Mobile devices get increasingly used by frontline workers as non-profits procure and provide it to them. These devices need to be procured in bulk and hence it becomes important that the right decision is made. Let's look at various factors we should consider while selecting a device.
Perhaps this is obvious but better to get this out of our way. When we are discussing mobile devices, it is implicit that it is an android device. In our experience, we have never seen anyone consider iOS devices because of the cost.
Usually, a large screen device of around 6 inches serves most needs of the frontline work. There may be scenarios where even higher form factor may be ideal - like showing videos to a group, performing complex work with maps etc.
Tablet or mobile
The answer overwhelmingly is to procure a mobile device. The fundamental reason being that android tablet market overall is very small compared to mobile. This has led to much better make quality and choices - for the price.
The frontline worker is likely to use the device for work for 2-3 hours daily, hence one must choose devices with higher amp-hours battery.
Pocket friendliness of mobile devices is quite an important factor from wear and tear perspective. Tablet devices being larger require a separate bag/box which is not only cumbersome to carry around (frontline work involves a lot of travel) but also prone to getting damaged during travel/movement. Pocket/purse is the best place for convenience and long life of the device.
Personal device or work only device
Should the frontline worker be expected to use the device for personal purposes or only for work? This is quite tricky to answer emphatically - hence we would only list down factors and let you make the decision.
Mobile device with the Internet is such a promising instrument for human learning and development that restricting its use - feels criminal.
But, when the device is allowed to be used for personal reasons it can result in various issues like virus, excessive use (limiting its overall life), running out of mobile data quota. Allowing personal use can also result in the device not being available for the intended purpose itself - because of potential "misuse".
If homes of frontline workers are plagued by long and regular power outages then a device which has a fast-charging facility should be chosen. One can consider using power banks if electricity supply is even poorer.
We have often found that non-profits procure exactly the same number of devices as the number of frontline workers present. When the device of some frontline worker breaks down, they are forced to switch back to the paper system. Such arrangements send mixed signals to the frontline workers - that paper system and digital system both must be maintained. This is sub-optimal and to some extent defeats the purpose of having a digital system. We recommend that backup devices must be planned for and to be made available in case of breakages.