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Android enterprise features improve, but could still do more

Although Google keeps making Android enterprise features better, fragmentation still causes IT headaches.

Android has matured for the enterprise audience, but it still lacks some important features and capabilities.

Overall, it is really hard to knock Google for the direction they have been taking recently regarding Android enterprise features. The company has done a great job matching the competition and even surpassing it with many of its APIs and corporate app store tools. 

What Google needs to do more than anything is work with the telecom companies to accelerate the adoption of new versions of the Android operating system (OS). AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile and other carriers take too long evaluating what devices will receive updates and excessively testing them. They also do a poor job of communicating about the upgrade process.

It takes way too long for Android updates to reach most users' phones -- if they make it at all. In May, the number of users that had adopted Android 5.0 Lollipop was less than 10%, and that was six months after the OS came out.

This issue is important because only those users who have an upgraded OS can take advantage of new Android enterprise features. And if the features are drastically different than in previous versions, IT can't manage all of its Android devices in the same way.

For example, Android 6.0 Marshmallow has the ability to offer granular permissions, and Lollipop does not. In Lollipop, when an app is installed, it requests all the permissions it might ever need. In Marshmallow, when an app needs permission for a specific task -- such as accessing the photo library or the device microphone -- it asks for it on demand. This is a huge improvement, but not all devices can take advantage of it.

Other Android enterprise issues remain 

Android's virtual private network (VPN) capabilities could also use some improvement. Many work tasks that require access to corporate systems require a VPN. VPN has always worked fairly well on Apple iOS devices, which encrypt all data by default. Android, on the other hand, leaves encryption options up to the user. And sometimes, the way that Android encrypts data tends to slow the device down, which can be a major hindrance to the user experience.

User choice is a reason that many people prefer Android, but it also creates more IT support headaches when users cannot access certain features or get them working correctly.

Next Steps

What are the best native Android app dev tools?

Google's IoT operating system will connect to Android devices

Android fragmentation curbs enterprise adoption

This was last published in October 2015

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