Making the Case for Android Enterprise Devices

Rugged Android enterprise hardware reached a critical threshold in 2014, accounting for approximately 15 percent of the overall rugged handheld market, according to VDC Research. Despite the existing established presence of other operating systems, the consumer-championed Android platform appears poised to continue expanding its footprint in the enterprise handheld landscape.

In particular, industry analysts are taking note of Zebra Technologies Corporation’s enterprise Android lineup. Zebra has intentionally built its portfolio to address the legitimate concerns over Android’s suitability for business – because while “consumer-championed Android” makes for a positive offering, consumer-grade Android does not.

Superficially, consumer-grade Android handhelds offer businesses low price points, making the devices less costly to replace when they’re damaged or become outdated (the average lifecycle of a consumer handheld being eight to 10 months). That’s where the relative benefits end, however.

The primary objection to using Android in business has always been security. Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Threat report notes that Android alone was targeted with “3,262 different versions of malware in 2013.” With more than 11,868 different versions of the Android OS in circulation (as of 2013), the ability to provision the multiple versions of devices involved with corporate BYOD programs against security threats can pose a significant burden on IT staff. And supplementing consumer-grade Android with mobile device management (MDM) solutions from providers like VMware/AirWatch and SOTI – which provide protections such as password/PIN enforcement, remote device locking/wiping and additional data encryption – only offers part of the answer.

Zebra’s handhelds come with a native shell around the Android Open Source Platform that takes all of the fluff, everything that makes Android vulnerable, out of it.

Emmanuel Oladele, Strategic Systems’ Technical Services Manager, explains it this way: “Starting with consumer Android devices puts businesses in the position of having to jump through multiple hoops to make them secure. The hardware itself and the software that is released with consumer devices are natively un-secure – they build in or allow apps full access to the device’s operating system. Even with an MDM, you have to go in and limit the capabilities of the device, and then constantly patch the holes that make it vulnerable.

“On the other hand, the enterprise devices from Zebra – right out of box – are extremely secure, extremely locked down. Zebra’s handhelds come with a native shell around the Android Open Source Platform that takes all of the fluff, everything that makes Android vulnerable, out of it,” he says.

The shell that Oladele refers to is Zebra’s Mobility eXtensions (Mx), a suite of platform features that come pre-installed on every enterprise Android device Zebra offers. Mx includes five types of features that are layered between the standard Android OS and a business’s applications, addressing: security, mobile application management, mobile device management, data capture and wireless.

Mx adds in features that you’d expect from any enterprise handheld, such as locked down home screens, multi-user log-ins, and application white-listing. But Mx also addresses deeper, business-specific needs, like giving companies the ability to designate what data it wants to add government-grade AES 256 encryption protocols (as part of WPA2 Android enterprise protocols) to, thereby fortifying security where it is needed without slowing down overall device performance. Additionally, Mx enables full use of the integrated data capture abilities of Zebra devices and provides the necessary software development kits (SDKs) for supporting added peripherals like payment card readers.

“Zebra’s Android enterprise security capabilities restrict apps not using Mx from having full access to the hardware, so you know it’s secure,” Oladele continues. “When you need more access, Zebra’s SDKs give you the ability to fully unlock the device, similar to what select Mx MDM providers do, giving you more access than you’d find in third-party apps in the Google Play store.”

Add to this the benefits of physical protections like Gorilla Glass touchscreens and IP64 sealing, plus tumble, vibration and thermal shock-testing, impressive operating temperature ranges, multiple charging options, extended batteries, and more, and it’s clear that when it comes to rugged Android offerings, Zebra means business.

Android Enterprise Devices

 If you’re interested in a secure replacement for your consumer Android and iOS devices, or are looking for a viable alternative to Windows Mobile, contact us today.