Should your business use iPads with MDM software, or are there more affordable (and more scalable) options available? In answer to the second question: Yes! Lower cost alternatives to iPad and MDM exist.

Tablets for business running the Android operating system are frequently much less expensive than iPad, and there are great Android devices available for business right now, and plenty of reasons to avoid Apple’s ubiquitous iPad.

We’ll use the Lenovo K10, an Android tablet designed specifically for the needs of businesses, as our benchmark against the standard Apple iPad on sale in 2022.

How much does iPad with MDM really cost?

The iPad can be a versatile point of sale system in a small, independent business operating out of a single location. A single $330 iPad isn’t your only cost, though. You’ll need a mounting stand, payment device (card reader), printer, and possibly a new barcode scanner and cash drawer, too. Many vendors are available to support these equipment needs.

As you scale, per unit cost of the iPad will become a problem. Apple offers no real discounting, and its products are designed for consumers, including features that are unnecessary for a point of sale use case (like a rear camera, high-end speakers, a super premium stylus-ready display, or ultra fast USB connectivity).

By choosing Apple hardware, you are choosing to use a consumer device in a dedicated business application. While far more than capable of fulfilling the requirements of a dedicated point of sale system, the iPad is certainly not designed or cost-architected with this use case in mind. It’s a bit like using an impact wrench to put together Ikea furniture: Expensive and plainly overbuilt for the application.

By choosing a dedicated commercial device with Android — whether a mounted tablet, a mobile handheld (mPoS), or an all-in-one point of sale system (AIO PoS) — you’re able to choose from a wide variety of point of sale solutions running on a variety of platforms.

One such platform is Esper. We can provide an end to end way to provision, manage, and update your point of sale systems remotely. Unlike Apple’s iPad, which runs iOS, Esper’s platform is compatible with Android, an OS used by billions of people worldwide. Managing your point of sale, display signage, and kiosks can be accomplished through a single pane of glass, using the hardware and software vendors you choose.

With Esper, you can choose a tablet like the Lenovo K10, which has a per unit cost around $100 lower than a basic iPad, but retains key features like a 10” HD display, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, dual Dolby Audio speakers, and a premium aluminum body design.

Questions to ask your MDM guide

Which iPad is best for MDM?

Speaking of choice, Apple’s limited hardware portfolio does not offer a significant variety of form factors, sizes, and packaging options. For iOS, you have your choice of iPads (and iPhones) in a number of dimensions, though those sizes don’t scale to cost.

Apple’s iPad Mini, a smaller 8″ tablet device, costs $500 — because it contains more advanced technologies and components that consumers demand. The larger 10″ iPad, as mentioned above, retails for $330. In a point of sale application, the capabilities of both are largely similar, and they will perform nearly identically. Yet, the smaller device costs over 50% more! In a business use case requiring a point of sale with a small footprint, a customer could end up purchasing a far more expensive device than necessary simply to meet dimensional requirements.

Similarly, if you want to “go big,” your options with iOS hardware are limited. If you need a 24” tablet, Apple doesn’t make one! External displays can be connected, but this adds yet another cost and potential point of failure (and does not replicate the experience of a native device — remote touch is complicated on iOS and typically requires jailbreaking the device to interface as the controller).

With Android, the only limit to screen size is your imagination. While the Lenovo K10 makes a great affordable alternative to the iPad, you may want something smaller (or larger)! Lenovo and other Esper partners can help you decide on the right size for your purpose, and ensure that you aren’t paying for hardware and features you don’t need.

Do I need MDM to use my iPad for business?

Like Android, Apple supports a large ecosystem of Mobile Device Management (MDM) providers offering profiles and device management services, including companies like Jamf.

MDM providers are typically designed to support “general purpose” use cases for end devices, in which the end user retains most control over the apps and settings managed on the device. However, MDM tools can be used to “lock down” devices for specific uses and secured to avoid tampering, and deploy these policies widely.

Unfortunately, MDMs start to fall apart when you need to distribute multiple policies, update content or applications on end devices, or change configurations of devices in bulk in a reliable, repeatable way.

While MDM solutions for the iPad may meet your use case needs, they may be far from the best fit for your business. The Android ecosystem offers far more device options at far more price points, and managing those devices is largely similar across manufacturers and device types.

The Lenovo K10 is cost effective, powerful, and versatile.

If you were to use the Lenovo K10, the full power of Esper management is at your fingertips. Everything from setting a custom branded bootup animation to tightly defining your provisioning template and managed app configurations to ensure a seamless and highly scalable enrollment process. You can even ditch expensive and time-consuming kitting with Esper using our industry-exclusive seamless provisioning

iPad MDM severely limits your business

If your end goal is simply to keep an app locked to a device’s screen all day, the iPad may provide enough configurability and customization for you (and it may also be overkill – remember, it’s a product packed with features designed for consumers). But if you want to provide a fully branded, end-to-end managed customer (or employee) experience on your devices, you need to go deeper.

Updating content and applications on devices is increasingly critical as a business need, and MDM solutions aren’t designed to provide a sophisticated level of control over these processes. Sure, you can update a private or enterprise application on your Apple MDM and deploy that update, but there’s almost no control provided over when that update arrives, let alone infrastructure to build processes around update deployment.

This is where Apple’s ecosystem allure truly does let businesses down: If you plan on deploying and supporting a sophisticated fleet of mixed hardware types, firmware distributions, and app versions, you need the flexibility only Android (or AOSP) can provide.

iPad business got you down? Talk to Esper

If the iPad is starting to feel like it involves making too many sacrifices, you’re in luck: That’s why Esper exists. Our platform allows us to provide remote deployment, management, support, and updates for truly massive device fleets — in the hundreds of thousands!

We don’t support iPads, but we do work with hundreds of devices in dozens of unique form factors. If you’re ready to exit Apple’s walled garden, come try Esper — no upfront cost or commitment.