Why Samsung SAFE features aren't unique

What does Samsung SAFE offer that's different from other device companies and MDM offerings? Maybe not that much.

The goal of Samsung's SAFE program is to provide better security and protection of data on Samsung devices. You might be able to glean some benefits for your corporate environment, but many Samsung SAFE features aren't actually that unique.

Four pillars of Samsung SAFE

Samsung SAFE is a nice marketing message, but it doesn't really go beyond that.

Samsung claims that SAFE is based on four pillars that make it different from other enterprise management and security offerings. The first is corporate email, calendar and contacts. SAFE devices provide an interface through enhanced Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync features, sync functions and policy control. Next there is on-device encryption. AES 256-bit encryption is used to prevent unauthorized access to data on the device itself as well as any microSD storage card that might be used on it.

The third pillar is VPN. Samsung works with leading VPN providers for secure connections via Wi-Fi and cellular network connections. The fourth pillar is mobile device management (MDM), where Samsung works with third-party providers to offer deployment solutions and policies.

Most of the high-end Samsung devices offer SAFE features, which make them safe to use at work. These include Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, and the three latest versions of Samsung Note.

So, does SAFE stand out?

On first sight, Samsung SAFE sounds like a good program for corporate users. But how unique are the features of SAFE, really?

Take a random other smartphone, like the Huawei Y300, for example. Like a Samsung SAFE phone, that device offers options to protect access with a password, pin code or all the other default restrictions offered in any recent version of Android. To that end, I'm not sure what's really offered by Samsung SAFE features that's so different from that phone or many others.

What about the second pillar, corporate email, calendar and contacts? That's provided by support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. I'm not sure what's so unique about that; an app to access the corporate Exchange server is available to anyone from the Google Play store. Samsung does add some features, though, like an out-of-office assistant, partial download and task sync. Apart from that, it's good to know that Samsung can synchronize with Exchange, but what about all those companies that don't use Exchange for corporate email, calendar and contact?

More on Samsung SAFE

Guide to Samsung devices and services

How SAFE helps Samsung in the enterprise

Will SAFE and KNOX make Samsung as secure as BlackBerry?

And what about the third pillar? How unique is Samsung SAFE in offering VPN? VPN is a very common offering on many devices around the world to connect to the corporate network in a secure way. Many VPN clients are available in the Google Play store, so again, I don't know what's so unique about that.

The fourth pillar, maybe? SAFE MDM just means that the administrator doesn't have to install any additional product on the device to connect to most major MDM tools; it works out of the box. That is kind of nice, but if the only benefit of Samsung SAFE is that it takes away some work for the administrator, it's a bit disappointing.

Samsung SAFE is a nice marketing message, but it doesn't really go beyond that. It basically makes a "product" out of features and offerings that are available for free on other devices. The benefit of those un-Samsung SAFE features is that they aren't advertised for the top model smartphones only; they also work on more affordable devices. So, it's better to think twice before adopting the Samsung SAFE program for your company.

This was last published in April 2014

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Actually the number of APIs implemented by MDMs that are available with Samsung's SAFE compared to other Android devices more than make it worth looking at. It gives an increased granularity in the devices management. This results in companies being more willing to integrate a Samsung SAFE device vs other Android devices.
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I'll respectfully disagree as well. Don't confuse what MDM can do with the capabilities offered by the device itself. SAFE differs from third-party MDM offerings by enhancing the management and security capabilities provided at the OS/firmware level.

Third party MDM agents are (in general) limited to using standard Android OS Admin, VPN, and other published APIs. Some third-party MDM agents do make use of SAFE APIs - and proprietary enterprise management APIs offered by other OEMs such as Motorola.

Samsung SAFE adds device-level encryption (including SD card encryption) simply not supported by many other Android-based devices. It extends ActiveSync APIs to enable more manageable email, contacts, and calendars, and provides more IT control over Android VPN clients. Sure, other Android devices have PINs and remote wipe, have email and VPN clients, etc. What SAFE does is build on top of that - providing the ability for IT to remotely configure and enforce broader and deeper security policies, using SAFE APIs and SAFE-aware third-party MDMs.
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For me it's a bit of both: SAFE is not the solution as Samsung tries to sell it. But it's also far from being redundant as it combines a set of features into a standard and puts it as a sticker on any model that confirms to it and that's a useful step of making mobile solutions work more reliably over a set of devices. And of course it would have been even more useful if it was defined across all manufacturers. And wouldn't that have been the perfect task for the platform provider, for Google? But what can you expect from a platform built on the advertrash business model?
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