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5 reasons not to use a smart phone for barcode scanning

20 June 2017

Forty years ago on 26 June 1974, the sale of a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum marked a key milestone in history by becoming the first product to be sold using a scanned barcode. From that day onwards the humble barcode travelled across the globe, initially revolutionising retail sales and then advancing its benefits into countless other industries and applications. Barcodes are still the most common way goods are identified though the supply chain as they are proven to be cost effective, reliable and reduce the potential for human error.

While barcodes themselves have maintained their presence in supply chains around the world, many businesses are considering which technologies best read these barcodes following advancements and the growing presence of consumer-grade devices in industrial environments.

Consumer smartphones are equipped with low-cost, high-resolution digital cameras, these consumer devices are now increasingly used to scan and decode barcodes. However, although consumer grade devices offer barcode scanning capabilities to look up prices, access data, or access content on a QR code with the simple download of a mobile app, they have limitations that make them unsuitable for many business applications.

Alternatively, enterprise class scanners and mobile computers with integrated imagers offer distinct advantages that deliver significant productivity gains and attractive ROI when compared to consumer grade devices for data capture.

The success of smartphones is due in large part to the breadth of capabilities they provide. This is especially appealing to consumers that want to ‘stay connected’ and be able to do many cursory tasks with a single device. However, smartphones lack the functional depth required for business-critical data collection applications, such as:


As tested against a leading iPhone camera scanning application app, a mobile computer with integrated imager reads 3.8 times faster, reducing scan times and increasing productivity. Additionally, mobile computers with integrated imagers have up to 14 times the motion tolerance of an iPhone camera using a leading barcode scanning app. In comparison a person must be completely still to scan successfully with the camera scanning app, which is difficult and time-consuming.

Battery Life 

Barcode scanning places an additional burden on batteries. The typical consumer device battery will not last a full shift, especially if the device is in constant use during the shift.

Long-lasting battery power is a critical success factor in any mobile computing application. Mobile devices purpose-built for barcode scanning have high-capacity batteries and power management advantages that can provide enough power for a full shift and beyond, even when the devices are heavily used.

Recharge time is also an important consideration. High-volume operations may not provide the opportunity to recharge batteries during the day. In this situation, a battery that can be replaced quickly would prevent productivity losses from dead batteries – a great advantage. And enterprise class devices also offer a broad selection of charging options, including multi-slot battery chargers, ensuring a fully charged battery is always at hand, minimising downtime and repetitive strain injuries.


Enterprise class devices with integrated imagers are designed to withstand the harsh conditions of most data collection applications. This extends the lifespan of the device project and eliminates the more frequent replacement required with consumer devices. In fact, failure rates for non-ruggedised devices can run as high as 38%, which is 3.5 times higher than the average 11% rate for ruggedised devices, according to a VDC Research study.*

The VDC Research study also found that mobile workers lose an average of 75 minutes each time their mobile devices fail. This leads to lost revenue in field sales and service operations, production delays and potentially missed shipments in plants and distribution centers, shelf replenishment and customer service problems in retail, and potential overtime in all environments to make up for the lost work time.


Purpose-built enterprise solutions offer another distinct advantage over consumer grade devices: they’re designed with repetitive work in mind. Enterprise devices are optimised for entering data (via keypad, touchscreen, barcode scanning, imaging or other peripherals) repeatedly and over time to improve comfort and usability for workers with different preferences of how they like to work.

With consumer smartphones, pressing the screen activates the scan trigger. That means either using two hands or forcing the thumb into position to activate the scanning application on the screen. Purpose-built enterprise devices offer a more ergonomic solution: trigger by index finger or thumb, right or left side – all of which minimises user fatigue.

Enterprise-grade devices fit for purpose

Although smartphones are capable of scanning and decoding barcodes, they are not designed for use in high-volume, high-velocity scanning applications, or when poor lighting or poorly printed barcodes are involved. Smartphones are not ergonomically designed. And their lack of motion tolerance makes scanning even more cumbersome and time consuming. In contrast, enterprise-grade scanning devices are purpose-built and can quickly and accurately read virtually all barcodes. They are ergonomically designed with repetitive workflows in mind and offer protection from the demands of data collection applications with enough battery power to last a full shift and beyond.

* •Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Models for Mobile Computing and Communications Platforms,” VDC Research, 2014.

To learn more or discuss the needs of your particular application, contact our consultants today. 


George PecchiarAUTHOR

Southern Region Sales Manager of Peacock Bros.

George is a qualified Engineer and has over 18 years experience in the scanning industry. A veteran of 11 years at Peacock Bros, he also leads Peacock Bros' Southern Region team and the relationship with many vendors for scanning and wireless implementations. George is a GS1 Accredited Member and is Honeywell and Motorola Solutions certified​.



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