ll be able to talk to someone who should understand your issues and be able to work with you to fix them.

Put simply, the world is a smaller place but the rules in them are far more complex than they were. Keep things simple!

Who does the work?

In the old days, you basically had to buy from a reseller or brand directly. So we’ve all got used to having the benefits that come with that but none of us thinks about what we lose when we cut that out and go directly to a supplier in China. Or even one that is importing into the UK but from a foreign base. All too often we focus on the price and forget the work that’s done on the hardware as it comes into stock in the UK.

There is a whole host of things you have to consider when buying a cheap rugged smartphone including:

IMEI numbers are genuine

If your IMEI numbers are not genuine then you run the risk of your devices having duplicate ones. Or worse, being reported stolen. The GSMA is cracking down on this and you might have heard that in some countries such as India, this practice has now been banned. Oh, and forget about getting anything for your old devices because the first thing a refurb outlet will do is check the IMEI!

CE is done properly

CE is so important. Yet, a number of businesses we talk to didn’t even think about that when they bought 100 devices from eBay or Alibaba. This is a requirement for all electronic products coming into Europe. If a product does not have CE then, it is not fit for use in any European country. FCC is the same for the USA. If you buy without ensuring this then you are responsible and if there’s an issue with the device like the battery exploding and hurts someone then you could face huge fines and even prison if found negligent. We cannot stress enough how important this is.

FCC is the same for the USA. If you buy without ensuring this, then you are responsible. And if there’s an issue with the device, like the battery exploding and hurting someone, you could face huge fines and even prison if found negligent. We cannot stress enough how important this is.

OS and data usage

It has been in the news how Chinese phone brands are actually stealing data from Western buyers and sending it back to the Chinese government so they can understand how we buy better. All kinds of data you can think of were sent back.

When we sell a Raptor product, it might be seen somewhere else as branded differently. But what is unique about our products is that our devices have hours and days of work to remove any apps or OS features that pry into your data. We also have Google Play disconnected versions (because Google’s no better when it comes to your data!). We also make sure they are optimised, made reliable and are as vanilla as possible. Just so you have all the RAM and ROM left for your own use.

Just think. What if your customer data was being shared like this? What if your customers found out?

Repair, support and Device Management

Lastly, if you buy cheap, what happens when things go wrong? Can you get a quick, easy and local repair carried out? Are you able to talk to someone about your individual business needs? Can you get any kind of data or management come with your devices? Does your supplier know all about KIOSKing and locking down devices? Do they have tools that will help you wipe or track lost phones and can you get them repaired, serviced and also have a partner there to work alongside you software provider? All of this is extra value, but it also costs money to provide.

In business, time is directly proportionate to money. So treat your business down seriously and pay a little more to get the best peace of mind you can get. Trust me, it’ll be worth it in each and every case!

Posted by "Durable" Dave

My background is web/mobile software, mobile hardware, where I worked with some of the earliest PDA's on the market from HP and Microsoft and data capture where i've sold all of the main brands of rugged kit you'll find!

  1. […] Always ask about the Operating System, where it came from, and who developed it, as most of the cheap stuff coming out of China has all kinds of apps on them that would be a security managers […]


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