Wireless Network Traffic is Growing by the Day, Which Means Factory, Warehouse and Retail Store Workers Will Probably Need Wi-Fi 6 Mobile Computers Sooner Than You Think. This is How You Can Prepare.

Many operational and technology changes are expected the next few years as business demands increase and more workers need to stay connected. Find out how the new Zebra MC3300ax mobile computer can help IT and operations teams manage them all.

A warehouse worker uses a Zebra MC3300 mobile computer to communicate with a colleague
by Thomas Koch
September 15, 2021

In the very near future, everyone working in a manufacturing, warehousing or retail environment is going to need secure, scalable mobile computers to be productive. More fundamentally, they’re going to need mobile computers that will always:

  1. remain visible to IT, even when they seem misplaced or powered down.
  2. stay connected to business-critical information systems to maintain a two-way information flow with colleagues, partners, customers, robots, and other machines.
  3. be secure.

When that day comes, you can probably provide many of them with Zebra M3300ax Android™ mobile computers.

They’re just as versatile as the Zebra mobile computers your workers are using today but even more adaptable than any other Zebra MC-Series device in history for three reasons. The MC3300ax…

  • is a Wi-Fi® 6 device. This is important because more devices will be coming online in the coming months and years, and they’ll all need to be able to connect to Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi 6 allows for connected devices to share channels more efficiently, reducing latency and improving throughput in high density environments. As a result, your network will be able to handle more connected devices without impacting your workers’ productivity.
  • battery has an integrated Bluetooth® Low Energy beacon. This enables you and your team to take advantage of Zebra’s Device Tracker tool, making it almost impossible to lose a device – or waste time trying to locate a missing one.
  • comes with Enterprise Browser, so you can create intuitive apps that drive productivity. You’ll be able to take all available device features into account when building your web-based applications, including the barcode scanner, camera and RFID reader. This helps you provide workers with a more streamlined workflow experience. Even better, you can write an app once and then deploy it across multiple device form factors. So, if your MC3300ax users need the same app as their supervisors who may be working primarily from rugged tablets, there won’t be any discrepancy in access. They can all see the same thing – and do the same thing – at the same time.

Plus, the MC3300ax is upgradeable up to Android 14 and gives you full access to Zebra Mobility DNA. So, your team will be able to keep workers’ devices well-optimized for current business needs and well-secured against current threats, even as the definition of “current” evolves.

Now, I fully expect some of you to stop reading at this point. Maybe you just upgraded your mobile devices in the past couple of years – or past couple of months. Why would you need to start looking for another device right now? They should last for a while, right?

I can’t answer that question without knowing your exact situation (i.e., current devices, use cases, business objectives, workflow ambitions, operational throughput, etc.). However, the reality of today’s workforce mobility situation is this: rugged mobile computers such as the MC3300x have found their place in warehouses, factories, retail stories and other supply chain operations, largely because they were well-designed and equipped for the needs of workers driving those operations. But even the best mobile computers will need to be replaced in time, mostly because standards change.

Wireless Technology is Pushing Most Organizations to Next-Generation Mobile Devices

Right now, we’re at a pivotal moment in wireless technology history (again). Outside the four walls, the migration from 4G to 5G is creating the most buzz in the media. Yet, inside the four walls, an equally significant transition to Wi-Fi 6 is occurring. Both cellular and Wi-Fi advancements will require some hard decisions about mobility strategies among small businesses and large enterprises alike. However, Wi-Fi 6 will likely demand more urgent action.

Voice and data applications are multiplying quickly within supply chain operations, becoming the anchor for several production, logistics and fulfillment operations. And Wi-Fi is the basis for those connected workflows.

Even basic push-to-talk capabilities – such as those offered via Zebra Push-to-Talk (PTT) Express or the more advanced PTT with Workforce Connect™ PTT Pro – require a reliable wireless signal to transmit voice and text-based messages. And being able to extract data from scratched, dirty, poorly printed or shrink-wrapped barcodes from as far as 70 ft./21.4 m away is only helpful if there’s a way to transmit that data to a back-end track and trace or inventory management system in real time.

So, as more devices come online and networks become more congested, the MC3300ax gives you a pathway to Wi-Fi 6, which offers reduced latency and more capacity. That might not be today or even this year. But sooner or later, we’re going to have to talk about how to get your team connected to Wi-Fi 6 networks.

