Why Use Android Enterprise for Mission-Critical Devices?

June 09, 2021

Android Enterprise is the term used to describe the approach to managing Android devices, typically deployed for mission-critical or task-driven business operations. There’s a tremendous amount of information about Android Enterprise. To learn more, this is a good place to start: https://www.android.com/enterprise/resources/

If we look back at where the Android operating system began, it might be hard to believe, but Android 1.0 was first introduced back in October 2003, initially intended to improve the operating system of digital cameras.[1]  That seems light years ago. As we’ve come to realize, Android OS has changed the smartphone landscape to such an extent that it is now the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, capturing about 86% of the market, as reported by IDC.[2]

Today, through normal device attrition, cap and grow, rip and replace, or OS upgrades, the majority of Android devices still in the field today are running Android 7.1 (Nougat) or later. Google recently released Android 11 in September of 2020, and an Android 12 Beta Version has already been released as of February of 2021.

To manage application updates, configurations, and policies on these typically corporate-owned devices, many companies still use a legacy approach to device management called Device Administrator. That’s a problem for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that as of Android 10, Google announced the removal of Device Administrator API policies used for Legacy Device Management, and replaced them with the Device Owner APIs with Android Enterprise.

What are some of the other reasons why Android Enterprise has become the preferred management approach, over Legacy Device Administration, when it comes to managing corporate-owned mission-critical Android devices?

  • First, many Device Management Solution providers, including VMware, have announced an End-of-Support date for Legacy Device Administration. All providers, according to Google, must end support for Legacy Device Administration in the 2022 calendar year.
  • Due to fragmented Device Administration API offerings across device manufacturers (not all device manufacturers offered the same Device Admin APIs), Legacy Device Management offers inconsistent results, and sometimes poor user experiences when using a mix of vendor devices.
  • Android Enterprise offers a common set of device-owner APIs across manufacturers, leading to more consistent management results, and a better user experience.
  • With Legacy Device Management, enrollment methods can differ substantially among device manufacturers, and device management solution providers.
  • Android Enterprise, again, offers a basic set of standardized methods for enrollment across device manufacturers, and device management solution providers. These methods include QR Code Enrollment, NFC Bump Enrollment, DPC Identifier Provisioning, and Zero Touch Enrollment.
  • Android Enterprise offers Factory Reset Protection, to prevent users from maliciously or unintentionally wiping a device.
  • Android Enterprise provides the ability to silently install Public Applications using the Managed Google Play Store, without the need to enter Google Play login credentials, as was required with Legacy Device Management.
  • Android Enterprise offers Managed Configuration for applications, meaning that corporate settings can be deployed along with the applications. This allows for “same day” feature enhancements to be deployed with the applications.
  • Android Enterprise offers OEMConfig, which is a way that Device Manufacturers can expand upon the standard Android Enterprise Device Owner API set to differentiate them from other vendors.

If you’re currently using Legacy Device Management methods with your Device Management Solution, how can you migrate these devices over to Android Enterprise?

You really have two options here. The first option, depending on the Device Management Solution that you’re using, and the version of Android on your Android mission-critical device, would be to completely unenroll your legacy-managed device from the Device Management Solution, then re-enroll the device using an approved Android Enterprise enrollment method. This could be a time-consuming task, given the number of devices being managed, and the logistics surrounding this effort. Android 7.1 is a minimum OS requirement for Android Enterprise enrollment for most devices.

The second option, if you are using VMware Workspace ONE UEM v20.06 or higher with Zebra Rugged Devices (Android 7 or higher,  and MXMF 7 or higher), is to use the co-developed solution from VMware and Zebra to migrate your legacy-managed devices to Android Enterprise. For more information about this migration method, see Requirements for Using Android with Workspace ONE UEM.

image-20210608123159-1

Advantages to using this migration tool include:

  • The migration is done remotely and silently. No need for remote logistics support, as this is a hands-free approach. No scanning, no button clicks; completely hands-free!
  • Devices do not power off, reboot, or reset during the migration, ensuring app data remains intact.
  • Wi-fi connectivity is maintained during the migration.
  • Products that do not contain profiles remain installed.
  • Migration to AOSP/Closed network mode is fully supported.

In summary, Android Enterprise was designed for a more secure and efficient means of managing your Android mission-critical device deployment. It offers significant benefits with mission-critical use cases in a variety of industries, including retail, logistics, healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and more. Considering the journey from Android 1.0 to where we are today, you need to be best prepared for the future. That is why VMware is well-positioned to handle the future of Android for frontline workers.

 

 

 

 

[1] AndroidAuthority.com,  “The History of Android: The evolution of the biggest mobile OS in the world”

[2] IDC.com, “Smartphone Market Share”

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David Dwyer

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Senior Solution Engineer and Subject Matter Expert for Mission Critical (Rugged) and IoT Deployments on the VMware EUC Team.
Dave Dwyer's focus is to enable customers and VMware solution engineers to successfully deploy, configure, and manage specialized mission-critical devices leveraging Workspace ONE and other proprietary OEM tools. He has been involved in the mobility industry for over 30 years, including the last 5 years at VMware. In the past, he has held Sales Engineering, Product Management, and Management roles. He graduated from Georgia State University with a degree in Decision Sciences and Information Systems.