ClearMechanic has been developing Apple and Android mobile applications for over 4 years, since the early days of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. We are the most experienced mobile app developer focused on automotive service centers.
In the past year, we have noticed a trend among some newcomers to mobile application development in the automotive service industry. These newcomers only have tablet applications and openly say smartphone applications are "unnecessary" for inspections.
We could not disagree more strongly. The ideal electronic inspection program should be compatible with both smartphones AND tablets (Apple or Android). Each technician and advisor should be able to choose which is most comfortable and affordable.
Here is why:
- Requiring tablets forces shops to purchase expensive new hardware. We think of this as a “tablet tax.” Each individual should be able to choose whether to use his / her own mobile device OR purchase a new one. It is up to technology companies to put in the extra engineering effort to provide this convenience for shops. Can you imagine technology companies like Google or LinkedIn or SalesForce.com announcing that you HAVE to buy a certain tablet to use their applications? Of course not.
- Every single technician will have a smartphone within 1-2 years, even if it’s just a cheap Android device. Most service personnel already have smartphones. In contrast, only a minority of technicians will bring a tablet to work for the foreseeable future. To understand why, see this chart showing that smartphones are destroying tablets in market share.
Smartphones are cheaper and more convenient. This is why requiring tablets for an inspection program effectively forces shops to buy new hardware on behalf of their technicians. Not many technicians have tablets lying around that are available for work use.
- Smartphones are much better for photos and videos. Ever tried taking photos and videos with a tablet? Smartphones are far more convenient, particularly in tight spaces around the vehicle. There is a reason the original iPad did not have a camera. It was never designed for heavy photo-taking. This is also why the most popular photo apps are designed for smartphones, not tablets.
- Smartphones are better for certain inspection styles. The best smartphone apps allow clients to hold the phone in one hand and perform all actions with one hand. This allows the other hand to hold a flashlight or other equipment or touch the vehicle. Hold tablets is a two-hand job that is not always convenient.