The saying goes: ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. If this is true, schools are very, very fond of the iPad right now, as a shortage of these devices is causing both administrators and parents to yearn for the days when orders could be filled in a couple weeks.
By the look of it, that fondness will continue to grow into 2021, because the issues that caused the iPad supply to dry up this year don’t appear to be going away any time soon.
The main culprit driving the lust for iPad is the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a supply chain issue due to the shutdown of the global economy and worldwide lockdowns quickly morphed into supply and demand challenges. Apple simply couldn’t keep up with the demand from schools needing iPads to facilitate distance learning or from businesses needing them for remote work.
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for virtually all PCs and tablets, as schools and businesses increased buying to handle remote learning and working. Global shipments in the traditional PC market grew 14.6% year on year, according to market intelligence firm IDC, while Apple’s global iPad revenue rose by a whopping 46% in fiscal year 2020.
In July, Apple’s Tim Cook said that iPad sales grew in spite of supply constraints, underscoring “how integral they have become to working and learning from home.”
Now we’re in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19, which is forcing many states and countries to extend remote learning and working. While the supply chain challenges are starting to dissipate, it’s clear that the backlog will not right itself just yet.
With this knowledge, there are several things schools can do to make the most of the situation and gain back control over their digital learning fleets:
- Plan now for the 2021/22 school year. Most schools start considering their technology needs for the next school year in the spring. These requirements can range from the need for additional devices to a complete refresh of a current fleet. Regardless of how big or small your planned technology purchase is, it’s important to start planning early. If your school normally plans and budgets for technology in the spring, that planning should be happening by January.
- Order immediately. Once you know your technology needs, place your order to ensure you have devices when you need them. Schools that were accustomed to receiving devices within a couple weeks, found themselves on a waitlist that lasted up to 10 weeks in 2020. With that timeline, many decided simply to put refresh plans on hold. Keep in mind that most of the schools that delayed refreshing in 2020 will be clamouring for new devices in 2021. This will further constrict the market.
- Lock in your trade-in. If you are trading in an old iPad fleet, lock in your trade-in now. The supply issues impacting the market for new Apple devices has created high demand for used devices on the secondary market. This means that buyback companies are paying top dollar for used iPads. In fact, many buyback companies are paying a 25% premium for iPads today versus a year ago, despite devices ageing a year. This extra money can be put toward the purchase of new equipment. A good buyback company will work with you to ensure a smooth transition to your new fleet with little-to-no downtime.
- Resist the temptation to go hybrid. The tight supply chain for iPads just when one-to-one devices were needed for distance learning made IT directors desperate. Some decided to buy any device so students wouldn’t go without. Now, IT directors are learning that hybrid technology environments are not sustainable. Managing more devices is difficult enough without a corresponding increase in staff. Adding multiple devices and platforms can quickly become a nightmare.
- Consider a mid-year refresh. There are natural lulls in iPad demand because most schools want to refresh devices during the summer when students and teachers don’t need them. Refreshing mid-year — during fall, winter or spring breaks — can give schools an advantage. Not only are devices easier to procure during these times, buyback companies often pay a premium. Used devices are plentiful during the summer months, but supply dwindles between October and March, so buyback companies are willing to pay more for devices. With a good mobile device management partner (MDM), most device refreshes can be done in under two weeks. Districts with staggered in-person school schedules may also be able to do seamless refreshes during non-break times.
While the iPad supply crunch is improving, it appears that things will not be back to ‘normal’ until 2022. We aren’t likely to see 10-week waits for iPad orders in 2021, but six-week lags should be expected. With this knowledge and a little advance planning, schools should be able to refresh devices and take advantage of very favourable pricing for sellbacks.
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