A delivery driver looks at his ET5x rugged tablet
By Ed Benforado | November 09, 2020

Yes, It’s Possible for a Large-Screen Rugged Tablet to Be Small Enough to Be Carried in Hand (While Working on Foot) for Hours on End. The New 10” Android™ Zebra ET56 is Proof.

In fact, there are many ways that your field-based workers will benefit from these lightweight and well-connected Android 10 WWAN and WLAN rugged tablets. Let’s talk about a few.

Customer expectations have been changing for quite a while now across all sectors, driving organizations to significantly overhaul field operations in order to keep up with demand – whether they’re charged with delivering goods or services. In fact, 70% of respondents to Zebra’s latest Future of Field Operations Study indicated that e-commerce is driving the need for faster field operations, leading nearly two-thirds (62%) to expand mobile technology utilization across their entire business in order to boost worker productivity, efficiency and effectiveness while on the move.

Perhaps not surprising is the fact that rugged tablet use is expected to grow most significantly among all rugged device form factors over the next three years among field-based organizations that are adopting a mobile-first mindset. Unlike smaller handheld mobile computers or smartphones, rugged tablets can replace the laptop that is often burdensome for field workers to lug around. Even better, the large, bright displays and lightweight design of ruggedized business tablets “make it easy to read detailed equipment schematics, delivery orders or task checklists and keep workflows moving in a wide range of environmental work conditions,” as noted in the Future of Field Operations report.

What is surprising to me, though, is when I hear about organizations giving their field-based workers consumer-grade tablets. I realize this may seem most convenient or cost effective, but time and again the data derived from real-world results proves otherwise.

First off, field workers need devices that are built rugged from the inside out. They also need devices that will securely connect to data sources (i.e. business systems) no matter how far they travel away from your facilities. Of course, having enough computing power – and battery power – to make it through the day without technology-caused delays or downtime are also important. The consequences of a delivery person losing routing assistance or a utility technician unable to retrieve equipment manuals during an outage could be quite severe.  

That’s why Zebra just engineered a 10.1” version of the popular ET56 Android™ 10 rugged tablet, which is now available across most of Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and coming to North America in late November*.

The New 10.1” ET56 Gives You Exactly What You Need to Keep Your Business Running Smoothly and Gives Workers Exactly What They Want in a Tablet

We know there are a lot of tablet models available to you on the market today. Even Zebra offers three other 10.1” Android rugged tablet options with the L10 lineup. So, why did we spend a lot of time and resources developing another 10.1” tablet, you might wonder?

It’s because you (our customers) told us you needed…

An Android 10 rugged mobility solution that can easily scale to support additional workflows and applications for several years to come. The ET56, which is one of the first Zebra tablets on the Qualcomm SD660 chipset and Android 10 operating system (OS) is actually upgradeable to at least two more Android OS versions.

A tablet that wasn’t overloaded with features you’ll never use. With every organization being extremely cost-conscious right now, it is important that you’re only paying for what you actually need. That doesn’t mean you should settle for a tablet that’s so stripped down that it will become obsolete in a year – or have to compromise on business capabilities right now. For example, you may not need scanning capabilities now, but that could change in a year or two. Whenever you do, you have the option to add the Zebra expansion back with an advanced enterprise-class 1D/2D scan engine that can also capture legal, letter, A4 and A5 documents. If you just need to connect to a wearable ring or wrist scanner, the tablet’s built-in Bluetooth® 5.0 technology makes that super easy without any add-ons required.

A tablet that was durable enough to last through a day in the life of your average outdoor worker, which may or may not include frequent exposure to dust and rain or accidental bumps and drops. Many “rugged” consumer tablets aren’t designed to tolerate rough handling, frequent vibration or tumbles onto concrete. The IP65-rated ET56, on the other hand, can survive multiple drops from 1.8 meters with the optional rugged frame and last all day long on a forklift or in a service van without flinching. Plus, we’ve extended the operating temperature of the 10.1” ET56 to -20C to 50C / -4F to 122F so that it can be leveraged for either outdoor or cold weather applications – or both at once. (How many workers do you have going from the hot loading dock to the freezer every hour?)

-  A way to provide remote assistance to your field teams. The integrated 5MP front-facing camera makes it easy for workers to show you what’s going on at the job site so that you can provide expert guidance from afar. And, the built-in 13MP rear camera will come in handy when you need workers to capture images of damaged goods or repaired equipment for your records.

A tablet that can last all day long. We get it. Charging devices in the field isn’t exactly convenient, and a dead battery is most certainly disruptive. Because your workers need perpetual 24/7/365 power, we added a hot-swappable battery option to the ET56’s expansion back and are now giving you multiple cradle and USB-C charging options for the vehicle, desktop and more.

A rugged mobility solution that is easy to configure, secure, deploy and manage. One of the key benefits of choosing any Zebra Android tablet, including the ET56, is the extensive Mobility DNA suite, which enables remote monitoring and actions and facilitates device extensibility. (You can learn all about the tools you’ll receive here.)

