Not sure where to start? Check out our list of available netbooks and tablets.
The minimum requirement for a device running FieldDesk is simply that it runs Windows (XP, Vista, 7 or 8) and is able to connect to the internet. With this in mind, nearly any laptop or tablet will work with FieldDesk, but there are some features that make some devices a better choice than others.
- Touchscreen: If you want your customers or technicians to be able to sign work order forms, touchscreen is a must have.
- Not all touchscreens work for signature capture. A simple capacitive touchscreen that works for navigation with your finger will not necessarily work with a stylus for signatures. Some devices work only a stylus or only fingers, but some work with both. If you want signature capture capabilities, your touchscreen should work with a stylus.
- Wireless or Broadband Internet connectivity: Your laptop or tablet PC must be able to connect to the internet. This can be accomplished a variety of ways, but if your broadband or wireless card is built in to the device, you have one less thing for your technicians to carry.
- Battery Life: In order to use FieldDesk, your device has to have power, so battery life is an important consideration. If you have the option to purchase extended life batteries, that, in combination with closing the netbook when it is not in use, should allow the device to last throughout the day. Other options include buying extra batteries to charge at the office, and buying docks or chargers for the tech’s vehicles.
- Bluetooth capability: If you want to use any wireless devices (printers, for example) with your laptop, your device must be Bluetooth enabled. There are few modern devices that don’t have this capability.
- Size: What size computer do you want your technicians to carry? How heavy? Your device should be big enough for your technicians to see the entire FieldDesk screen, but small and light enough to carry to service calls.
- Service warranty/accident protection: Every once in a while, a device breaks, so if your manufacturer offers accident protection and/or a service warranty, buy it. Accident protection allows you to send a device back to the manufacturer to be fixed no matter how it was broken.
- Our customers have found that a good accident protection plan is far more valuable than paying for a “rugged” tablet or netbook. A “rugged” device can cost four times as much as the “non-rugged” equivalent.
Other nice features:
- A keyboard. Touchscreens are great, but an old-fashioned keyboard often is easier to use than an on-screen keyboard.
- Convertible Screen: This allows your technician to turn the laptop into a tablet. The tablet provides a professional presentation to the customer when they need to sign a work order form, and the laptop allows the technician to use a regular keyboard.
- AirCard: An AirCard is a device that is either built into your laptop, or plugged into the laptop USB port (a MiFi device). The AirCard allows you to access the internet without relying on hotspot availability. To use the AirCard, you will need a service plan, typically provided by your cell phone carrier, that allows you to access the internet.
- Wi-Fi Hotspot: Finding a coffee shop with free wi-fi every time you want to submit or receive a work order is not ideal. However, phone and data providers offer Wi-Fi hotspot devices, and many new smart phones offer the ability to use them as a wireless hotspot. Android devices allow their users to either tether the device via USB to their laptop, or turn the device into a wireless hotspot to which your laptop can connect. The iphone offers tethering, also. For Verizon customers, tethering does not cost extra, but the handset will not offer simultaneous voice and data connections. For AT&T, tethering is an add-on plan for DataPro plan customers.
Both tethering and creating a wireless hotspot with a phone are carrier dependent. However, if your carrier offers this service, it can reduce the number of devices that are needed in the field, and the cost for multiple data and phone plans.
Printers, Credit Card swipe, and Barcode Readers:
Printers are not necessary if your customers will accept receipts and service reports by email, but if you choose to use a printer, here are some guidelines:
- Any Windows compatible printer will work with FieldDesk. Ideally, a printer in the field will be Bluetooth enabled.
- Some FieldDesk customers use 4” thermal printers with Bluetooth compatibility and a credit card swipe. These printers typically cost around $700.
- Keep in mind, the mag card interface on each printer is unique to the manufacturer, and Mobilogic supports the integrated mag card reader in two specific printer models.
- An alternative to using a printer with a built-in credit card swipe, which may or may not be compatible with FieldDesk, is using a USB keyboard wedge card reader. These typically cost under $100.
- Barcode readers can work by plugging them into a USB port, or they can be wireless (Bluetooth). Bluetooth is a nice option, but for the cost, many customers find the USB readers more than adequate.
- Barcode readers are often used only for physical count, since many companies don’t find them worth the effort for individual service calls.