When that time comes, know you have an option that won’t require you to compromise on any mobile computing or scanning capabilities. In fact, the MC3300ax is built upon the same Qualcomm SD660 platform as the MC3300x devices your workers may be using today and still offers you:

  • three generations of Android security, flexibility and manageability. You’ll be able to build custom apps that incorporate the features of the MC3300ax using open standards and even share applications across different devices.
  • several user-friendly features. There’s a four-inch capacitive touch display and three different keypad options. Workers also have a choice between the gun/pistol grip for the most scan intensive tasks and 0° straight shooter for everyday standard and long-range scanning. If they prefer the rotating turret or 45° angle, the MC3300x can be configured with these form factors.
  • years of rugged reliability. The IP64-rated mobile computer can survive drops from 6 ft./1.8 m and up to 3,000 3.3 ft./1 m tumbles. The Corning® Gorilla® Glass on the touch panel and scan window help with that.
  • “first time, every time” barcode scanning. The integrated Zebra SE4850 scan engine ensures workers can capture 1D/2D barcodes as close as 3 in./7.62 cm and on your uppermost warehouse racks up to 70 ft. away if that’s what they need to manage inventory, replenish supply lines, process returns, and expedite picking. Even if you opt for the standard range SE4770, workers will still enjoy the accuracy and simplicity of 1D/2D point-and-shoot scanning for backroom receiving, price checks, safety testing and more.
  • around-the-clock access to dozens of Zebra DNA tools. You’ll be able to deploy, secure and manage your MC3300ax devices as easily as any other Zebra mobile computer thanks to LifeGuard for Android, StageNow, WorryFree Wi-Fi and the other Mobility DNA software solutions that are included.

The MC3300ax is even backward compatible with the accessories being used with the MC3300 and MC3300x today. In fact, it will work with select MC32xx accessories.  

All of this will enable you to upgrade devices, reconfigure them to support new workflows, and migrate to future operating system (OS) versions without incurring a huge expense every time – just like you always have with Zebra MC33xx devices. Except now, you’ll be able to do all of this via a Wi-Fi 6 network. Oh, and you’ll save money by reducing the number of lost devices that will have to be replaced over the lifecycle of your MC3300ax fleet. As long as you have the right battery connected, the Device Tracker will find an MC3300ax in almost any circumstance – even if its battery has been depleted.

How You’ll Know When It’s Time to Upgrade

Zebra has been working with manufacturing, transportation and logistics and retail customers for years to navigate the succession of technology advancements needed to maximize operational efficiencies amid market volatilities and industry transformation. I know there are a lot of things that might compel you to retire your current devices (or sell them back to Zebra) and upgrade to a new Android mobile computer – and they may have nothing to do with wireless connectivity.

I actually recommend you check out this blog post from my colleague Darren Koffer when you get a minute. He offers a great litmus test to help you know if your workers have the right devices for right now (along with tips on what you should do if you realize they don’t). Of course, wireless connectivity is going to always be a top concern when it comes to workforce mobility. And much like operating systems, you can’t control the pace of change when it comes to Wi-Fi or cellular networks. All you can do is your best to keep up.

So, if you’re currently thinking about your game plan for the Wi-Fi 6 era, I recommend you add the MC3300ax to your “research” list. You can find more information about this new mobile computer on our website or set up a time for us to give you a demo.

If you think your workers will benefit from a different form factor, know there will be other Wi-Fi 6 device options coming out from Zebra over the next several months. So, be sure to think about the big picture. If you need a Wi-Fi 6 device, narrow the field down from there. Do workers need a mobile computer with a handle grip and/or extended range barcode scanner? Do you want your next devices to be Android 11? Is the Device Tracker capability valuable to you given your current device loss/replacement rate? Is security more important?

Once you define those criteria, we can help you determine if the MC3300ax is the right device or if we should point you toward another option. Either way, we’ll make sure you and your workers have the mobility solutions (and other technologies) you need to keep your business responsive and efficient as demands expand and evolve.

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Thomas Koch
Thomas Koch is currently a Senior Product Manager for the Enterprise Mobile Computing (EMC) division at Zebra Technologies responsible for new product introductions. Thomas has more than 17 years of experience in the rugged mobile device industry, developing new enterprise product solutions.