Investment protection. I could go on and on about the many ways that Zebra is maximizing your return on investment and extending the life of your tablet, software and accessories: backward and forward compatibility of accessories, Mobility DNA, LifeGuard for Android and more! But I think this spec sheet explains it best.

We also developed the 10.1” ET56 because we know that your workers prefer…

A larger, brighter display to view detailed graphics, inventory checklists, equipment manuals and more information-rich documents. It’s hard enough looking at GIS maps and blueprints on a small handheld device. It’s even harder when you’re trying to do so under bright sunlight or while walking and working. So, we made the ET56 touchscreen bigger. It’s as simple as that.

A sleek, aesthetically appealing computing device that could replace a laptop. The good news is that most rugged business tablets, like the ET56, don’t look rugged. They don’t feel rugged either because they aren’t the heavy, clunky devices of yore. In fact, this tablet is technically “wearable” on the shoulder, cross-body style or holster style on a belt. It’s that compact and lightweight, despite being so very rugged!

Not to remove their gloves to use the touch screen. The ET56 allows users to input data however easiest for them, whether that’s with a gloved finger, bare finger or stylus.

Constant connectivity. Nothing is more frustrating than having to restart a data upload/download every time the wireless signal source switches from Wi-Fi to cellular – or disappear altogether. That’s why we focused extensively on the integration and optimization of both WWAN and WLAN technologies for the 10.1” ET56. Your workers can leverage Wi-Fi when moving through your operations and then seamlessly transition to the 4G LTE network provided by a national wireless carrier when they head out into the field for fast data communication. In fact, this tablet boasts full 802.11 protocol support and 2x2 multi-user, multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO) access point connectivity, both of which help boost Wi-Fi network capacity, range and speed. The built-in Bluetooth 5.0 technology also helps to ensure fast, stable connections between the tablet and other peripherals, including wearables, printers and barcode scanners.

Fast chat tools. It’s easy to dial a phone number when you’re sitting at a desk. Not so much when you’re sitting in the driver seat or trekking across miles of pavement delivering parcels, reading meters or assessing land for development planning purposes. So, we added the Zebra WorkForce Connect Push-to-Talk (PTT) Express tool as a standard feature of the 10.1” ET56 Android rugged tablet. If your workers need the added features of the WorkForce Connect PTT Pro suite, you can easily upgrade to that version instead.

The Takeaway

The ET56 wasn’t just built because we wanted to round out Zebra’s ET5x Android portfolio with a 10” tablet. The decision to create this larger rugged tablet – and every design decision made there after – was in response to the feedback you (our customers and end users) have been giving us in recent months.

When you don’t necessarily need the bulkiness of a fully-featured, enterprise-grade rugged tablet, but you most certainly need much more than consumer-grade devices can deliver, the ET56 10” is the compact tablet that will do the job. Because, at the end of the day, your workers can only be as efficient and proficient as the information and tools they have at their fingertips. With the ET56, we’re giving you a tablet that will keep workers connected to the people, apps and business systems they need to manage inventory, repair or maintain assets, merchandise goods, or complete deliveries without issue.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to learn more about what the 10.1” ET56 can offer your business here. I only highlighted a few of the features and benefits above. As always, feel free to reach out to Zebra’s tablet team if you’d like to compare different models or configurations – or if this is the tablet that you know will best support your business. There is a lot we can do to customize our solutions to ensure they fully support your business within your budget parameters.

*The Zebra 10.1” Android ET56 rugged tablet will be 4G LTE wireless carrier certified when it becomes available in North America.

Energy and Utilities, Transportation and Logistics, Retail, Field Operations, Public Sector,
Ed Benforado
Ed Benforado

Ed Benforado is currently in charge of Zebra’s worldwide ET5x enterprise tablet portfolio. He manages all related business and product management activities designed to grow this business among multiple Zebra vertical markets. He has more than 25 years of experience in bringing innovative consumer and enterprise-grade technology solutions to customers all over the world. 

In recent years, Ed has worked with multiple hardware and software development teams to bring Zebra’s breakthrough products to market, including the MC40 (Zebra’s very first Android™ handheld computer), TC70 and TC75 rugged handheld series, and drive the next-generation planning of multiple product families. He has also helped to introduce and mature the ET50, ET55, ET51 and ET56 portfolio of enterprise tablets for both the Android and Windows operating systems. Ed is also responsible for the development of third-party partnerships to foster a compelling ecosystem of accessories and solutions to enhance the capabilities of the products that he manages.

Previously, Ed held Director-level positions in product management with Plantronics in the Silicon Valley area, Altec-Lansing, and Motorola, managing a wide variety of consumer electronics and audio products.

Ed holds a Business Management degree from the University of Buenos Aires as well as an MBA with a Marketing concentration from the University of Florida. He also completed post-graduate General Management studies at Northwestern University.  Ed is fluent in several languages which serves him well in doing international business and being sensitive to different business cultures.  Ed lives in Chicago with his beloved wife and two teenage boys.

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