Corrections pros are now adopting mobile devices in droves. Why? Those working in corrections expect technology in their facility to be at least half as good as what they use in their personal lives. And more professionals are seeing the real advantage of mobile replacing reams and reams of paper logs, outdated guard tour solutions, and automating a number of tasks with blazing speed and efficiency.

In this blog, we break down the hardware differences between an iPod touch and SPARTAN, an Android device from GUARDIAN RFID.

There are two common mobile device options within corrections: iPod touch by Apple, and SPARTAN, an ultra-rugged Android exclusively from GUARDIAN RFID. iPod touch is a low-cost solution. It’s a device placed in a protective case and frequently uses QR codes or barcodes for data collection. SPARTAN is durable, waterproof, offers high-resolution imaging, and a host of other features. A few may say, “I don’t need all that functionality for the added price.”

So what are the differences between SPARTAN and iPod touch? Is one more suitable for your facility than the other? To answer those questions, we’ll touch on the following aspects of both devices that compare iPod touch to SPARTAN:

1. Technical differences

  • Physical size
  • Battery & Charging
  • Touchscreen
  • Auto-Identification (RFID vs. QR Code / Barcode)
  • Durability
  • Warranty Term

2. Tech Support: How do I get help?

3. Cost, quantity, and total cost of ownership (TCO)

  • How many devices do I need, what do I need to budget, and what’s the total cost of ownership, including any repairs or replacements over five years?

Technical Differences

Physical Size

SPARTAN is similar in size to the iPhone X. Standing at 6.3” inches, SPARTAN fits easily in the hands of all staff members, including women. It’s also small enough to fit into most cargo pants pockets if you don’t want a holster.

The iPod touch stands at 4.86" tall. Since Apple products are popular among many consumers and have a standard shape and size, there are numerous companies that offer various after-market accessories such as cases and holsters.

Proportional size comparison of the SPARTAN, iPhone X, and iPod touch.

Battery & Charging

iPod touch

An iPod touch battery is just over 1,000 mAh. Some resources say the iPod touch battery life can be up to 8 hours, but that's under the assumption that it's being used in practically any situation other than corrections. Typically, because of the high frequency of use as a handheld scanner within a jail, iPods are more likely to have a maximum battery life of roughly 6 hours. As the battery ages, an iPod touch will slow down: Apple confirms iPhones with older batteries will take hits in performance. The battery will also slow down if the device isn’t updated with the latest Apple operating system, something all too familiar to Apple iOS users. In fact, this was the main reason that Target stores abandoned its iPods, called MyDevices for Android.

iPod uses the standard Apple lightning charging cord. In a rush, it can be a bit annoying trying to get the plug inside the device, especially if there’s a charging port cover on the iPod’s case that needs to be removed prior to plugging in the cord. There are a few protective cases that pair with a charging cradle to eliminate the use of cords and simplify the charging process.

iPod touches are not equipped with a replaceable battery. This means that if an officer or deputy is about to start their security rounds or they’re in the middle of logging some type of activity and the iPod is about to die, they’ll need to go back to their desk to either grab an entirely new device or plug in the dying device and wait for it to be fully charged. You’re essentially tied to a cord when using an iPod. There’s no swappable battery, so you can’t just pick up where you left off if in the middle of completing an activity. You’ll have to plan ahead and make sure the facility is equipped with enough devices so that if one is charging, there’s still another that can be used for logging purposes. If and when the battery begins to swell, slow down, or even die, you’ll be required to purchase an entirely new device, not just a new battery.

SPARTAN

SPARTAN has a 6,400 mAh lithium-ion battery. That’s more than 6x more battery life than an iPod touch. The SPARTAN battery lasts around 10-12 hours until it needs to be charged and has an overall, average useful of two years based on charge cycles.

A cradle is all that’s required to charge SPARTAN. To charge, drop SPARTAN in the cradle. It’s easy, quick, and nearly identical to your radios. There’s no need to mess with charging cords or removing cases, making charging the SPARTAN quick and easy. Cradles come in two flavors: single-charge and quad-charge. When you have four or more devices that need to be charged in a central location, quad-charging cradles save money and reduce clutter.

And maybe most importantly, SPARTAN has a replaceable battery. This allows your staff to always have a fully-charged battery on standby and hot swap when needed. The hot swap can be completed in seconds.

Touchscreen

iPod touch

The iPod touch comes with standard touch screen glass, the same type you find on your smartphone. Unfortunately, that glass doesn’t work when you’re wearing latex gloves, as corrections professionals often do. You’ll have to stop what you’re doing and remove your gloves to use your iPod touch.

