It’s a bit of a cliche to say a company “means business” when launching a business-protected device, but Panasonic this week unveiled its newest Toughbook device. Surprisingly, it’s a phone and, simply put, it really does mean business.
Panasonic’s Toughbook range is a series of products designed to withstand a little more punishment than most of us dole out to our devices. They are heavily ruggedised, to the point where other companies using that term should probably reconsider it.
The name of the first Toughbook phone, FZ-T1, is a pretty typical electronic product designation. It doesn’t roll off the tongue a fancy aspirational brand, but it doesn’t need to. Panasonic isn’t looking to catch passing consumers and entice them to purchase – this is intended to be a workhorse for a fleet of mobile workers.
So what is the FZ-T1?
As a phone, it’s pretty modest – and that’s being kind by the standards of today’s consumer devices. It’s got a 5 inch 720p screen surrounded by chunky bezels, a Snapdragon 210 (yes, 210), 16GB interval storage, a removable battery and what’s been kindly described as a “documentation” camera on the back.
Look closer though, and you’ll find that each of those specs carries a really good reason behind it. The 5 inch screen is daylight viewable (no squinting, or running the brightness up to max) and supports “rain mode” and “glove mode”. Those chunky bezels form a protective drop-proof housing for the phone that can withstand 500 tumbles, can be dropped 1.5 metres (from your hands, or the roof of a car) onto concrete on all 6 sides – and yes, the screen counts as a side – is IP68 rated, and can withstand temperatures ranging from -10 to +50°C.
Beyond that, there’s a barcode scanner at the top of the device, with a button on either side that can trigger it (barcode scans just end up as input in text fields), and Panasonic also sells a “gun grip” accessory that lets you hold the device more like a scanning gun you might see in a warehouse.
That removable battery? The phone can run a couple of minutes without its removable battery, so you can swap in a fully charged one without rebooting.
This device really isn’t intended to be someone’s primary phone. It’s a mobile device that has 4G connectivity, and can run the apps your business needs. It’s aimed at the retail, trade, warehouse, logistics, mining and emergency services – workplaces and environments where you might think twice about taking your precious Galaxy Note 9 out in the field.
Panasonic wasn’t afraid to put these phones through the wringer for the assembled press at their product launch event this week, either – they had demo stations for drop tests and tumble machines, all the stuff that makes you cringe when you see it regardless of how tough the phone actually is:
Of course, there was the always-fun fishtank too, in which a phone sat for a while.
For the Fleet
If you’re looking to kit out your workplace with these devices, you’ll find them clocking in at $1899 a piece. That’s not cheap, but if you nodded at the first part of this paragraph, you probably expected that.
Panasonic wants you to take into account the fact that the FZ-T1 will survive things that destroy everyday phones, you’ll likely welcome that price for the convenience of not having to replace it after a couple of bumps and drops.
The FZ-T1 is available now. If you’re an Australian business that needs mobile devices that go beyond “drop proof”, two of the company’s longtime partners (Multimedia Technology & Sector) will be able to meet your needs.