Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

Summary: Both iPhone and Android are already flooding past corporate gate keepers. But which is the right one for your business? CompanionLink Software's Rushang Shah tells his view.

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Commentary - BlackBerry has owned the enterprise smartphone market for years but is quickly losing ground to iPhone and Android. Most companies are taking a wait-and-see approach to confirm whether these new platforms are feasible for business. BlackBerry Enterprise Server is something they know and trust. It delivers control to IT, integrating well with Microsoft Exchange. It offers a known set of policies.

But change is coming.

Both iPhone and Android are already flooding past corporate gate keepers. Moreover, current BlackBerry users are looking to make the leap to these newer devices. Recent Nielsen surveys show that BlackBerry users covet iPhones and Androids. These new devices are the most desired smartphones for every demographic group that Nielsen studied.

Business and IT leaders realize that these devices are coming, yet they are unsure about how to move forward. The delay will only heighten the problem. After all, just because an organization lags behind a significant technology shift doesn’t mean its employees will also. Consumers are purchasing Android and iPhone devices in droves.

A good strategy for any big change is to start small. In this case, pick a specific platform, select a few low-risk apps, and make a slow transition.

Here are five questions CIOs and IT organizations should ask to assess each platform’s strengths and weaknesses, and best match the smartphone OS to employee needs.

Question 1: How much are you willing to spend?
The iPhone is an up-market device, and, if Apple’s history is a guide, it will remain so indefinitely. The Android, conversely, made the smartphone a mass-market device. This past quarter, according to comScore, Android passed RIM and iPhone to vault into the number-one position for the first time. As with Windows’ dominance of the desktop, two of the main factors leading to the number-one position are price and availability.

Android made its OS available to multiple hardware manufacturers and carriers. Competition drove prices down and gave manufacturers and carriers the ability to differentiate on price, features, or both. Consumers can choose from low-cost “starter” smartphones or up-market “exclusive” devices with fancy bells and whistles – and everything in between.

If your organization seeks a low-cost platform, Android is the way to go. However, cost involves much more than the price of the handset. Management, maintenance and security are variables that can shift the cost equation, as are the varying plans from different carriers. Even so, Android’s openness will still be an advantage with these other variables factored in.

Winner: Android.

Question 2: How important is secure email?
Secure integration with enterprise email and policy enforcement are two of BlackBerry’s main strengths and will remain so for some time. Both iPhone and Android, though, aren’t far behind. Each integrates tightly with Microsoft Exchange and has other enterprise security features, such as remote wipe, complex passwords, and data encryption.

Winner: Draw

Question 3: How important is the end user experience?
Android’s open-source operating system allows for choice. Manufacturers are free to customize user interfaces, add custom features and offer support for new types of rich media. Consumers, then, can choose media-rich phones from HTC, social-media ones from Samsung/T-Mobile or business-focused phones from Motorola. Android’s openness means that manufactures can make a device to appeal to every demographic. With iPhone, you only get one device – take it or leave.

What Android cannot get is consistency. Android chooses choice (no pun intended) at the cost of platform fragmentation and a cohesive user experience. You can't have both.

The iPhone, on the other hand, values a consistent user experience more than choice. The availability of just one new device per year ensures consumers a controlled and consistent user experience. Moreover, Apple is a master of smooth, intuitive User Interfaces. Even if you’re not an Apple fan, you can’t ignore pioneering work Apple has done with User Interface design – everything from the desktop to MP3 players to smartphones and now tablets.

Apple controls more than just the experience on the iPhone. Their iTunes and App Store software serves as controlled ecosystems that let people find apps for work, play and everything in between. Since Apple controls the entire experience from the PC to the iPhone, users get consistency.

Winner: iPhone

Question 4: How important are apps and app security?
One of the main drawbacks of Android’s openness is reflected in how they approve apps for distribution on the Android Market. Essentially, they don’t have an approval process. The Android Market does not scrutinize apps before distributing. This was highlighted recently when malware showed up in the Android Market. The iPhone’s strictly curated app submission process helps Apple dodge bullets like that.

