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Recommended Devices for Data Collection

Last Updated: Feb 03, 2015 05:44PM EST

KoBoCollect can run on any Android device, whether tablet or phone, as long as they run Android 2.1 (which was released on January 2010). Web forms will run on any device, including iOS devices and laptops. This article is about choosing the right mobile device for field data collection and applies to both Android devices and non-Android devices. 

Recommending devices for field data collection is difficult due to the large number of available devices, each with different features and advantages. When choosing a device you need to weigh the importance of screen quality, durability, battery capacity, camera (consider whether you'll need front-facing, back-facing, or both), internal storage and memory, internal sensors (GPS, movement), connectivity options (WiFi, cellular, BlueTooth, ...), weight, etc.

In general, try to achieve a good balance between acceptable pricing and choosing devices that can be re-used in the field for multiple deployments. The same reasoning as for choosing other IT equipment should apply. 

An important choice early on is whether to choose a phone or a tablet. Phones have the advantage of also having cellular data connectivity, which most tablets don't support. This allows synchronizing data while cell phone service is available and not depending on WiFi networks. Cell phone service is not an option in many remote field settings, of course, though this may be attractive when working in urban locations or areas with high cell phone service coverage.

When choosing a cell phone ensure that the chosen model supports the frequencies available in the country of deployment. Choosing phones that are unlocked and that use multiple frequencies (quad band) are ideal for this purpose.

Pricing

Mobile devices for field data collection do not have to be expensive and it is not necessary or recommended to choose latest-generation phones or tablets (which often range above $400 for tablets and over $600 for phones). These devices tend to be equipped with all the latest technology which means that they will not be outdated technologically for a long time. However, their high costs also makes them a bigger inventory risk for potential theft or damages. 

Likewise, it is best not to choose among the lowest tier of devices from little-known manufacturers or fake brands (available for less than $100), often sold in emerging markets. These devices may present serious drawbacks in terms of their durability which can negatively impact data collection. 

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