How To Save Money Buying Mobile Devices

While prices continue to drop thanks to Moore's Law, investing in mobile devices -- whether that's for laptop PCs, tablets or phones -- still represents a major capital outlay. Follow these guidelines to cut down on needless expenses.

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This is an extract from Lifehacker's ebook Making Mobility Real: How To Choose The Right Tech For Your Business. You can download the entire ebook for free here.

Buy six months after release. Buying devices as soon as they are released means you'll generally be paying top dollar. Conversely, if you wait too long before making a purchase, then the equipment will seem dated to your employers. This is especially the case with phone designs over 24 months old -- the chances are good that during the time you own them, the manufacturer will stop offering official updates, which can wreak havoc with patching and app compatibility.

>Six months after release is a good rule of thumb to follow across all mobile categories: laptops, tablets and desktops. With a typical three-year ownership span, those devices should still be delivering at the end of their life, but you should be able to negotiate a better deal than if you had purchased at launch.

Calculate total cost of ownership. The golden rule of total cost of ownership (TCO) applies to mobile equipment just as much as in any other area. While the purchase price may represent the biggest single investment, maintenance requirements, both direct (software licensing over the life of the device) and indirect (the costs of IT support needed to manage it) need to be factored into your decision. Those final cost calculations may lead you in a different direction than a simple top-line hardware price comparison. If a dirt cheap device can't be easily managed using your preferred management platform and doesn't come from a vendor that can provide high-speed service and replacements when needed, it will rarely work out as the cheapest option overall.

Investigate financing options. Buying outright doesn't always represent the best way to make a purchase, especially when it comes to mobile devices. Financing over the lifespan of the device gives you a single monthly cost that will cover ownership and maintenance, may also include calling and data allowances in the case of mobile phones, and can also be potentially combined with software licences. Taking this opex approach can make it easier to financially justify more extensive mobility solutions, so examine your options carefully.

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