The iPhone also more tightly controls the underlying hardware, carrier relationships, and the APIs that third-party software has access to. As a result, Apple can more easily limit the iPhone’s exposure to various security threats.

The iPhone’s status as an up-market niche phone also benefits security. And, to look at the desktop for some historic guidance, Microsoft’s wide-net distribution approach set it up as the number-one target for hackers and malware. The same pattern may well repeat itself with smartphones. Apple is comfortable offering more exclusive products with lower-volume shipments. A side-benefit of that game plan is that Apple already understands and has thought through the security implications of its market standing.

Android, meanwhile, becomes a bigger, juicer target with each passing day.

Winner: iPhone

Question 5: How will the device interoperate with existing back-end systems?
For the enterprise, the concern is integration with important (and expensive) enterprise applications. If your organization wants to give mobile users access to CRM, SFA, billing systems and other back-end applications, Android’s openness will offer the least amount of friction from point A (no access) to point B (mobile productivity).

Android offers more API hooks than iOS. This means there are more possibilities for organizations to develop their own powerful back-end apps if none already exist for them. Apple iOS offers less power in what developers can take advantage of.

Winner: Android.

Final Verdict
There you have it: a tie. If you’re a European football fan, you won’t be all that disappointed. Readers in the United States hooked on American football, baseball and even North American hockey (they recently phased out ties) will not be satisfied.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The winner varies depending on user preferences. If you are still on the fence, here are three other questions that will help you decide which platform is right for you:

  • What do the various carrier plans look like in your area?
  • How reliable is the coverage (both voice and data), and how many dead spots are there in your area?
  • What devices do your employees already own for their personal use? Is there a clear winner?
Remember, your employees are already picking their device of choice. More often than not, they’re starting to use it for work. It’s just a matter of time before you will have to make the switch to one of these newer platforms.

biography
Rushang Shah is the chief evangelist of CompanionLink Software, developer of data synchronization solutions for mobile phones and CRM software and services. CompanionLink also develops DejaOffice, an Android and iPhone app that delivers business-class features to consumer-class devices. Contact Rushang at rushang@companionlink.com.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility

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35 comments
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  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    Ties are possible in American football. (Just don't ask Donovan McNabb)
    jugandj
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    I'm still waiting for good Cisco IPSEC vpn support out of Android. So far nothing. iPhone at least has the client built in.
    rdawson@...
    • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

      I fully agree. I've been waiting for this too.
      Thousands of other users have been complaining about lack of full Cisco VPN support in Android for the last 1.5 years:
      http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=3902
      Having good back-end system support and MS Exchange support is no use if you can't access them in the first place.
      mccannf
      • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

        @mccannf

        What is wrong with the VPN clients already in Android? What do they lack that they need to work with Cisco VPN?
        mejohnsn
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    You talk about Android as if it is the same on all phones but each manufacturer and service provider can "customize" the "android experience" so a Motorola phone on AT&T is different from an LG phone on Virgin Mobile. This makes the job of supporting Android phones much more complex hence costlier.
    agewanter
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    Two points.
    On the point of usability, while consistency is certainly a big benefit from an IT standpoint, it's not an individuals concern. The experience with an Android isn't much different than iPhone and in fact for those that want to customize their phone, Android may very well take the advantage.

    For business each of these questions has to be weighed. The response to the security question is true, but I think (unfortunately) that many - if not most - companies will not weigh that as a heavy concern. The ability to create custom applications at a low cost will be weighed differently by every company, but the resounding yes to Android as a low cost, quick turn-around development platform will win the business community over very quickly.

