Below is a list of things to consider when purchasing a device to use with the HG Companion. The list specifically talks about using them for home inspections, so if you plan to use them for other things please keep your other needs in mind also. One major advantage of the HG Companion is the ability to include pictures from the device right at the inspection item at the time of taking the photo. While most devices have a camera, many inspectors will still want to use their regular camera for taking pictures in dark areas or for using the lense for wide / zoom shots.
- Android Operating System ( OS )
Each Android version has been developed under a codename based on a dessert item. These versions have released in alphabetical order: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean. etc. Most devices sold today run on Android 4.x (Ice Cream Sandwich/ICS, Jelly Bean, or later). HomeGauge Companion runs on Android 2.2 and greater. Recommendation: for a new device get one that has Android 4.x (ICS, Jelly Bean, or later) or that is capable of upgrading.
- Apple iPhone/iPad iOS Version?
iOS 6 or better is required, but we recommend iOS 8 (or later)
Of course the lighter the better for carrying around all day but it often comes at the cost of screen size and battery life. Recommendation: Up to the inspector's personal opinion.
- Screen size / brightness
Can you read the screen at that size? Can you read the screen in daylight? Phones are smaller and will fit less data on screen, requiring more scrolling around, but they seem to be the preferred device for data collection. The small size is nice to handle. Recommendation: If getting a phone, make sure the size of the screen works for you. For either device make sure it is readable in the shade outside.
- Battery Life
Since you will be carrying it around all day you will want it to work all day, so be sure to consider the battery life. Phones stay on and the batteries are smaller, so this is a consideration. Recommendation: Get one with many hours of battery. Also, a replaceable battery is helpful.
- Camera / Flash
Most devices have a camera now. Many even have two, with one front facing for doing web video conferencing. The other is rear facing for taking pictures. Some devices do not have a flash, which as an inspector in the attic or crawl space would not work. Recommendation: Make sure it has rear facing camera with a flash.
- Internet connectivity
Using the HG Companion you will need to connect to the Internet to easily transfer your reports back to the desktop to complete the report. Since you will also be taking pictures and video with the device, the reports might be fairly large, so a good Internet connection will be important. Most will connect to the Internet over wi-fi and 3g/4g mobile network. Recommendation: Make sure you have at least a wi-fi connection for fast uploads and consider a contract for 4g if you have great service in your area. Reports can use a lot of data, so keep that in mind when using your cellular data service to transfer data. There's an option to transfer by wifi only in the HG Companion if you are worried about cellular data fees.
- Screen Touch Type
Resistive technology works the way you might first imagine a touchscreen would function — it senses pressure. Capacitive touchscreens do not rely on pressure, but rather they use electrodes to sense the conductive properties of objects, such as your finger. Since conductive does not rely on having an object pressing on their surface, it will only react to certain objects like your finger. As capacitive screens do not need much contact at all, you can swipe across them very lightly and get a good response. By comparison, the vast majority of resistive touchscreen phones will not normally react at all to a very light swipe. When using either screen type with your finger you do not have much accuracy, but use a resistive phone with a stylus and you will be able to get great accuracy. Recommendation: It depends on if you want faster, easy response or accuracy.
- CPU speed / Disk Storage / RAM
All of the manufactures are competitive in this area, with the exception for some of the cheaper prepaid phones. RAM is the memory used to run your software. The more RAM the more software you can run at the same time and the faster your phone will perform. Storage is where the software will store the data. More storage allows you to have more on your computer, but does not help performance. In general, any new phone or tablet will have plenty of speed, storage and RAM for completing and holding many days worth of reports. Most tablets will have 1GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB or more of storage space. Recommendation: 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage will work fine for HG Companion, but the more the better.
HG Companion allows you to record audio beside each inspection item and built into Android is the ability for Speech-to-Text (some devices will require an Internet connection for voice to text, but not all). A decent microphone in a good location can be a big help with these tools. Recommendation: All phones have a microphone for talking, but make sure a tablet does also.
Most of the devices are in the $250-600 dollar range. This is the tool that you will be using everyday and all day. Recommendation: Tablets are already cheaper than a laptop, so save yourself the frustration and get the best one you can buy.
- Tablets versus Phone
Which one you use is going to come down to personal opinion. The many items listed above like size and weight have different considerations depending on if you are using a tablet or phone. Some additional considerations for which to use are listed below.
- Being distracted by answering the phone during an inspection
- Needing to keep track of multiple devices ( phone, tablet, camera ) or one device ( phone ) that binds them all