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Four tips to avoid Android fragmentation problems

Android fragmentation can present problems when it comes to MDM, but careful policy implementation can mitigate those issues.

Android fragmentation presents problems for MDM, but they are not insurmountable.

The mobility era continues to be typified by a broad diversity of devices, operating systems, apps and cloud services that can be an absolute nightmare for IT organizations. IOS and Android today represent the majority of mobile OSes used in organizational networks, and both continue to evolve at a rapid pace. New releases can wreak havoc with existing apps and inevitably require regression testing as well as functional verification and updates to support procedures, training and related elements.

Android, specifically, is a prime culprit. Fragmentation of the user base through its open source operating system iterations and varying hardware has created problems for IT and app developers alike. Individual device vendors, seeking market differentiation, are continually free to add, modify or exclude functionality within a broad set of bounds, from the user interface to enhanced feature sets. Google also issues new releases frequently, resulting in a very broad range of OS iterations active in the marketplace at any given time.

When it comes to dealing with Android fragmentation, follow this advice:

Look to your EMM vendor for guidance. Verify which Android devices and versions your EMM vendor supports and disallow any that it does not.

Allow only devices that adhere to Google's Android Compatibility program. Google is making an effort to address the incompatibility issues that Android fragmentation can potentially enable. Device builders must make sure that their devices comply with the Android Compatibility Definition Document and can pass the Compatibility Test Suite. When researching which Android devices to allow in your organization, be sure that they have passed these steps beforehand. If unsure, use the Compatibility Test Suite.

Verify functionality of key apps. Android Compatibility provides some assurance of proper functionality and thus implied minimal risk to security, integrity and support costs. Manual verification of the functionality and compatibility of key apps is still essential, however. This applies to public and corporate apps alike.

Plan for obsolescence. Time and progress march on. It may at some point become necessary to disallow older devices, either because of future compatibility issues or simply the ongoing need to rein in the number of devices and OS versions supported. Your BYOD policy should address this issue, and providing device and/or service subsidies to employees who need to upgrade should help lessen the blow. Everyone loves getting a new device, don't they?

Keep in mind that the emerging machine-to-machine/Internet of Things era will increase the number and types of devices that will need to be supported on the organizational network and that many (if not most) of these will be based on versions of Android. It's a good idea, then, to begin planning for additional diversity. But the above recommendations will continue to apply.

Next Steps

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How do you deal with Android fragmentation?
We're not a shop where folks come in using BYOD Android devices, so I can't really speak to this.