SPARTAN

SPARTAN by GUARDIAN RFID has Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The SPARTAN touch screen glass supports officers’ ability to wear latex gloves and still use the device. There’s no need to remove latex gloves and interrupt the task in order to log data on SPARTAN.

RFID vs. QR Code / Barcode

Another difference between SPARTAN and iPod is the type of auto-identification supported. SPARTAN reads RFID tags. An iPod touch relies almost exclusively on scanning QR codes or barcodes.

Auto-Identification

There are major differences between RFID and QR codes or barcodes, including speed and ease of use. SPARTAN is capable of reading an RFID tag without line of sight. It’s proximity based, identical to your access control ID badges.

Durability

iPod touch

iPods are not waterproof or scratchproof. iPods also lack a drop rating, meaning that they’ll break instantly if dropped without a case. To protect the iPod touch, jails need to purchase an after-market case. A quality, protective case can range in price from $30-50. As most people know, you get what you pay for, so purchasing a less expensive case will likely result in the damage of the iPod and purchase of another case. Even with a protective case, there is still a chance of the device being damaged since it wasn’t developed for use within correctional facilities.

Typically, iPods used in a corrections environment last between 12-18 months, assuming there are no issues or damage to the device (ie. not dropped, scratched, submerged in water, etc.).

SPARTAN

SPARTAN was purpose-built for corrections. It features hardened, raised rubber corners, Gorilla Glass 3, and is encased in hardened plastic to protect the device from falls onto concrete up to 10 feet. SPARTAN has a MIL-STD 810G (military rating). It also has an IP67 seal rating which indicates that the device is fully protected from contact with harmful dust and immersion in water with a depth up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

Warranty

iPod touch

The iPod includes a one-year limited warranty and 90 days complimentary telephone technical support through Apple that begins at the time of purchase. It includes only manufacturing defects. There are options to purchase AppleCare+, a $59 service (per device) that adds one more year of warranty coverage (total of 2 year limited warranty). Additionally, it will cover accidental damage up to 2 incidents, where the user will pay a $29 service fee per incident. The coverage for AppleCare+ can be helpful, but the $59 upcharge per iPod is unattractive to most jails.

SPARTAN

SPARTAN has a three-year warranty that begins when you receive your device. The warranty covers manufacturing defects and accidental damage. This warranty doesn’t include the accessories, such as the battery, hand strap, and charging cradle. Those accessories have a one-year warranty that covers manufacturing defects.

One warranty advantage is that if you need technical support, you call or email GUARDIAN RFID directly.

Tech Support: how do I get help?

iPod

The iPod touch is an Apple device that some guard tour and solutions’ providers use. Software issues with the mobile application or its associated reporting platform need to be directed to the solutions’ provider, but anything concerning the iPod itself requires contacting Apple. You’ll need to deal with two organizations — your solutions’ provider and Apple — which can result in added time and frustration when trying solve any application or device problems.

SPARTAN

SPARTAN is an ultra-rugged Android. With that being said, all services needed, including warranty, setup, technical support -- are handled directly by GUARDIAN RFID. You can streamline your knowledge and support instantly.

Cost and Quantity

Number of Devices Needed

iPod touch

Correctional facilities that choose to rollout iPods generally purchase one device per staff member. This is because of their low unit cost.

Buying one iPod per user means you’ll be buying an equal number of cases and potentially AppleCare+. iPod touches will range in price depending on the generation and storage capacity. Generally speaking, the price of an iPod touch will be about $299. If you factor in the cost of a $50 case and $59 AppleCare+ cost, each device can cost about $408.

SPARTAN

You may think the same 1:1 ratio of device to staff member applies, as it does with iPods. It doesn’t. SPARTAN is a shared device between staff members. Below is an average number of SPARTANs needed for various facility sizes based on average daily population. Note some variation may apply. Factors such as facility layout and inmate management style (direct vs. indirect supervision) may increase or decrease device count.

Average Daily Population (Inmates or Juveniles)

Total

Average Daily Population (Inmates or Juveniles)

250

Total # of SPARTANs

5

Average Daily Population (Inmates or Juveniles)

500

Total # of SPARTANs

12-15

Average Daily Population (Inmates or Juveniles)

1,000

Total # of SPARTANs

20-25

Cost

iPod touch

The cost of an iPod touch will vary depending on the generation and GB capacity. For our purposes, we will assume that a jail is looking to purchase the latest version with 128GB. Apple sells that iPod for $299. Now, factor in the cost of an after-market case, around $50, and $59 for AppleCare+. That reaches a total of $408. Keep in mind, some may purchase a less expensive case, while others will invest in one that’s more costly.

How much would the total be for a facility? Let’s look at a facility with an average daily inmate population of 500 and 120 staff members. If purchasing an iPod for each staff member, the total cost would be 120 devices x $408 per device = $48,960.

