Cracked, Scratched and Even Dunked: Why BYODD (Bring Your Own Damaged Device) is Now the Norm

Spend Matters welcomes this guest post by David C. Wyld of Southeastern Louisiana University.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is certainly one of the megatrends of IT today. The stats on the degree to which most of us are merging the personal and work use of all of our smart gizmos - our smartphones, our tablets and our laptops are truly amazing. Gartner has recently forecast that by 2017, half of all employers will no longer provide mobile devices to their employees, but rely instead on BYOD.

Where is all this leading? There are vast numbers of white papers and reports out there forecasting the “how far, how fast” on the trend and outlining both the implications and the unintended consequences of BYOD. Much of this research is, of course, being written today on the security concerns of all these personally-owned devices and the perils of company data being shared with and stored on them. There has also been a good deal of insights offered into the positive effects of BYOD, as early research has shown that simply being able to use your own smartphone or tablet improves both employee productivity and even morale. And yes, there has been a number of analyses set forth on the cost savings for organizations as more and more devices are being used, but less of them have to be bought, managed and tracked by employers and employees “bring their own tech” to the workplace.

One subject, however, has not been talked about, and the odds are basically 50/50 that the smartphone in your pocket or purse is affected by this subject. This is the fact that a recently published report shows that almost half of us are presently using a damaged smartphone, and a quarter of us are using a scratched, dented or otherwise damaged tablet. And so, as more of us are bringing our own smartphones and laptops to work - and as “work” extends into many places beyond the office - how does the fact that so many of us are using the BYODD (Bring Your Own Damaged Device) impact the effectiveness of BYOD?

The numbers on damaged devices are indeed startling. Recently, the 2014 ZAGG Device Damage Study was published (and yes, the name ZAGG is significant in that they are the same company that you will recognize from the displays of their screen protectors, cases and other mobile device accessories from your favorite electronics retailer). However, while the motivation for the firm to produce the report is quite obvious (“you need to buy screen protectors for all of your mobile devices, today!”), the methods of the study were sound and the results are quite interesting. The company conducted an online survey of 768 Americans who currently use a smartphone, tablet or both. What the company found was that 48% of us with a smartphone were carrying a phone that was presently damaged (and 70% of us have damaged our smartphone at some point, highlighting just how common cracked screens and dented bodies are for these devices). Likewise, over a quarter of tablet users were using a damaged device.

The ZAGG survey showed that the most widely held fear in using both smartphones and tablets is that the device will be lost or stolen. However, the research showed that damage to these devices takes more of a toll financially and is far more common than actually losing (either through accident or theft) either category of these mobile devices. And a damaged device can be quite costly (as any of us with teenagers can tell you)! In fact, the average cost to repair a smartphone ($143) or tablet ($118) is a major factor why users most often choose to use their damaged device in its less than optimal present state rather than having it fixed.

The research report detailed the common ways we damage our mobile devices - often in quite embarrassing ways. The survey respondents answered survey questions on the general causes of the scratched screens and bodies of their phones, along with broken power and other buttons. They were also given the opportunity to provide their own anecdotes as to how the damage happened to their device. When it comes to phones, the most common causes of damage were:

Source Data: Zagg Device Damage Study 2014

Of course, the anecdotes provided by a number of the 434 survey respondents about precisely how they damaged their smartphones (at least those who could remember how their phone got scratched, dented or dunked). Some of the “true confessions” of unlucky smartphone users included nuggets such as: “I was grocery shopping and my phone fell out of my coat pocket as I was reaching for milk,” and “Tried to talk on the phone while getting out of the tub and dropped it in some water.” This analyst’s personal favorite, however, was the smartphone user who said, “I was taking a shower and my young son threw it in the shower.”

Likewise, the reporting on how tablet users had their mobile device damaged was just as interesting. Tablets were most often damaged from being dropped. In fact, almost a third of all damage occurred when the tablet hit the floor, driveway, pavement, etc. It is interesting that 16% attributed the tablet being “damaged by kids,” as happened in one instance, in which a survey respondent reported, “My toddler was playing with it and she cracked the screen as she was trying to get up.”

A final noteworthy stat is that there is a subgroup of smartphone and tablet users who appear to be especially accident-prone (and yes, this could include someone you know very well). While the researchers asked the typical “Have you ever experienced…?” questions about damage to mobile devices, the survey also asked respondents about the frequency with which they had scratches, dents, drops and spills with their phones. Roughly 10-20% of all smartphone and tablet users hopefully took out the insurance on their devices, as these folks appeared to be “serial droppers” and “multiple dunkers.” This is because they reported having the same type of damage three or more times to their phone or tablet.

So, what are we to make of all of this? The sad truth of the matter is that we are indeed likely to damage our mobile devices, and we will increasingly be carrying - and using - these devices to work, for work. While the ZAGG survey did not focus on personal vs. work usage of these damaged mobile devices, with the fast-growing trend toward using personal, rather than corporate-issued smartphones and tablets, clearly there are implications of the BYODD for organizations and for employees carrying the devices.

While c-suite executives may indeed relish decreasing their expenditures for providing company-issued devices, there are unseen costs - perhaps even outweighing the savings of BYOD - when employees carry and use a damaged device. Let’s say you have an employee in the field who routinely makes sales or training presentations one-on-one using his or her laptop. How is that employee’s effectiveness - and the credibility of your company’s materials, compromised - by the presentation being delivered on a tablet that has one or more significant cracks running through the screen and/or has visible dents on its body?

Further, if an employee is using a smartphone or tablet that has significant enough damage so that it operates, but has to be “cajoled” shall we say into doing so with some workarounds he or she may have found on the Web, how does the fact that the device is not operating at an optimal - or really even satisfactory level - impact his or her productivity in the job and/or ability to stay connected with coworkers and clients? How does the damage to an employee’s phone or tablet that makes the device’s battery hard to charge or unable to properly hold a charge impact his/her ability to use the tool for long stretches of time away from home or office? These are just a few on the unseen costs of BYOD when more employees are certainly employing a personal BYODD strategy.

This is not to be a damper on the BYOD strategy, as this analyst firmly believes that the trend will indeed only accelerate over the next few years, perhaps even faster than Gartner and others have predicted. However, companies should take a proactive approach to BYOD in regards to employee’s damaged devices. While not advocating a middle-school-like “smartphone inspection” each week to check for physical damage (let alone porn!), I do think that managers need to be aware of the condition of the gizmos that their employees are carrying not just to do their jobs, but to connect with and represent the company. This may be news to the ears of companies like ZAGG who make protective cases, screen protectors, etc., for smartphones and tablets, but even if the company does not own the device that a worker uses in a BYOD environment, perhaps the firm or even government agency should provide some assistance to the employee in paying for such safeguards. After all, the lost productivity, connectivity and credibility to the firm by having their representatives in the field “BYODD-ing” it could well cost-justify such a reimbursement - or at least cost-sharing program with workers - for many organizations. In light of the overall cost savings and other positives that BYOD brings for companies, such a move may be something to strongly consider today. And yes, your employees will thank you - and be able to send an email typed on a non-cracked screen to do so.

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