Android Lollipop is here, and what a release it is. As we touched on in our post from Google I/O, Lollipop represents one of the biggest overhauls to Android in recent years.
Google has introduced a whole new cross-platform UI named Material Design, new security features, greater integration with Chrome, better Bluetooth Low Energy support and a number of enterprise features.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on the enterprise features coming to Android Lollipop and argue why companies who are deploying Android, may want to get employees on Lollipop as soon as they can.
Samsung has done a brilliant job over the past few years to grow the Android user base. As a result of the wide breadth of Samsung’s market penetration, it understood the need to provide enterprise grade security to Android. To do this, Android created KNOX. KNOX is a highly secure platform and layer, helping to address many of the security concerns organisations had with Android.
With Android Lollipop, Samsung and Google have worked together to bring many of the features of KNOX into the core of Android. This includes the KNOX containerisation, which prevents data from being accessed by other apps, thus being far more secure than older versions of Android.
Android Work delivers containerisation through a new set of security APIs, making it possible for developers to bake security into the core of apps. Additionally, there is a new single framework for IT staff to manage business and personal devices that connect to corporate systems.
Much of the work done on improving Android for enterprise, focuses on a single user experience that intelligently separates personal and work data within apps. This means the user can continue to use the same app without having to jump from a work profile to a personal one.
Though many features from KNOX have come to Lollipop, Samsung has retained many other features exclusively for its range of devices. Regardless, the features that now feature in Lollipop means it is the obvious choice for any business right now.
Enterprise Mobility Management
Google has introduced new APIs making it easier for EMM providers to integrate Android Work into their services. It is clear that Google is aware companies will choose a platform based on how easy it is to manage. This helps to address how to manage a fleet of Android devices and answer questions IT departments may have.
App deployment With iOS 7, Apple introduced the ability for companies to bulk buy and manage app deployments. Not to be outdone, Google has introduced a new feature where IT admins can specify which apps can be available for users through their work profile. This means that companies will be able to bulk buy apps, at a discount, via one transaction.
Again, this is a play for the enterprise market, which is an area of intense focus for mobile OS providers. Any way of making it easier for businesses to deploy apps to users, reduces the strain put on companies managing mobility.
Encryption by Default
Android Lollipop is the most secure version of Android. With Lollipop, encryption is enabled as default, thanks to the Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) feature that lowers the risk of vulnerabilities in all applications. This was first introduced with Android 4.4 Kitkat, available as an option if users wanted to enable it. With Lollipop, this feature is now mandatory for all applications.
Data on the device is now locked by encryption, unless the owner’s PIN code is used. The key is secured on the device, rather than remotely, helping to prevent the chance it could be intercepted. The flip side of this is that if a user forgets their pin, they may have to say goodbye to all their data. From an enterprise perspective, IT will be able to manage these access codes centrally.
Both Apple and Google have focused on extolling the security virtues of their 2014 operating systems. This is largely due to the vast amount of personal and corporate data that might be stored or accessible via mobile devices. Making these devices secure is of utmost importance in providing reassurance that data is protected.
In the U.S. smartphone thefts nearly doubled from 2012 to 2013, totaling around 3.1 million thefts over this time period. When Apple introduced its kill switch with iOS 7, thefts of Apple products dropped by 29%. At the same time, thefts of Samsung smartphones climbed by more than 40%. For the first time, Android will feature a kill switch at the core of its system with Lollipop.
The kill switch is important because the device is effectively unusable if it gets stolen. If the device is reset, it still requires a password to unlock it to use again.
Kill switches are quickly becoming a legal requirement in many parts of the world. By rendering phones valueless to would be thieves, they become less of a target.
Android Smart Lock
Following the introduction of Android Wear and Android Auto this year, Google is introducing a new feature which will allow users to secure their phones or tablets from their car or watch. This provides another layer of protection, where the device needs to be paired with another device for authentication.
This is the biggest advantage Android has over iOS for businesses. Android Lollipop features the ability to have multiple users using one device. This means that for company owned devices, such as tablets, which may be used by multiple users, that all they need to do is sign on and the device will be customised for that user.
This version of Android even has the ability to have a guest user, so that users can lend their devices to colleagues without worrying about personal data being accessed.
Additionally, Lollipop includes a feature, similar to iOS, that will lock an app in place, preventing users from exiting or jumping into another app. This has huge enterprise use cases for the use of Android tablets in retail, eduction or other public spaces where firms will want to keep users in one place.
World of Sweets
Android Lollipop has some truly groundbreaking features that should appeal to a large number of users. Unfortunately, the danger is that many people may not be able to upgrade their devices if their network carrier or handset manufacturer doesn’t allow them to install it. This has been an issue that has affected Android users for some time.
This is, however, something Google has been keen to improve and with Lollipop it appears that the roll out will be slightly quicker and wider than previous years. Many of the latest phones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and LG will be receiving Lollipop at some point between December and early 2015 – when exactly this will be is still up for question.
The key is that Google is tightening the reigns of Android. Lollipop features some great design language that the manufacturers would be silly to mess with. The new enterprise friendly features are a big step forward to make it easier to support and adopt Android in enterprise.