Tablet kiosks are becoming popular, and business owners naturally want to catch up on the trends.
But tablet kiosks aren't the fix-all that businesses would like them to be, and they have several built-in limitations that aren't immediately noticeable. Before you consider tablet kiosks at your business, realize that traditional, stand-alone kiosks have several advantages that we'll discuss further. Tablet kiosks can best be thought of as a potential supplement to other solutions, not a replacement.
Commercial vs. consumer
You can easily understand why tablet kiosks shouldn't be your primary solution by considering one basic fact. Tablet kiosks are repurposed consumer devices, and therefore simply haven't been designed to meet commercial needs.
Consumer devices are designed for users who will handle them with care, whereas commercial device users have no incentive to do so and will frequently subject the device to damage and wear. Commercial devices are designed with this expectation in mind, and are made much more durable. Also, unlike commercial kiosk hardware, tablet computers are desirable targets for thieves, and can easily be taken and resold.
For a business owner who chooses to use tablet kiosks, the costly initial investment of an iPad or other tablet is then multiplied by the need for protective cases, anti-theft devices, mounting brackets, and other anti-tampering covers.
Power, network and security
Many kiosk locations are not within close distance to AC power, which is a problem for tablet computers. However, commercial kiosks can run on low-voltage power transferred directly through an Ethernet wire, which gives them network connectivity at the same time.
This same aspect of hardwired Ethernet, which might seem dated in a wireless network world, is actually advantageous for commercial kiosks. Commercial kiosks have high security demands that can only be met by wired Ethernet. And unfortunately, with tablet kiosks, wireless is the only option.
Wireless networks require specialized setup and password maintenance and even then have questionable security. Wireless networks also have issues with reliability, often losing data speed if they are competing for bandwidth, and sometimes dropping a connection entirely. Wireless connectivity often has dead spots within a store, as well.
Maintenance and management
Again, we come back to the issue of consumer device design. Simply put, consumer devices are not designed for unceasing usage. Their screens and batteries are designed with a shorter lifespan in mind, and their cooling systems and hardware aren't made to handle 24-hours-a-day operation.
Consumer tablets are also expensive to repair -- if they can be repaired at all. Many manufacturers expect that the product will simply have to be replaced if it fails, and replacement parts are often not manufactured.
Management issues come down to updates, Windows compatibility, software support and other administrative issues. All of these tasks are built into commercial kiosks, but they require extra labor for tablet kiosk deployment.
Tablet kiosks have their suitable uses, and they can definitely be taken advantage of in the right situations, but they shouldn't be looked at for a business's only POS solution. Shifting exclusively to tablet-based kiosks can be a costly and regrettable mistake.
Rich Bernstein brings more than 10 years of marketing, management and writing experience to Phoenix Kiosk. Rich oversees the daily and long-term direction of the marketing department.