Choosing the right device
For data collection, SurveyCTO supports a wide range of Android and iOS devices. To choose which one is right for your needs, consider the following factors:
- Cost. Depending on where you intend to collect data, you may find it cheaper to purchase your devices out-of-country.
- Feature-set. Your surveys can leverage the underlying capabilities of your chosen devices (e.g, to capture GPS coordinates, take photos or scan barcodes, record conversations, and transmit data over cellular networks). You not only need to be sure that your chosen device has the requisite features, but that its quality meets your needs. For example, most devices have cameras, but some are poor at focusing and so are poor at scanning barcodes; others might have microphones, but poor audio recording quality.
- Battery life. Device battery capabilities – both battery life and recharge time – vary widely.
- Communication frequencies. Different devices transmit and receive cellular data on different frequencies. If you are going to use sim cards to transmit your data over cellular data networks, you should make sure that your chosen devices support those frequencies supported by your cellular carrier(s) – particularly if you are going to purchase your devices out-of-country.
- Memory and CPU capacity. The longer and more complex a form, the more memory and CPU capacity will be required for a device to handle it. Thus, you will need the power of your device to meet the needs of your particular surveys. (See Maximum form length for more on this subject.)
- Fonts. Some devices support non-Western UNICODE fonts, others do not. For example, in India, Samsung's Android devices have always tended to support the Tamil script, while many other devices have not. (This is becoming less and less the case as newer devices tend to support a larger and larger number of common scripts.)
- Screen readability. Make sure that your chosen device's screen is easily readable in the field. If your surveys will be conducted outside, you will want to be especially careful to choose a device with a good, anti-glare screen. (You may also be able to solve readability issues with some kind of case or screen cover.)
- Durability. Some environments are more demanding than others. Generally speaking, you can pay more for more durable devices, or just buy extras and expect some to break. (You will want some extras in any case, for when devices become lost or broken.)
- Mobile OS version. To operate fully, SurveyCTO requires Android version 4.3 or higher, or iOS version 9.1 or higher. (Devices on older versions of Android can keep using the older 2.41 version of Collect for a limited time.)
The only sure way to know whether a particular device meets all of your particular needs is to test it thoroughly with the survey forms you wish to use – ideally, in circumstances that are as realistic and characteristic of your field setting as possible.