The Rugged Devices Market in 2021

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Despite COVID-19 and its unquestionable impact on global business operations, the start of the year is the perfect time to reflect on our industry and consider the progress we have made. 

The rugged devices industry, like all sectors, has been impacted by the unpredicted events of 2020.

Here, we reflect on technological triumphs and explore the upcoming trends and developments expected in the 2021 rugged devices market.


While the much-anticipated welcome of 5G (fifth generation wireless technology) has felt within our grasp for several years, it is widely reported that 2021 will witness 5G’s coming of age.  

The 5G roll out is expected to increase in global momentum throughout 2021 despite the impact of COVID-19, which unsurprisingly slowed the pace of network launches in 2020.

With tech giants Samsung reportedly starting work on its first 5G-enabled rugged smartphone in November 2020, the next step for rugged devices will be to start incorporating 5G capability into their specifications.

Increased speed and reduced latency are expected to allow even data-consuming applications, like AR, to run smoothly from any location covered by the network. As we transition into more 5G wireless networks throughout 2021, we expect the demand for 5G-capable rugged devices to dramatically surge.


The supply chain industry has witnessed unprecedented changes and unique challenges due to the global pandemic. Mobility and safety remains at the forefront of the industry, with the operational landscape of supply chains set to continue the path of minimal interactions through social distancing.

The successful exchange of data and information is essential for the supply chain to operate, whether manufacturing, retail, warehousing or courier, and all workforces must continue to adhere to social distancing measures. Rugged mobile handhelds and tablets enable employees to carry out essential duties safely throughout the pandemic, staying secure while remaining connected, critical for successful business operations.  

More employees are set to use rugged mobile devices throughout 2021 as supply chain owners maintain their reliance on them to stay connected, utilising their capabilities to help overcome current COVID-related constraints.


A key trend that we expect to see progressing further over the course of 2021 is the development and introduction of higher specification interfaces on handsets. With over three billion smartphone users worldwide, it is no surprise that a high volume of rugged device applications are Android in style, and this is only set to continue.

The familiarity offered from an Android-style application interface helps reduce training time and gives operators a relatable platform to work with.

The trend for high-quality handsets integrating user-friendly technology promoting ease of use and time efficiencies on training is one we predict throughout 2021.  


Last year, our article, The rugged device market in 2020, discussed the concept of augmented reality (AR). We predicted that AR functionality could be used in the context of rugged mobile devices via the device’s camera to scan and manage malfunctioning equipment.

Spring 2020 saw Samsung report on Librestream technologies successfully delivering augmented reality solutions to its rugged mobile devices. This resulted in portable, rugged AR solutions for field service and other industrial workers.

With clear technological advancements with AR already impacting upon our industry, 2021 is set to see augmented reality firmly make its mark in the rugged devices market in 2021.

Peter Marsh

Peter joined TouchStar (formally Belgravium) in a sales manager role in 2001. Prior to joining the company, Peter held Partner and National Sales Manager roles within the parcel and logistics industries. In 2011 Peter was promoted to Sales Director and is now actively involved in promoting the value of TouchStar’s Rugged Mobile Computing solutions to the warehouse, logistics, manufacturing and…

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