Device Obsolescence

Device Obso

Have you ever heard the phrase “planned obsolescence?” Back in the late 1920’s GM introduced the idea of changing the look of vehicles every year to convince consumers that they need to purchase the newest version of that vehicle.

GM 1930s

Although critics panned the concept, GM went on to dominate the industry with this very practice. In all practicality, the new vehicles were the same as those from the previous year, but the new style compelled consumers to buy more GM vehicles. The impact of this market dynamic greatly affected many industries, and still does today—particularly in many ways within the technology industry with computers and mobile devices.

Computer technology improves at such a rapid speed that keeping up has always been a bit of concern. How does one keep up? This is even more of a concern when you toss relatively inexpensive mobile computing devices into the mix.

For example, the iPad is refreshed on a yearly cycle - a faster processor, more RAM, and updated software are always just a few short months away. This decision is designed to appeal to consumers' desire to have the best and latest new features.

My own thought process is usually something like this, “That new fingerprint scanner feature would be so cool, I need it!”  In enterprise, we need to be a bit more calculated in our mobile device purchase decisions. So what measures can we use to determine when an update is truly necessary, and when do we purchase new devices for our business needs?

Productivity, durability, and support are three key measures that need to be a part of the discussion. In reality, mobile devices don’t actually become completely obsolete. The issues they have often include limited support, slow response times, and breakage. My suggestion is to determine an update policy for your business and to look at these key measures to create your own update schedule:

 1. Productivity

Productivity can include measuring how long processes take on a device. Slower processors can inhibit the user from completing business tasks efficiently. The business needs to determine when the threshold is crossed that makes an older device slow enough that the expense of a new device will offset the wasted time. If your business processes are time critical then this may be the most important measure to analyze.

 2. Durability

Durability is a key concern for mobile devices. The Panasonic ToughPad line is designed to take considerable abuse, so it may last longer than an Android Nexus 6, particularly in harsh environments. A drop on pavement will shatter the screen of most un-hardened tablets, however the cost is significantly different. Some customers may be willing to risk the destruction of a number of cheaper devices simply because they cost difference is so high. Other customers have found that purchasing a hardened device is worth the cost when it comes to the time saved replacing broken devices.

If you're interested in learning more about durable mobile devices, check out these rugged mobile device providers:

3. Support

Support of devices may be a limiting factor for many business applications. For example, Mi-Forms supports Android version 4.1 and newer. If you have a phone using Android 2.3 (released in 2010) it does not fall under our list of supported devices. Replacement of old devices that are not supported by your vendors is recommended in cases like this. You may be able to upgrade the device to a new supported OS, but be wary that this process can slow down devices, creating a need to measure productivity gains or losses by doing so.


Taking all 3 of these measures into consideration, and determining what your business is comfortable with is an important part of determining the life cycle for your enterprise mobile solution. Your devices can have a long life cycle or short depending on your needs.

We have several of the original iPad 1 devices in our office, but because we can’t upgrade the OS to a supported version they are essentially paper weights. We were proactive, purchasing new hardware regularly, but don’t let your devices hold you back. Proper analysis and preparation can help you avoid many of the pitfalls of this quickly evolving mobile device industry.