Mar 20 2014

5 reasons why size matters when it comes to mobile devices on construction sites

Most of today’s mobile phones slip easily into a pocket.  Tablet with mobile devicesThis is both a strength and a weakness when it comes to using them to increase productivity on a construction site. The highly portable smartphone may have powerful functionality, but the small screen size makes it difficult to view detailed drawings and other information, or to accurately input data.  This is where tablet computers such as the iPad and similar devices with Windows or Android operating systems come into their own, delivering greater functionality and a better user experience.

Amongst customers we discuss this subject with, the iPad is very much the preferred tablet device in construction and engineering, although it faces competition from rivals such as the Microsoft (Surface), and less so Samsung (Galaxy) and Google (Nexus).

The current full-sized iPads have a 9.7-inch (diagonal) screen; the Microsoft Surface is 10.6-inches. Smaller devices typically have 7-inch or 8-inch screens (the iPad Mini is 7.9-inch), whilst smaller ‘phablets’ with screens around 5-inches are also available.

The tablet you choose for work productivity will likely depend on the following 5 factors:

  • Functionality – the minimum practical screen size for viewing detailed drawings is around 7-inches, meaning tablets rather than smartphones.  Also, think about how you will use the app; if you are doing an onsite inspection or checking defects status, you may need to make phone calls to discuss particular items or urgent problems.  Having the app open so you can view the drawing and markup whilst on the phone will not be practical unless you also have a tablet.
  • Weight – the larger the device, the heavier it tends to be. A typical 10-inch device weighs around 600g, so prolonged handling could be tiring (Apple’s iPad Air is thinner and 22% lighter than iPad2).
  • Portability – as mentioned, there is a trade-off between screen size and user experience. Viewing detailed drawings, for example, is easier on a larger screen but a 10-inch tablet will not fit easily into a pocket; smaller 7-inch devices will fit into the side pockets of a typical hi-vis site jacket.
  • User interface – if user activity for defects management or site inspections exclusively involves selecting from drop-down lists, clicking buttons and adding photos, smartphones or “phablets” could be used; a stylus can make them easier to use if wearing gloves. For more text entry, some users may prefer a keyboard sufficiently large for two-handed typing. Similarly, redlining a drawing or marking-up details on a photograph (such as in conjectMI defects management software) may be easier on a larger screen.
  • Application compatibility – Not all apps run perfectly (or at all) across all sizes of devices from all manufacturers, and most are restricted to particular operating systems.

In the next post in this series, I’ll look at health and safety issues involved with computer devices used on construction sites.

About the author

Michelle Mason

Michelle Mason leads the UK and MEAP Marketing team, with far too many years in B2B marketing to mention. A CONJECT newbie, Michelle is eagerly climbing a steep learning curve.

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