DOOGEE’s S68 Pro rugged smartphone is waterproof, dustproof and is high-temperature resistant

Tough tech: How the rugged marketing is evolving

As more and more consumers buy smartphones, tablets and laptop devices, they want to keep them functioning as long as possible, whether that’s by putting the big brand devices in ruggedised cases, or buying a device specifically manufactured to withstand extreme conditions.

This demand for protecting devices for longer also boosts the rugged accessory market, as tech users don’t want to buy accessories all over again when their smartphone survive falling into water but their earphones or portable charger doesn’t. And as the younger generation use more and more tech in school, demand has grown for rugged devices that can handle being constantly dropped, thrown into backpacks and can also be easily cleaned.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see how the rugged tech market is growing, and that’s before we get into the demand for more tough- yet-lightweight products needed for various types of field workers. ASUS is one company that has been serving both the education and business markets with its rugged devices.

“ASUS has a heritage in rugged devices. We were one of the first to launch an education rugged device with the original C202 in 2017,” Nathaniel Ayling, UK PR manager (systems), at ASUS UK, tells PCR. “Since then, ASUS’s rugged Chrome range has grown to include, touch and flip devices, as well as larger 14-inch rugged devices and a rugged Chrome tablet, which has been especially well received with front line workers.

“We work closely with our end users and customers to find out what they need the devices for and what they need protection against, with a broad range of quality products we have been in the unique position to provide a survivable device that fits the form factor and performance needs of any business or educational institute.”

Allen He, global brand director for DOOGEE, says the brand has also seen demand from industry professionals such as builders, plumbers, police officers and mechanics wanting a sturdier phone that will not break. However, He says it’s the consumer demand that’s really taken off, with the brand’s rugged mobile device range increasing every year.

“I have noticed that the consumer rugged phone market has doubled from 2017-2020. I believe this growth is down to more people taking part in outdoor activities, a requirement for extra back-up phones, and there being less innovation in normal consumer phones like Huawei, Apple and Samsung or the innovation of these brands not being of interest to many people.”

The device demand has helped boost rugged accessories as well, with Hama UK being one brand that has seen this benefit. “Hama UK has always stocked a selection of high-durability and weather- proof accessories as part of our extended range,” Ben Jones, senior product manager at Hama UK, tells PCR. “However, as tech becomes more and more portable and our lives become increasingly digitised, consumers are investing much more than just cash in their smartphone or tablet. Reflected in our own introduction of lines such as ‘Rugged’ smartphone cases, Soldier Bluetooth speakers and Extreme Kevlar cables, the market for reliable device protection and accessories has experienced sure and steady growth over the past couple of years, largely due to the soaring daily demands on our tech.

“IPX ratings are also becoming a vital spec, especially as far as travel-conscious or outdoor-loving consumer-types are concerned, as tech is carried with us at all times whatever the weather and with a growing expectation to endure.”

Hama UK’s Soldier-S rugged Bluetooth speaker – which is ideal for outdoor use

Rugged retailers

So if you’re not already stocking rugged products in your store, why should you? ASUS UK’s Ayling insists there are a number of reasons for ruggedised devices to be stocked by retailers.

“With the ever increasing ease of adoption of tech by young children, a ruggedised solution is great to allow them to do homework and take their first steps into online learning and life without having to worry as a parent about expensive devices becoming damaged,” he suggests.

“It is also becoming more prevalent that individuals are looking to involve tech in their work on site. Many single contractors, from builders, to carers to cleaners need a rugged portable solution to carry out invoicing, power card readers or schedule on the fly. By stocking these rugged devices in retail, it will make life much easier for the back bone of Britain’s self-employed and sole traders to get access to high quality reliable tech.”

Hama UK’s Jones says that accessories in general are always a great investment for the retailer. “While selling hardware at its higher price point often sounds appealing, it is accessories which will provide a much greater margin and return for the business in the long-term.

“Modern lifestyle choices, with growing focus towards a more active, outdoor lifestyle, in addition to the rising influence of ‘Camo’ and military styles on the UK fashion runway, suggest that rugged tech and accessories are becoming as much of a fashion statement as a practicality and would not be a wasted investment for any retail store.”

DOOGEE’s He agrees that there is a big potential market that’s growing very fast, year-on-year. “To date, there hasn’t been a massive amount of marketing around rugged phones as most people tend to know the main manufacturers like Apple and Samsung. With more awareness, we anticipate yet more growth in the coming years,” says He, who also points out that rugged phones have to pass more tests than standard smartphones such as ip68 and ip69k and achieve certifications like MIL-STD810G. An appealing USP that ensures the phones are tougher and more durable with less returns likely. And for those retailers who have customers looking for devices with more specific features, He explains that some of these extra functionality include the ability to work in extreme temperatures from -15 – 55+ degrees.

“The waterproof and dustproof rugged devices can also shoot videos under water, whilst the 6000mah – 8000mah battery and dropproof design can prove more popular than the sleeker big brand smartphones currently available on the market,” He tells PCR.

the ASUS rugged Chromebook C202 designed for the education sector

Future vision

Looking ahead to what we can expect to see from the rugged tech marketing in the near future, Ayling tells PCR: “Rugged devices have a very trademark look and they obviously prioritise function and protection over aesthetics.

“With the advances made every day in our material sciences and with the release of new rugged models, the biggest change to come will be devices that maintain their MIL STD testing credentials whilst being lighter, more portable and much more visually pleasing.”

Jones believes that as a growing range of rugged tech and accessories continue to feed onto the marketplace, the development of new resistant materials is likely to play a key role in the future potential of this sector as physical capabilities struggle to keep up with consumer expectations.

“Devices, such as smartphones, are being taken to harsher environments than ever before; up mountains, underwater and across temperature extremes as R&D teams such as ours constantly strive to advance and integrate emerging materials in the creation of an ultra-durable product,” says Jones.

DOOGEE’s He agrees, adding: “I envision rugged phones becoming a powerful tool for the people who need it in their particular industry or for their hobbies. This will include new functions like infrared cameras, night vision cameras, laser measurement and satellite communications to really bring more convenience to users.”

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