Sleek, multi-purpose Android-based capacitive touch smartphone computer for customer-facing retail applications
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The enterprise division of Motorola Solutions, which is now part of Zebra, originally announced their MC40 "Enterprise Assistant" in a June 2012 sneak preview of the company's mobile technology designed to allow store associates to deliver a better shopping experience. The idea of the MC40 was to enhance the customer experience through a sleek, user-friendly mobile device that provides the associate access to in-depth product information, data collection and mobile point of sale (MPOS) capability without ever leaving the customer's side.
When officially introduced at the end of 2012, the MC40 joined a lineup of handheld computers that included almost two dozen different products of varying ruggedness, size and design The majority use either the longish "flashlight" or the thumbtype PDA form factor. So where does the MC40 fit into this lineup and Zebra's plans? In general, the two-digit model numbers indicate what Zebra calls an EDA or Enterprise Digital Assistant. Below you can see part of Zebra's EDA lineup. From left to right, it's the small MC35, the MC40, the MC45, and the MC55:
Above: Zebra's Enterprise Digital Assistants MC35, MC40, MC45, and MC55
As the picture shows, the MC40 looks much more like a contemporary smartphone than the older models with their PDA-style design and thumbtype keyboards. Also in line with modern smartphone design is the MC40's large 4.3-inch screen and flush glass front. Overall, the MC40 clearly seeks to provide business features and functionality in a sleek, modern package that reminds of a modern smartphone much more than traditional handheld computers.
As for specs, the MC40 measures 5.7 x 2.9 inches, is 0.8 inches thick, and weighs 9.1 ounces. That's about the footprint of one of those larges-screen consumer phones, though the ruggedized MC40 is significantly thicker and weighs quite a bit more. Also note that these dimensions are for the base unit without the integrated magnetic stripe reader that adds a bit of additional thickness and weight.
The MC40's 4.3-inch screen is larger than that of older industrial handhelds, and its 480 x 800 pixel WVGA resolution is higher as well. And the MC40 uses projected capacitive touch instead of resistive digitizer technology. The device is powered by a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP 4 processor, there's a gig of RAM and 8GB of storage. The 10 watt-hour battery is good for full-shift operation. There are motion, light and proximity sensors as well as a rear-facing 8-megapixel autofocus camera that can be used for high-quality image capture as well as for bar code scanning. That, however, doesn't mean the MC40 is limited to the relatively slow scanning possible with image cameras — it comes with a dedicated SE4710 1D/2D imaging engine.
While the MC40 looks like a smartphone and supports push-to-talk, PTT and VoIP clients, there is no mobile broadband and conventional phone functionality. There is tri-band 801.11a/b/g/n WiFi and Class 2 Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, or Bluetooth 4.0.
In terms of ruggedness, the MC40 is significantly sturdier and more durable than a standard consumer smartphone without, however, the look and feel of a conventional rugged handheld. The device can handle repeated 4-foot drops, is sealed to IP54 specifications where the "5" means it's protected against dust, and the "4" that it is protected against water spray from all directions (albeit with limited ingress permitted). The operating temperature range is 32 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Motorola also quotes a "tumble spec" where the devices survive 250 1.6 foot tumbles.
Overall, while the MC40 joins an already rather large lineup of different enterprise handhelds with yet another form factor and different technology, it also carries on Motorola Solutions' and now Zebra's tradition to come up with new and innovative solutions in an industrial handheld computing field that all too often lags behind.
Below is a promotional video for the MC40.
Specifications Zebra MC40
Added 03/2013, updated 12/2015
Texas Instruments dual-core OMAP 4/1.0GHz
Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) or Android 4.1.1 (Jelly Bean)
1GB RAM/8GB Flash
TFT LCD with LED backlight (300 nit) with Gorilla Glass 3
4.3-inch/480 x 800 pixel WVGA
32° to 122°F (0° to 50°C)
Multiple 4-foot drops
5.7 x 2.9 x 0.8 inches (144 x 73 x 20 mm) w/o MSR
9.1 oz. (258 grams) w/o MSR
Rechargeable 3.7V, 2,680mAH Li-Ion ("8 to 10 hrs.")
Rear-facing 8-megapixel AF camera w/ illuminator (supports 1D/2D bar code)
Ambient light, motion, proximity
USB 2.0 OTG host and client, mic, speaker; optional magnetic stripe reader
Bluetooth Class II version 2.1 + EDR or Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi