What To Do With Your Unused Corporate Mobile Devices
Updated: Jul 29
Whether you’re upgrading your mobile fleet to newer models, reducing the amount of users, or investing in the newest mobile technology, you’ll need to consider what to do with your older devices that no longer serve a purpose. Let’s face it, whether your company has 5 employees or 5,000, everyone has a box of old, used phones laying around. And even though you’ve already paid for them, there are other costs – and pitfalls – of holding on to those devices. In this article, we provide some insight on the risks of leaving old mobile devices in storage, and what you can do with that box of used phones instead.
Risks of Leaving Phones in Storage
A box of old, unused phones might sound harmless, but it could cause problems for your organization if the devices are not handled properly. Here’s why you shouldn’t just toss your old mobile devices into storage when they’re no longer being used:
While your old phones are probably powered off, any devices that are left on and connected to your network or logged into corporate accounts could pose a severe security risk. For example, if the device was previously compromised with malware, it could be an open vulnerability if left on.
But even if you’re sure that all of your used phones are off – or better yet, wiped – there’s another security concern to address. If something were to happen to your property, your devices could be stolen and accessed easily, especially if they weren’t wiped before storage.
Like most assets, the value of mobile devices depreciates over time, especially as newer models are released. But most mobile devices are only used for a couple years, so there’s usually plenty of value left in them when they’re sent off to storage. Plus, there are plenty of programs, websites, and marketplaces that allow you to sell old hardware, and there is no shortage of buyers.
Keeping an old box of phones in your desk, closet, or storage area leaves money on the table. And while they might not be worth much to larger companies, the revenue generated from the sale of 10+ unused mobile devices could come in handy for younger startups or smaller companies.
After enough time sitting buried in a closet, you’ll eventually need to deal with that growing box of old phones. But as tempting as it may be, throwing them away isn’t a good call, even if they’re broken and unusable. Mobile devices have components (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) that are unsafe to dispose of, and others that simply aren’t biodegradable. Plus, you’d be throwing away plenty of parts that manufacturers could reuse instead of producing new ones.
If you’re like most companies, that box of phones isn’t sitting in a secure area, it’s tucked away out of sight and out of mind. But that can pose an additional problem in itself, as devices that are exposed to extreme temperatures or moisture can be safety hazards. Too hot and parts (like batteries) can explode, too wet and the devices could short circuit and turn off for good.
Unnecessarily Purchasing New Devices
The average lifespan of an enterprise smartphone is currently 2.55 years, which is projected to decline to 2.44 years by 2024. If that sounds too short, it’s because it is. We know of many enterprises that still use 5-year-old phones in their fleet, and for good reason: many devices still function perfectly and receive support many years after newer models are released, so there’s no shame in using older models.
If your employees don’t need the best camera or the latest in 5G technology, you don’t always need to upgrade to the newest model each year. Instead, consider keeping your devices a bit longer. You’ll decrease your hardware expenditures and have fewer old phones to add to the pile.
Overspending on Billing
Even devices that are off can still cost you while they’re in storage. You can reset them and wipe them all you want, but if you don’t reach out to your service provider or MSP to have the devices removed from your carrier plan (and MDM licenses, if applicable), you’ll continue to overspend on your monthly billing. The cost of a single phone plan might not seem significant, but it adds up. We’ve had clients rack up 4-figure monthly bills just from inactive phones, so it’s important to stay on top of your billing.
What To Do With Them
Regardless of where you’re keeping that box or what its future holds (let’s be real, it’s probably not going anywhere), it’s essential that all devices are wiped completely of all data. But if you’re feeling especially proactive, here are a few things you can do with your unused mobile devices:
If your budget allows for frequent upgrades or your corporate policy has a short device lifecycle, consider offering up existing devices in exchange for a discount. Many providers offer exchange and upgrade programs that will give you credit toward newer devices, so you can be out with the old and in with the new.
Older devices are still functional long after their “expected” life span, and there are plenty of people and organizations that don’t have access to devices. Consider donating your older devices to a charity, another business, your local community, or a company that specializes in making technology available to those with limited access. As an added bonus, charitable contributions are tax deductible.
Keep as a Backup/Recommission
Today’s mobile devices are rugged and can easily handle a fall or two, especially if they’re in a case. But sometimes devices get dropped at the wrong angle or fall into liquid and stop working, leaving employees disconnected and unprepared. While your main goal will be to replace their device and get them back on track, you can use older devices in the meantime. It never hurts to keep a handful of backup devices in storage, just in case. You’ll be prepared in case a new employee needs a device on short notice or an existing employee’s device is lost, stolen, or damaged.
Alternatively, you can recommission unused devices as part of your company mobile policy to avoid purchasing new devices. The right managed service provider can help you breathe new life into old phones with device lifecycle management.
Let’s face it, you’ll most likely end up keeping that box of phones, so the least you can do is decommission them. Ensure they are wiped, cleared of all corporate credentials, and removed from your enterprise mobility billing. Doing this will ensure that your devices are secure, and that you aren’t overspending on devices that your company isn’t using. If you have any devices that are too damaged to factory reset, we recommend decommissioning them with force — destroying them to protect company data.
Once you’ve decommissioned your devices, you can recycle them — no, not in your recycling bin. There are multiple mobile device recycling services and even local government programs to recycle used or old mobile devices, so there’s no excuse to throw them out.
While it might not seem worth the effort, used mobile devices can sell for cash, even if they’re broken or activation locked. So if you’re planning on throwing your old devices into storage, you’re essentially throwing away money. There are many websites and marketplaces that will purchase your old devices, giving you a small additional stream of revenue. Some manufacturers and service providers even offer preowned device buyback programs, so there’s no excuse not to.
Every company has a box of old phones in their office, but it’s up to you what to do with yours. Instead of letting it collect dust (like most companies do) connect with an all-in-one managed service provider that offers device lifecycle management. The right provider can help you procure, deploy, manage, and retire your mobile devices so that you can focus on your business.