The PIVOT 87-Series from Spectralink is not your typical rugged handheld, or even typical ruggedized smartphone. It is a voice and data communication solution for enterprises that deploy large numbers of handsets that mostly communicate over internal Voice-over-WiFi networks. So this is not your typical capsule review of another rugged device. It's a description of a specific type of enterprise handheld. With the PIVOT 87-Series described here, its maker, Spectralink, attempted to make such a device look and handle as much like a standard smartphone as possible.
Spectralink made a name for itself as a pioneer in providing in-building Voice-over-WiFi technology with superior voice quality over converged voice and data networks in a variety of form factors. The company takes pride in their Voice Quality Optimization (VQO) solution and expertise in maintaining interoperability across all sorts of WiFi networks, call control platforms and applications.
What's VQO? Ever since cellphone service went from analog to digital, voice quality has gone downhill. The days where Sprint bragged about being able to hear a pin drop while on the phone are long gone. That's unfortunate as good voice quality is important to business where misunderstandings can range from annoying to disastrous. The purpose of VQO is to provide superior voice (they call it "HD voice quality") over in-building enterprise networks as well as facilitating a seamless bridge between secure in-building networks and the outside.
And why Voice-over-WiFi? The overall idea of in-building Voice-over-WiFi is to reduce costs and simplify device and service management compared to conventional smartphone service, while improving employee mobility, responsiveness, and productivity compared to enterprise deskphone systems. Spectralink's technology also supports a range of special applications for various markets, from healthcare to manufacturing to retail. Examples are the REACH healthcare app (see here) that brings together nurse call systems and wireless handsets to deliver alerts to mobile staff from any in-building location, or the NOTIFY app (see here) that delivers alerts and alarms directly to a Spectralink handset.
While earlier Spectralink 8000 Series devices looked much like standard wireless handsets, the PIVOT 87-Series is an Android-based device designed more like a modern consumer smartphone, but one using Spectralink's Voice-over-WiFi technology and providing the kind of extra toughness, durability and reliability essential for mobile workers in enterprise and industrial settings.
Making it an Android-based device, of course, provides easy access to the whole gamut of Android applications and resources, essentially bringing full consumer smartphone functionality to the platform, and that can come in very handy even in devices meant to primarily be used over enterprise-internal WiFi.
Another differentiating factor here is the impressive ruggedness of the PIVOT handheld. While trendy consumer smartphones have become so slim as to be fragile and damage-prone, that just won't do in many of the more challenging working environments.
It is instantly clear that the PIVOT with its super-solid polycarbonate housing can handle far more abuse than your standard consumer smartphone (and there's plenty of Youtube footage of media abusing PIVOT phones to prove the point). Actual supplied specs, though, are sparse. There's damage-resistant Asahi "Dragontrail" glass, an impressive competitor to Corning's better-known Gorilla Glass. Spectralink claims non-specified MIL-STD-810G, method 516.6 procedure IV testing for drop and shock resistance, and that generally means a 4-foot drop spec. Sealing is at the IP64 level, where the "6" means total protection against dust, and the "4" protection against water spray from all directions. Given that there are IP67 consumer phones (like the "Active" versions of some Samsung phones), we'd have liked to see the same from the PIVOT. The operating temperature range is 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn't particularly wide. So... tough, yes, but we'd suggest a special workout regimen to address some of those lesser developed muscles.
As is, while the PIVOT looks like most modern smartphones from the front, there's a big bulge in its back. Without the bulge, the PIVOT would only be about 3/8th of an inch thick, but then it wouldn't have what truly sets the 87xx platform apart: a large replaceable battery and room for an industrial-grade 1D laser or 1D/2D imager scan engine. The battery easily snaps in and out, making it possible using the PIVOT all day long non-stop without ever having to worry about running out of battery. As for the scanner, since not everyone needs an industrial-grade scanner, Spectralink offers two PIVOT 87-Series model, the 8753 with scanner and the 8741 without.
As a smartphone, the PIVOT does just fine. The 4.3-inch capacitive multi-touch screen is large enough even in this day and age of giant consumer smartphones. Its 480 x 800 pixel resolution makes for 216 dots per inch, plenty sharp. There is no expansion card slot, so the 8GB the PIVOT comes with is all users get. Given that this is a work phone without camera, that's enough.
What it all boils down to is that the Spectralink PIVOT is a solution for a special enterprise communications need — that of providing superior voice quality over enterprise WiFi networks and seamless roaming over different internal and external networks — and not a toughed up smartphone for everyone. As long as that is clearly understood, there's much to like about the PIVOT 87-Series. It's much tougher than a consumer phone. It has Android. It fits right into many enterprise infrastructures. It has a replaceable battery. It can be had with a commercial-grade scanner. There are numerous productivity-enhancing accessories. There are IT management tools for deployment of large numbers of handsets. And there's a commercial-grade service and maintenance program.
Spectralink · spectralink.com · 1-303-441-7500 (North America)