Why Did Zebra Just Completely Redesign One of Its Most Popular Mobile Computers?

When it comes to technology, we can’t just think about the here and now. The TC53 and TC58 devices empower front-line teams to work faster and better together – and conduct mobile dimensioning for the first time ever.

A delivery driver asks a customer to sign for a delivery on his Zebra TC58 mobile computer
by Eugene Redko
June 07, 2022

Whenever a new mobile device hits the market – or any new technology device, for that matter – the first question people ask is: “What makes it so different from the last version?” That’s usually followed by a comment and question along the lines of “The device I am using today is working just fine. Is it really worth it to switch to a new device right now?” 

Not unexpectedly, I have been asked those very questions ever since the new Zebra TC53 and TC58 Android™ 11 mobile computers were announced last month. 

Some people are also curious about the timing of these new devices, as it has only been a few months since the last series of TC5X devices hit the market. Although it’s common for consumer device manufacturers to release a new model each year, it used to be unusual for an enterprise device manufacturer such as Zebra to have such a rapid release tempo. But the world is changing, and so must we. 

Front-line workers need new tools to be able to do their jobs faster, especially those working in retail, transportation and logistics environments. Store associates and delivery drivers are being pulled in multiple directions due to growing customer demands, labor shortages and supply chain inconsistencies. We must give them technologies that can help everything feel a little less frantic. 

They need…

  • inherent speed and agility, even as they’re still learning. That can be delivered in the form of play-by-play guidance, assuming they have mobile devices and software that can give instructions in real time.

  • someone or something to help them prioritize and complete tasks on busy days – a built-in assistant of sorts. With the right technology in hand, they can have on-demand access to the right people as well as help from artificial intelligence (AI) platforms.

  • to feel comfortable doing their jobs. This requires open communication channels with colleagues and others with whom they must collaborate, something best supported with secure push-to-talk (PTT) and instant messaging capabilities.

  • technology they feel comfortable using. Over half of all U.S. retail workers were ages 16 to 34 in 2018 according to a 2020 Census Bureau study. Yet, in many parts of the world, a large portion of the retail workforce is over 50 years old. In some countries like Japan, retailers are increasingly hiring people in their 70s and 80s to close the labor gap. That means any front-line technology a retailer implements must be familiar to millennials and Gen Z “digital natives” and easy to learn by those who may not be tech savvy.

  • the flexibility to shift from one task or role to the next without missing a beat (on their first day). For many front-line workers, their current job is either their first job, their first job in this field, or the first job they’ve had in years. So, high school students, cross-trainees and retirees alike must be able to jump in and immediate impact, and all employees must be able to surge to a different department or station as customer demand and staffing levels fluctuate. 

  • scheduling flexibility. Your employees have personal obligations that are just as important as yours or mine. They need to be able to meet both work and home obligations without stress.

What does this all have to do with the TC53/TC58?

We know at Zebra that you can only give your front-line workers what they need if we’re constantly updating our front-line technology platforms and adding new features, like we did with the TC53/TC58. For example:

  • We’re giving you more flexibility in how your technology devices are used by expanding the Workstation Connect solution to enable the TC53/TC58 to simultaneously operate as a handheld mobile computer and a workstation once the user drops it into the Workstation Connect cradle. More specifically, we created a new hybrid Point-of-Sale (POS) station that enables you to connect to everything you need to create a complete on-demand POS to the TC53/TC58: the monitor, payment terminal, a mouse, keyboard, receipt printer, scanner, etc. We also added mobile payment capabilities that give workers the option to use the devices in a hybrid POS setup and have made it easy for you to turn your TC53 or TC58 into a handheld RFID reader in a split second. Just attach the lightning-fast RFD40 UHF RFID sled or the RFD90 Ultra-rugged UHF RFID sled, both of which can be connected three different ways — Bluetooth, NFC or Zebra’s eConnect™ adapter.

  • We’re helping you eliminate the time wasted today trying to measure parcel dimensions – in retail shipping stores, warehouses, sorting hubs and anywhere packages are received, or customers billed. Having an app that can confirm the precise dimensions with a single button push on a mobile device could improve the accuracy of so many business actions, including parcel processing, load planning, and trailer loading. And, if the mobile dimensioning app has been certified by Weights and Measures regulators, it could speed up shipping charge calculations and build trust in billing accuracy. Knowing this, we added Zebra Dimensioning™ Certified Mobile Parcel and Mobile Parcel technology to both the TC53 and TC58 in an industry first! Each device now has an integrated Time of Flight depth sensor that collects accurate “legal for trade” parcel dimensions in just seconds with the simple press of a button.

(Sidenote: My colleague Graeme Simons will be giving you the full scoop on Zebra Dimensioning in a few weeks, so I recommend you subscribe to the blog now so you don’t miss his insights.)