SPARTAN

A SPARTAN device will cost $2,295, which includes the rugged Android device, charging cradle, and two high-capacity batteries.

A facility with a 500 average inmate daily population and 120 staff members would require about 12 SPARTANs. The total cost would be 12 devices x $2,295 per device = $27,540.

Total Cost of Ownership: Mobile Devices

Let’s assume you have an average daily population of 500 inmates spread amongst multiple housing units in a podular indirect supervision detention center that employs 120 staff members. Each staff member is issued an iPod. This is 120 iPods. Each iPod has an average useful life of 24 months before needing replacement. Also, assume 1 out of 15 devices will require outright replacement each year because of damage or loss.

For SPARTAN, assume that 1 of 6 devices will incur a repair fee of $100 per year after the warranty expires.

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5

TCO

iPod

Year 1

120 x $408 = $48,960

Year 2

8 x $408 = $4,264

Year 3

112 x $408 = $45,696

Year 4

8 x $408 = $3,264

Year 5

112 x $408 = $45,696

TCO

$146,880

SPARTAN

Year 1

12 x $2,295 = $27,540

Year 2

$0

Year 3

$0

Year 4

2 x $100 repair fee = $200

Year 5

2 x $100 repair fee = $200

TCO

$27,740

Downtime for Device Repairs

As discussed earlier, the iPod was not designed for use within correctional facilities, so there is a much higher probability that they will break and need repair. Those repairs will be handled through Apple and there isn't certainty on how quickly it will be completed. During the repair downtime, it can be difficult and inconvenient to be short a few devices. The way to work around that issue is to have extra devices on hand.

If an under-warranty SPARTAN device needs to be repaired, GUARDIAN RFID will take the lead on arranging it to be fixed. The facility will have the SPARTAN shipped to the repair center (at no cost to the facility). During the repair time, jails can request to loan a device from GUARDIAN RFID so they can continue their daily activities with little interruption and minimal down time.

High replacement and repairs of the devices can lead to decreased confidence, goodwill, and lost buy-in by staff. Poorly performing devices results in more repairs and increases downtime, making officers' jobs more difficult. There's lost productivity and adoption rates drop. So, it is important that mobile devices used within jails are durable and don't incur a large amount of downtime.

SPARTAN vs iPod Breakdown

iPod (128GB)

SPARTAN

Battery Size | Approx. Run Time

iPod

1,030 mAh | 6-8 hours

SPARTAN

6,400 mAh | 10-12 hours

Replaceable Battery

iPod

No

SPARTAN

Yes

Compatible with Latex Gloves

iPod

No

SPARTAN

Yes

Supported Auto-Identification Type

iPod

QR Code / Barcode

SPARTAN

RFID

Waterproof

iPod

No

SPARTAN

Yes

(up to 1 meter for 30 minutes)

Scratchproof

iPod

No

SPARTAN

Yes

Standard Warranty

iPod

One-year

SPARTAN

Three-year with accident protection coverage

Price

iPod

$408

(Case + AppleCare+ + warranty)
SPARTAN

$2,295 (MSRP)

(Two extended capacity batteries + docking cradle + three-year warranty)

Useful Life

iPod

12-18 months

SPARTAN

60-72 months

Number of Devices Needed

iPod

One per Officer

SPARTAN

25 Devices per 1,000 Inmates

Conclusion

There are many important differences between SPARTAN and iPod touch in corrections. SPARTAN was purpose-built for corrections. The iPod has been adapted to try and fit into them.

The iPod touch costs less upfront, so correctional facilities often think to buy more. Decision makers may underestimate an iPod's true useful life. It’s important to understand the added costs (protective cases, AppleCare+, replacement devices, etc.) associated with the device, plus the ongoing expense of repairing devices, or buying more prematurely because of the lack of removable battery. There’s also the need to continuously go back and plug in the device to recharge. It may seem like a more cost-effective option, but once every cost and expensive is factored, such as repairs and replacements, an iPod touch demands a substantially higher Total Cost of Ownership, and a riskier probability of long-term success.

SPARTAN by GUARDIAN RFID is a mobile workhorse. It’s powerful, simple, and easy to use. Key advantages such as battery life, replaceable, hot-swappable batteries, inherent durability, warranty coverage, and support are among its key advantages.

Every feature and function within SPARTAN is equipped standard and built to last. The iPod touch, on the other hand, needs more accessories to attempt to withstand the rigors of corrections, and even then, will not support the longevity that SPARTAN does.

Ultimately, choosing a handheld scanner comes down to factors such as functionality, ease of implementation, and cost. But perhaps most importantly, consider which device will drive and sustain user adoption and provide the best near and long-term value for your team.