Your company may already have a flexible mobile device program in place, such as BYOD or CYOD, but as OEMs launch new models and consumer/employee preferences change, it’s never a bad idea to investigate what mobile devices may be suitable or optimal for your organization’s needs.
For a long time, Apple’s mobile platform iOS has been ahead of the competition when it comes to enterprise mobility management, but Android has been catching up lately, especially with the release of Android Enterprise.
Mixed environments with Apple iOS and Android devices are also very common, but there are some advantages and drawbacks on both platforms when compared to each other.
As a best practice, it is highly recommended to first buy a handful of devices and test that they are suitable for the company’s business needs before purchasing a large number. What may work well on a single device may not work at scale with different device models. Even some well-known manufacturers are not meeting the announced specifications that they claim to support.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each platform.
As all iOS devices are manufactured by Apple, there is very little variation in how they support device management features. The supported features are mainly dependent on the device’s iOS version.
Even older Apple models are still supported by Apple and receive frequent iOS updates, which makes them suitable for business use. Therefore, the lifecycle of Apple devices is usually longer than that of Android devices in business environments.
From the device management point of view, iPhones and iPads can be treated identically.
A company can join Apple’s Device Enrollment Program (DEP) which enables very easy deployment of company-owned devices, and greatly enhances the control over these devices. Most importantly, the end-user can never remove the device from the remote management system once the device is DEP-enrolled and supervised.
In turn, this requires that the company must purchase all Apple devices from certain Apple authorized resellers. The downside of this is that employees cannot easily use their own iOS devices for work, because personally-owned devices can never be DEP-enrolled.
However, it is possible to activate the supervised mode for the personally-owned devices with Apple Configurator– which enables most of the remote management features, but this requires wiping the device first, and even after that, users can always remove a supervised device from the management system if they desire.
One additional requirement for the use of Apple Configurator with iOS devices is that it requires a Mac computer and a cable.
The Apple ecosystem is not as open as that of Android, which may prove challenging when integrating with other systems.
Android Enterprise offers basically the same benefits for device management than Apple’s DEP. However, some may find the management of personally-owned devices to be a bit easier with Android. As such, Android is very strong in BYOD environments.
The management of the dual-use of the device (private and work) is clear to users with devices on the Android platform. Users can easily see what applications and data are included in the secure container for work use, and what data or applications are available for personal use outside of the work container. This helps to separate work applications and data from private use.
On Android 7.0 (or newer) devices, it is even possible to lock the entire work container with a password. This is a handy feature, for example, if the user’s children use the same device for gaming, because they can’t access the password-protected work apps even accidentally. On the iOS platform, it’s not possible to see which applications have been installed manually or through the company’s management profile, which means that users can’t see what would be lost if the management profile would be removed from the device. Also, it’s not possible to lock some specific apps with a password on the iOS platform.
Android devices are manufactured by many OEMs and some lesser-known manufacturers could be risky, because the devices may even have the same IMEI codes or other severe deficiencies. The safest choices are Android devices manufactured by Google or other well-known OEMs.
Other than the flagship models from these manufacturers, some models may have a considerably shorter lifecycle, i.e., limited support for Android updates.
When choosing an Android device for your business, the Android version should be at least version 6, and no older. This is because older Android models do not support many of the newer device management features.
The Windows Phone platform is not a recommended choice for business use because the future of the platform is uncertain, as shown in the figure below on worldwide smartphone OS market share.
In conclusion, the selection between Android and iOS can be a tough decision. Some of the factors can include, but are not limited to:
- The ability to perform security and platform updates
- The need to separate the user’s personal and work apps
- An environment of BYOD, CYOD, or company-owned devices
However, it can still come down to a matter of opinion. Luckily, it’s also possible to combine the best of both worlds and use these devices side by side for different purposes.