As demand in the mobile device market continues to grow, it feels like there are new tablets released monthly, at rock-bottom prices, claiming to redefine the industry. The lower prices can appear appealing to organizations on tight budgets (pretty much the majority of transit agencies), but these products often come with risks that are far from ideal for those organizations and the transportation software they use. In the context of a transit, the true cost of mobile tablets are never determined on the day of purchase but instead, throughout the lifetime of the device. When searching for a mobile tablet that best fits a transit agency’s needs, focusing on the glare resistance of the screen, the tablet’s build quality, the overall mobility of the product and its mounting apparatus will help ensure the right purchasing decisions.
One of the top requirements for any agency exploring a mobile hardware purchase has to be screen readability. If a driver is unable to clearly see a tablet’s interface at all hours of the day, the whole purpose of having that tablet in a vehicle is defeated. Glare-free screens are essential, regardless of how attractive tablet pricing is. For agencies making device purchases on their own, we recommend they take the time to demo a unit before purchasing and ensure that trials are conducted in various weather conditions. Visibility for route scheduling software is very dependent upon whether the it’s sunny, cloudy, bright or dark.
Beyond having a screen capable of satisfying drivers’vision needs, mobile tablets must be rugged enough to handle the day to day travel inside transit vehicles. Many tablets are simply not built to withstand the bumps and shakes that come with being used on the road. Would dropping an iPad 30 times a day break it? Who knows but it’s not something that most people would want to test. Banging any technical equipment around leads to reductions in the lifespan of the device and an obvious increase in the overall cost of the hardware.
Lastly, a key requirement often overlooked is the ease of installation and removal of tablets between vehicles. Transit agencies find it useful for mobile devices to easily transfer with their drivers from one vehicle to another. Since transit software should work fluidly with different drivers and vehicles, it only makes sense for the hardware to do the same. Acquiring quality mounting gear will ensure security while also enabling easier transitions between vehicles.
In combination with good transit software, tablets are a crucial way to build good transit experiences. While it can be penny-wise to target the most inexpensive mobile devices, it is pound-foolish to substitute key features for short term savings.