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Bluebird BM180

Pace-setting rugged enterprise handheld with dual OS capability and industrial-grade scanning
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Bluebird, a Korean company that has been in the mobile computer hardware business since 1998, specializes in products serving primarily enterprise mobility and the payment industries. Bluebird's offerings also include barcode scanners, RFID readers, and printer-integrated handhelds. The BM180 handheld computer for data capture and payment applications described on this page was formally introduced January 2014 as the flagship model at the time, and also as Bluebird's first device built on the Microsoft Windows Embedded 8 Handheld platform.

Bluebird positioned the BM180 as an evolutionary step forward from the existing BM170 that had been introduced in 2010 when displays were smaller and most handhelds were still very much steeped in the Pocket PC hardware and software legacy of years prior (which meant Windows Mobile running on Marvel PXA chips).

Things were changing, though, with smartphone screens growing ever larger and Android becoming the dominant operating platform outside Apple's proprietary iOS. The iPhone pretty much determined what a smartphone had to look like, and the sheer number of iPhones and Android-based phones sold had a definite impact on enterprise handhelds.

As a result, the BM180 had a 5-inch display, much larger than the smallish 3.5-inch screen of the BM170. It was very crisp, too, with 1280 x 720 pixel resolution making for 294 pixels per inch — "retina" class sharpness. And, of course, capacitive multi-touch.

Measuring 3.1 x 6.0 inches, the BM180 seemed quite large for a handheld at the time (it'd be another eight months before Apple introduced the iPhone 6 Plus with a nearly identical footprint). As an enterprise device with a degree of ruggedness, the BM180 of course was thicker and heavier than consumer phones. That was primarily because it also offered a whole lot more than a consumer phone.

Compared to standard phones (and even the BM170), the BM180 had an integrated industrial-grade 1D/2D barcode reader, RFID, integrated mag card reader functionality, as well as a SAM slot. It also carried IP67 sealing, which meant it was totally immune to dust and also waterproof, including full immersion. And unlike most consumer phones, its battery was replaceable on the fly, thanks to a small backup battery that provided hot-swapping capability.

For wireless connectivity, the BM180 came with Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi and optional mobile broadband, enabling real-time voice and data communication, as well as the popular PTT (push-to-talk). The BM80 was one of the first handhelds to adopt Windows Embedded 8.x Handheld, promising enterprise-grade security and manageability, along with full Windows Phone 8 application compatibility, allowing businesses to leverage Microsoft's enterprise-ready applications such as Dynamics AX, Lync and Office Mobile. Customers, however, could also opt for Android 4.4.4 instead.

While the BM180 was classified as a rugged device that could handle multiple four-foot drops, has a very wide operating temperature range from minus 4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and carried that impressive IP67 ingress protection rating, Bluebird was also ready for those who needed even more ruggedness. The Bluebird BP30 was a "valued added" version of the BM180, with extra protection yielding a 6-foot drop spec as well as room for a larger 4,500mAH battery.

Overall, with the BM180, Bluebird provided an industrial-grade version of a contemporary smartphone, one with significant extra functionality, and one that did not require a lengthy learning curve. This device ended up winning Red Dot Design and IF Design awards, and clearly set the direction of Bluebird's future development plans.

Specifications Bluebird BM180
Added/changed Added 04/2014, updated 02/2016
Form-factor Rugged mobile computer
CPU Speed Unspecified dual-core CPU, 1.5GHz
OS Microsoft Embedded Handheld 8.1, Android 4.4.2
Card slots 1 user-accessible micro-SDHC (up to 32GB), 1 SIM (WWAN only), 1 x SAM
Display type Backlit Eyelluminate TFT
Display size/res 5.0"/720 x 1280 pixels
Digitizer/pens Capacitive multi-touch
Keyboard/keys Onscreen
Navigation Touch
Housing Unknown
Operating Temp -4° to 140°F (-20° to 60°C)
Sealing IP67
Shock Multiple 4-foot drops
Vibration Unknown
Unknown NA
Size (WxHxD) 3.1 x 6.0 x 0.65 inches (78 x 152 x 17 mm)
Weight 9.2 oz. (261 grams) with standard battery
Power Rechargeable 3.7V/3,000mAH Li-Ion, 55mAH backup for hot-swapping
Interface micro USB, docking
Wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth Class II v4.0, A-GPS, optional HSPA+/HSPA/UMTS, EDGE/GSM WWAN, optional RFID
Camera Front: 1.3-megapixel, rear: 8.0-megapixel autofocus with illuminator
Sensors Integrated G-sensor
Scanner 1D/2D barcode scanner, optional integrated mag stripe reader, optional MiFare
Safety Unknown
EMI Unknown
RF Unknown
ESD Unknown
Price Starting at US$1,275
Product brochure Bluebird BM180 brochure (PDF)
Web page Bluebird BM180 page