Android vs iOS: Which is best for business?

Does Android or Apple make the grade when it comes to work? Tech chiefs give their views.
Written by Mark Samuels, Contributor

"I genuinely believe that if I was to give people a choice that the take-up would be 99 per cent in favour of Apple," says CIO Matt Peers.

Image: Google

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of Apple's iPhone. During the past decade, the device and its associated operating system iOS have moved from consumer innovation to business standard. Apple devices and their Android adversaries now dominate the global smart phone market. But which operating system is best for business? Five CIOs give their views to ZDNet.

1. Openness is a key benefit of Android

Neil Moore, head of ICT at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, says his organisation's recommended platform is Android. The vast majority of employees in the organisation use this mobile operating system.

Part of the focus on Android relates to the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Platform (ESMCP), which is the next-generation communication platform for UK public bodies and a replacement for the current Airwave system. Moore says that, although the programme requires delivery across all platforms, Android is the clear lead system for ESMCP.

Other issues are important, too -- particularly integration and support. "Openness is certainly a key issue for us," says Moore. "We've found in the past that there's been more issues integrating systems due to the proprietary nature of iOS."

The organisation does allow some employees to use iOS if there is a specific need. Moore and his team provide limited support for Apple devices. "But the line we take is that Android is our preferred operating system," he says. "Our standard equipment runs on that operating system."

2. Familiarity is the key to the popularity of Apple devices

Matt Peers joined global law firm Linklaters as CIO in May 2015. Prior to his arrival, the firm was a heavy user of BlackBerry devices. Linklaters is now more wedded to Apple devices and iOS. Everyone who works for the firm -- from the back-office to the chief executive -- receives a corporate-supplied smartphone.

"I genuinely believe that if I was to give people a choice that the take-up would be 99 per cent in favour of Apple," he says. The firm saw about 185 iPhone 7s join its network on the day the device launched earlier this year.

Peers says the firm selected Apple over Android due to user preferences. He cites three key reason why Apple is more popular: familiarity with iOS from a domestic setting; ease of use when compared to other platforms; and compatibility with the firm's existing security products.

Peers, however, remains open to new ideas, particularly when it comes to user preferences around mobile devices and operating system. "I constantly listen to what people are telling me in the firm," he says. "If we start to get a ground swell of opinion that we need to be offering other devices, then we will."

3. Work experience means Google is ready for business

Mark Ridley, group technology officer at venture builder Blenheim Chalcot Accelerate, is a big fan of Android but until recently he would have said iOS represented the slightly better choice for business. He says recent developments have changed his mind, suggesting the latest Android devices -- such as Google Pixel -- are highly secure and business-ready.

"These modern devices have the capability to do biometric authentication, so I'd be pretty happy from a security point of view using most of the recent Android devices in business," he says. "I'm still a huge fan of Google." However, Ridley recognises that iOS and Android have their respective plus points.

"The user experience with both is incredible," he says. "The power that lies within the operating system on iOS and Android devices is amazing. It's nothing like the early days of mobility, where you were wedded to a particular operating system and all the platforms had their faults."

Ridley, though, retains a strong bond with Android. "I feel like you can have a really great work experience in a pure Google world," he says. "Being able to simply give workers a device to log-on to and work from makes a real difference to productivity. It also commoditises technology."

4. Compatibility and usability are Apple plus points

Toby Clarke, interim head of IT at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says he does not have a preference when it comes to the best mobile operating system for the business. The explanation for that sentiment is related to the current focus of his work.

"At Moorfields, I've been focused on other areas of IT provision rather than mobility during the past couple of years," he says. Clarke, who was previously IT director at finance specialist Abbey Protection Group for more than a decade, has spent has time at Moorfields focusing on standards, infrastructure, and skills.

He does, however, have a personal take. After many years of BlackBerry use, Clarke switched to iOS, rather than Android. He cites compatibility and usability concerns as key, particularly when it comes to connections to some of his devices and services.

"BlackBerry lost its traction because people stopped making apps -- and if you can't get great software, you'll drop the system," he says. "I love the iPhone but I think both iOS and Android will co-exist in the enterprise of the future."

5. Let your people decide which device is right

Graham Benson, CIO at Rentalcars.com, says mobility at his firm is all about giving power to the user. His organisation gives people the choice of Android or iOS. The firm also supports both Mac OS and Windows for PC.

"The selection of your operating system only becomes an issue if you choose to make it a concern," he says. "Technical workers, especially, understand devices and platforms and they will have certain preferences."

For Benson the appropriateness of an operating system for work is directly related to the type of task being completed. Workers can bring their own devices to work to help fulfil tasks. The firm runs a separate system called Rentalcars Guest that allows people to connect their own devices securely to the network.

The key to choosing the right mobile operating system, says Benson, is staff satisfaction. "I don't have a problem with people making their own choices," he says. "It's much more important to keep your people happy at work."

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