    It should also be pointed out that these questions and answers also directly reflect on the direction of the tablet market.
    amxtaylor
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    Simply put Android is the cure for any antipathy one would have for Apple and their family of products!
    worldbfree4me
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    hahaba what a joke a tie. both of these phones are not business phones. the only business phones are windows phone.
    ipadsucks
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    Iphone ? No Java, No Flash, Poor Multi-tasking, No SD, No USB... and you must use the itunes virus = JUNK, Serious Junk.
    gtatransam@...
    • An SD card will do in a pinch

      @gtatransam@... That's what we've been waiting for. We need a phone that will allow employees to put all our corporate data on a USB stick just before pressing 'Send' on their resignation.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

        @Robert Hahn
        Not to worry, if a disgruntled employee wants to do something like that, they don't need a smart phone to do it with.
        rwanner
    • 1000% correct about the original

      @gtatransam@... But that is what we have the dev team for, <b>to free our iDevices from fukn Steve Jobs limit</b>.

      THe freed iphone has the ability to run flash, a lot better multitasking than crapple's original, plus, it can be used like a regular flash drive, thought I do have to admit that the transfer speed is nothing higher than 2.1MB/s.

      If any cooperation has the time to free their iDevice from crapple's grip, which I 99.99% doubt, then they can gain all of the above benefits which crapple has left outside the box :D
      MrElectrifyer
  • Group policy/configuration control?

    Seems to me that the most important aspect of a mobile platform for business is its ability to implement group policy controls, deploy standard images and lock them down, etc. Does Apple allow a way to do this for the enterprise customer?
    huntm856
    • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

      @huntm856,
      See Page two.
      http://images.apple.com/iphone/business/docs/iPhone_Security.pdf
      YaBaby
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    For the price iPhone 3GS at $49.00 is the best phone out there now. As far as a business phone, it would be my first choice.
    brighteyes459@...
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    I'd like to vote for Android. I like open source and open architecture. But I had an iPhone (accessing Microsoft Exchange) and it worked beautifully. Then it fell in the canal one day and now I have an LG with Android 2.1 (I couldn't afford to replace my iPhone). In many little ways the LG just lacks in the quality I got used to in the iPhone. It's hard to say if it's hardware or software but it seems to be a combination. I'll probably go back to iPhone once I can.
    lesterbauman
  • Wrong advise

    Please correct under secure email:

    Android provides no means for encryption. Honeycomb has the ability but is limited to tablets. Our forensic discovery shows Android wide open with the proper tools all data is available to copy.

    If you want security with other platforms you need a MDM solution. Exchange provides basic security and no management
    MobileAdmin
    • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

      @MobileAdmin

      None of these phones are secure out of the box. At least for Android, you can use Mocana products to make it much more secure. I have heard of nothing comparable for iPhone, nor do I ever expect to, since Apples does not share the information or access for third-parties to develop such security products. Google does share.
      mejohnsn
      • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

        @mejohnsn [i]Google does share. [/i]
        Correct, they love to share your personal info ;-)
        non-biased
  • RE: Android vs. iPhone for business: 5 questions to answer

    This article perpetuates the myth that the dominance of Windows in the PC era was because of price and availability, and extends the argument to conclude in the mobile post-PC era Android will dominate.

    Windows dominated the PC era in corporates for one reason and one reason only: IBM established the standard for in-house PCs. Every other machine had to be completely IBM compatible. Since IBM only ran on Microsoft (originally MS-DOS, then Windows), every corporate PC had to run Windows. It had nothing to do with cost or availability.

    In the post-PC era, the dominant OS is overwhelmingly iOS. The number of Android devices in the market may be larger than the number of iOS devices BUT (as has been pointed out elsewhere) the very large number of different Android implementations between manufacturers mean that from the IT Department's perspective, they cannot possibly regard all these different implementations as being a single OS. They will have to evaluate EACH implementation separately against corporate policies for security etc. OR simply choose iOS as the approved corporate iOS for mobiles, a MUCH simpler task.

    It used to be said of IT management that 'nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM'. I don't know if the same will come to be said about iOS, but I suspect that it will prove to be the case. Apple is earning corporate approval one step at a time. It takes this opportunity seriously, and it shows.
    oriorda