The True Cost of Device Deployment

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Do laptop and tablet cases really save money down the line? And with the increase in 1:1 device deployment to students, what kinds of damage are schools and districts dealing with? We conducted a survey of educational tech decision-makers to answer those questions and more!


It won’t surprise many to learn that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated tech deployment in schools. Amongst our survey recipients, we found that rates for 1:1 tech deployment rose sharply from 2019, and the share of tech that went home with students rose to 74%. Fewer schools deployed at less than a 1:1 ratio, and fewer still continued to rely on the bring your own device’ model, falling sharply from 29% in 2019 to 10% in 2020.

Chromebooks saw a surge in popularity, advancing over tablets, which ruled in 2019. Overall, individual device costs fell by 13% from 2019. More expensive devices, like laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles, remain the least used models. Unsurprisingly, familiar brands like Dell, HP and Lenovo are the most common Chromebooks, and the Apple iPad remains a perennial favorite – though older models (5th and 6th generation) are currently more popular than the most recent entry in the line. These results square with the replacement cycle for 1:1 deployments – an average every 4 years.


As mentioned above, the average cost of devices has fallen over the past year. Only 35% of respondents said they were spending more per device than they were five years ago. Moreover, a majority of respondents are expecting to see those budgets grow – 59% think their tech budgets will increase over the next five years. This seems likely, especially as the three large COVID-19 aid packages from the US federal government have sizable chunks of funding earmarked for K-12 tech.

Adding accessories like cases certainly does raise the average cost of each device, but in the long term, those upfront costs can add up to big savings. According to survey results, average repair costs total $81. For comparison, Gumdrop cases range from $29 – $49. A great case pays for itself in one drop – not to mention all the drops over the course of a 4-year lifespan!


Kids don’t have a monopoly on damaging devices – but with crowded backpacks, cluttered lockers and a full day of classes, things happen. Notably, rates of damage dropped by nearly half when devices were fitted with a case.

While most adults can sympathize with the pain of a phone that “goes swimming” or a cup of coffee ruining a laptop, liquid damage ranks surprisingly low amongst damage to educational tech – only 13% of respondents reporting this type of damage. Screens take the brunt of the damage, at 72% of respondents, with keyboard damage representing 63% of respondents. Cosmetic scratches and damage are only reported by 44% of respondents.

So what do these results tell us? The most common types of breakage can really affect the quality of connection and education, as functioning screens and keyboards are pretty important to proper device usage! They’re also not cheap to fix, both in time and money. 58% of respondents said they handled fixes in-house, requiring valuable time and resources from the IT department.


If protection is so important, you might expect widespread case usage. However, only 46% of respondents said their schools provided cases. 10% relied on parents to purchase them, most of whom turned to Amazon to find the right match. 27% of schools enrolled in insurance programs, and most relied on that safeguard, as 74% then chose not to use cases. While insurance covers repairs, that downtime might mean students lose access to a device for a period of time. Of the respondents who reported not using cases, 71% gave cost as the reason.

However, as home deployment picked up in 2020, most (61%) said they put cases on every device they sent home. Always-on, molded plastic shells are most popular, with fabric bags and sleeves coming in second and third. 57% of Chromebooks were fitted with molded cases, as were an overwhelming majority of tablets (81%).

So what makes a district decide on a particular case? As with most educational programs, costs are important! Price, durability and protection level ranked as the top three factors decision-makers considered. Understandably, robust drop protection is a chief concern.


Nearly half of all respondents reported buying their cases directly from a vendor. Most learned about their current cases from internet research, trade shows or colleague referrals. Having a great vendor can simplify the deployment process in so many ways, from supplying custom molded cases for every brand and style of device used to reliably delivering on large orders.

85% of respondents said price was the number one factor that drove them to a vendor. Gumdrop’s line of cases fits all price points, ranging from budget-conscious (SlimTech) to rugged (DropTech). The right choice for every school, grade level and student population varies greatly. FoamTech might be perfect for elementary school, while charge-cart optimized SlimTech might be just right for in-class deployment. For especially active students or delicate tech, DropTech, while landing at the highest price point, could end up saving a district hundreds in repair costs.


The right vendor helps decision-makers find the right product for their students, avoiding a one-size-fits-all attitude. At Gumdrop, we guide decision-makers through this process, with a ready-to-ship inventory available for deployment.

While school budgets might balk at an added up-front cost, it’s important to keep in mind that device costs are dropping and tech budgets are increasing. Districts can expect to see an influx of funding from the COVID-19 relief bills, and smart investment now could pay off for years in the future.

It’s our goal to keep devices in students’ hands as long as possible, because frequent replacement is costly for both schools and the environment! An ounce of prevention can save days of frustration and lost lessons, as educational tech increasingly becomes an indispensable part of every classroom.

Contact our K-12 experts anytime for questions about Gumdrop rugged case protection.

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