  • We’re making it easy for workers of all ages to see more and scroll less by giving this new generation TC5X Series platform a more modern housing design with a six-inch edge-to-edge display, the largest, brightest and highest resolution in its class! (Previous generations only had a five-inch display.) We’re also giving you the option to add the SE55 1D/2D Advanced Range scan engine with IntelliFocus™ technology to your TC53 or TC58, marking the first time this scan engine has been available with a TC5X Series WAN device. Its extraordinary scanning range enables workers to capture barcode data from items in hand, across a room or on the top shelf of a backroom rack the first time, every time. In turn, they will no longer have to climb as many ladders, bend over as often or walk closer to the barcoded item to get the information they need.

Additionally, we have equipped both devices with a built-in two-way radio that works inside your facility or out in the field, three microphones and two speakers that offer extraordinary audio clarity along with a 16 MP rear color camera (the maximum resolution currently in this class) and optional Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). 

The audio upgrades should be welcome considering PTT and PBX voice communications are now table stakes and the use of voice-picking and verbal task guidance is on the rise. If workers can’t hear what others are saying in a noisy environment, or they’re coming across as muffled to someone who they’re trying to help, that will lead to frustration and delayed task completion, including simply getting information for a customer. Then the customer will be frustrated and slowed down in getting what they need. And the new Zebra Camera app offered with the TC53 and TC58 improves gesture control, offers dirty lens detection, includes a digital level and more. Did I mention it also has advanced autofocus technology that provides faster and more accurate pictures?

  • We’re empowering everyone on your team to do more with less effort, including IT. We carried over the built-in Device Tracker tool from previous TC5X Series platforms to help you locate devices. And depending on which battery you choose, you may even be able to locate the devices when they’re powered off or the battery is depleted. We are also giving you powerful Zebra-only Mobility DNA tools, which are available for the life of the devices, help you manage – and mostly automate – security and operating system (OS) upgrades through Android 14. 

Plus, the TC53 and TC58 are the first devices in their class powered by Qualcomm’s next generation 6490 octa-core processor, which offers long-term support for future Android releases and supports premium tier features like multi-Gigabit 5G and Wi-Fi 6E connectivity for advanced augmented reality (AR) applications. With AR becoming a fundamental tool for guided inventory and asset management, order fulfillment, remote expert support, and more, this one change alone is very valuable. Device users will also get a 90% boost in CPU and 400% boost in GPU compared with the SD660 chipset (according to Qualcomm benchmark testing). When paired with the integrated 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and CBRS* wireless technologies and the class-leading memory and storage (up to 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of UFS Flash, plus a 2 TB MicroSD card), you and your team can expect to see significantly faster, future-scalable connectivity and information sharing. 

Something else that will make everyone’s lives easier: the unmatched battery technology. The standard TC53/TC58 battery has the largest capacity in this mobile device class, and the extended battery offers 50%+ more power than the batteries in competitive devices. You can also opt for true hot swap batteries (on premium models) and wireless charging batteries (on TC58 premium models) if you prefer. No matter which you choose, workers will enjoy full shift power, fast charging capabilities, and the intelligence to better manage batteries.

To Answer Your Question

Now that you understand what makes the TC53 and TC58 so different from other Zebra and competitor devices, and what benefits from previous TC5X devices were carried forth, I hope it’s easy to see why it is absolutely worth it to upgrade your workers to these devices as soon as possible. 

The world is changing fast, as are its expectations of you. You must ensure you have technology tools that allow you to adapt without making “change” feeling so disruptive and burdensome.

With the TC53 and TC58…

  • workers will get everything they need (i.e., the items I listed above).

  • you’ll get status reports in real time.

  • both you and your customers will benefit from accurate parcel dimensioning and billing.

  • IT teams will find device management easier.

  • everything about your business has the potential to run smoother and faster. 

Besides, the TC53 and TC58 can tolerate 1000 tumbles – 500 more than the previous generation TC5X. And they have a standard 5-ft drop rating that increases to 6-ft when you add a rugged boot. So, you get enhanced durability in an ergonomic, secure design. Your workers will feel comfortable using this device for a long time, and you will feel comfortable letting front-line workers use it for a long time. (Like for the next 5+ years, at least.)

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Editor’s Note:

If you want to learn more about how the TC53 and TC58 compare to your current mobile computers or how they can support your short- and long-term business objectives, reach out to your local sales rep to set up a call or meeting. A Zebra representative can also explain how certain features can be used to improve workflows and worker experiences in the context of your total business environment and unique challenges. 

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Related Resources:

*CBRS is only available in the U.S.

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Eugene Redko
Eugene Redko is currently a Global Product Manager responsible for the TC53/TC58 product family. He joined Zebra Technologies in December 2020 as a member of the Enterprise Mobile Computing New Product Introduction team.
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