Municipal departments looking for ways to improve their productivity and work flows are now moving away from old-school inspections and towards digital alternatives like mobile inspections. With the purchase of just one tablet, inspectors can increase their efficiency by eliminating data entry, paperwork, and filing.
Unfortunately, not all tablets are created equal. A poor quality device can actually increase the time it takes to do an inspection. We’ve tested a wide variety of tablets and smartphones for the purposes of municipal inspections and have a few recommendations for departments choosing their first mobile inspection device.
The Right Tablet For Mobile Inspections
1. Expect to pay $175 or more. You can easily find good quality tablets for $175 by checking price comparison websites. The Samsung Galaxy, a tablet we regularly recommend due to its strong performance and steady reliability, can often be purchased for $175 on sale. Try using Price Watch or RoboShopper to find the lowest online prices.
2. Minimum 1.2 GHz processor and 1 GB RAM. The processor is what determines how fast the tablet will run and how many programs it can handle. To avoid frustration with your tablet ‘freezing’ in the middle of a mobile inspection, we recommend choosing tablets with 2 or more cores, 1.2 GHz minimum processing speed, and a minimum of 1 GB RAM.
3. Strong Wi-Fi connectivity. Digital inspections can be saved on the tablet, but once you’re back in the office you’ll likely need to connect to Wi-Fi to upload your inspection records or email reports to other staff members. The Wi-Fi connectivity of a device can’t be assessed by looking at technical specifications. Instead, we recommend looking at online reviews to see if there are frequent complaints about a particular model’s connectivity.
4. Quality rear-facing camera. By choosing a device with a rear-facing camera, inspectors can take photos of areas that fail to meet safety regulations, equipment that needs to be repaired, or items that have been recently installed. As an added benefit, inspections with photographic data provide rock-solid documentation useful if problems arise in the future.
5. Built-in flash on the tablet. Just about every inspector needs to take photos in indoor locations that may not be well lit, particularly if they are in tight spaces. Choosing a tablet with built-in flash will ensure that you can take photos of items that need repair, no matter what the circumstances. This is one feature that many inspectors regret not having!
After years of testing various tablets and listening to feedback from inspectors who work with them in the field, we can safely recommend the following devices to most municipalities:
Samsung Galaxy Tab or Note ($175 and up) – in general, we find the Samsung Galaxy tablets are robust, hard-working devices that are fast enough for mobile inspection purposes, have an excellent built-in camera, strong Wi-Fi connectivity, and a high resolution screen. The lower end models can often be found on sale for around $175, making them an excellent option for departments looking to stretch their budget.
Apple iPad and iPad Mini ($325 and up) – both the iPad and iPad Mini are well suited to conducting mobile inspections; they are just as fast and robust as the Samsung Galaxy tablets, if not more so. They are far more costly than the Samsung tablets but can be easier to master for inspectors who are new to tablets and mobile devices.
If you’re looking at a different tablet, compare it to the above specifications and see how they stack up. If you’re still not sure, give us a call and ask us for our thoughts. We’ve talked to hundreds of inspectors who have used a variety of tablets and can help you narrow down your options.