How can IT determine the optimal smartphone lifespan?
By Jack E. Gold
Smartphone lifespans are increasing, but organizations should know the right time to retire their employees' devices.
It's important for organizations to stay current on what's new in mobile malware and to develop security policies to combat these vulnerabilities.
In the past, organizations typically replaced mobile devices every 12-18 months. But now, less device differentiation and higher purchase prices can extend the replacement time frame to 24-36 months. Some organizations even implement don't-replace-until-broken strategies. Organizations should have a plan in place when it comes to determining smartphone lifespan.
Why it's important to retire older devices
Organizations must weigh their own needs, but in most cases, I recommend no more than an 18-24 month smartphone lifespan. Smartphones may still operate after that time frame, but they can experience significant performance degradation. By the time the average smartphone is two years old, its battery capacity is only 35-50% of its original capacity.
Older mobile devices typically operate less efficiently -- around 15% to 20% slower -- when running apps. While a 15-20% degradation doesn't sound like much, it's enough of a hassle for many end users to notice. For power users, this 15-20% can mean a significant reduction in overall productivity and a direct cost to the company.
Many older mobile devices don't have the latest security features necessary to protect an end user's security and privacy. An OS upgrade could help with this, but there are also hardware-based security enhancements in newer devices that are not included in older ones.
For the smartphones that physically break and need repair, it's often a relatively small difference between the cost of repair and the cost of a new device, which also comes with a warranty -- particularly for end users that rely on these devices to get work done.
One size doesn't always fit all, but organizations should favor user performance, productivity and security over a longer smartphone lifespan. In the long term, organizations might pay more to keep an older device in service than to buy a new one.