What is the Difference between a Mobile Computer and a Smartphone?

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While the two terms may seem interchangeable, mobile computers and smartphones are actually two very different devices used for different purposes. A mobile computer, also called a portable data collector, is – in its simplest form – a barcode scanner with a display screen and operating system. Many people call mobile computers barcode scanners; however, there is a difference between the two. A barcode scanner must be linked to a host computer in order to pass on the scanned information, while a mobile computer acts as its own host. Users can upload programs and databases directly on to the device, enabling users to make updates and edits while scanning on the go.

Mobile computers also have an actual operating system, such as Windows. This allows users to do anything they would be able to do on a PC on their mobile computer. Highly customizable, mobile computers can come in any shape or size depending on the environment. They can come bulky or compact, with as little as 3 keys or as many as 57 keys, and can be held like a cell phone or come equipped with a pistol grip. There are even some mobile computers that can be attached to forklifts.

While smartphones can come equipped with barcode scanning technology (usually through some kind of application), it is important to note that they are not the same thing as mobile computers. Smartphones are typically small, commercial-grade, portable hand-held devices used for primarily for web access, phone calls, and text messaging. Like mobile computers, they also run on an actual operating system.  They typically have smaller screens than mobile computers and are not designed with specific industries in mind. Unlike mobile computers (which can typically be customized for the company’s purposes), smartphones are commercial-grade devices. Companies can download applications for their purposes onto their smartphone devices whereas mobile computers already come preloaded with the programs a company will need.

As you can see, it is easy to confuse smartphones with mobile computers. Just remember that mobile computers are devices of any size designed to act like a portable computer with barcode scanning capabilities, and smartphones are generally smaller devices designed for the average consumer and can be loaded with barcoding capabilities.

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