Motorola MC9500

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If you thought chunky phones were dead, you'd be way off the mark as far as the industry is concerned. Although if you were to believe Motorola, this isn't a phone — it's an "industrial rugged mobile computer for field mobility".

That's overselling slightly, to say the least, but then it seems Motorola has come up with a whole slather of hyperbolic branding (check out the video under the "Reinventing Backroom Management" section) for what is essentially a ruggedised phone with a barcode scanner; GPS; 3.7-inch, 640x480 touchscreen; and stylus.

MC9500 screen

The 3.7-inch, 640x480 screen is touch sensitive, can rotate through an accelerometer and is a matte screen. (Credit: Motorola)

It's best suited towards logistics and inventory management courtesy of its scanner, although we suspect anyone who works at heights or drops their phone regularly in a harsh environment will find it appealing; in our testing, the phone happily dropped 2 metres onto a tiled hard floor without a single complaint. It's advertised for 1.8 metres, but we think it'll handle even more than our basic tests. The phone also makes a machine-gun-esque noise when dropped, warning potential victims below, and the owner that they've lost their grip.

For those who like certs, it's passed IP67 (making it dust sealed and submersible under 1m of water) and MIL-STD 810G, making it one rugged phone indeed.

The phone is about the size of a human head though, so this thing is pretty much begging to be thrown onto a belt. Motorola sells two holster accessories for exactly that purpose. In fact, it's accessories where the MC9500 makes its mark, including even backlit, swappable keypads.

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Swappable keypads

You can swap in different keypads depending on your business. Motorola offers Alpha Numeric (letters and numbers), Alpha Primary (shifted numbers), Numeric Calculator (numbers ordered like a calculator, with mobile-phone-esque shifted letters), and Numeric Telephony (mobile phone pad) keypads. (Credit: Motorola)

Apart from single-user cradles for charging, Motorola sells racked battery chargers for fleets of phones; USB charge and sync cables; car chargers; a modem adapter; and a magnetic stripe reader. Headsets are also available for those who'd prefer not to hold the phone to their ear.

The barcode scanning isn't always on; you have to load the app first before the buttons will turn on the scanning beam. After this, either the big yellow button on the front, or two yellow buttons on the side will do the scan, the phone connecting to a remote back-end to understand what has just been read. It'll also talk to SAP, as well as other ERP or CRM suites.

The usual smartphone suspects of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are here, as is the Windows Mobile calendar and contacts integration. An accelerometer is present to rotate the screen depending on orientation, making it easy to turn the unit upside down for signature signing without the owner having to hand the entire unit over.

Rear of the Motorola MC9500

The rear of the Motorola MC9500. (Credit: Motorola)

A 3-megapixel camera is mounted on the back that can take video or images, that could at best be described as "functional" in terms of image quality. Below this is the elasticised hand-strap, under which resides the battery, on which is a button which can be pressed to tell the current charge. The strap can be removed by unhooking the top part, giving easy access to removing the battery, inserting the SIM or adding additional micro-SD-based storage. You'll likely need a small flat head screwdriver to pop open the SIM and micro-SD compartments, as they've been sealed against liquid.

By default, the phone is equipped with 512MB flash storage, 128MB RAM, and is powered by a Marvell PXA320 processor @ 806MHz. When we tested call quality walking through Sydney city, we got quite a few curious looks due to the size of it. Call quality was fine if a little muffled, but when taken into a few known Optus black spots reception seemed no better than a Nokia E65.

The WAN module though, isn't something that's standard. Motorola has something called MAX FlexWAN, which means you can purchase the MC9500 with or without a WWAN module, and swap modules depending on what network you want to connect to at any time, potentially giving your workforce much more flexibility.

Pricing starts at AU$2935 ex GST, although this can scale up to AU$3876 ex GST depending on configuration.