Android Offers a Unique Flexibility

Mario Armstrong is a digital lifestyle expert, the tech corespondent for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a daily tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. AT&T has sponsored the following blog post.

The last time I checked in here at AT&T’s Networking Exchange it was to show off some productivity apps for Android. I’m enthusiastic about Android. The platform is a great way to take your business mobile and get more done while on-the-go.

Android’s platform is also very open. You can install apps from a variety of sources, not just Google’s Market and Amazon’s App Store, but even places like online forums and developer’s websites. For developers, this means a lack of an approval process that could restrict their app from being sold. It also means that developers are free to sell their app through a variety of channels at any price points they please.

Whereas the interface across similar competitor platforms  is extremely consistent, every Android device I’ve ever touched is unique. That’s because the user interface is customizable in a way no other phone can match, and manufacturers all compete to offer the best Android ‘skin’ they can develop.

Phones with default interfaces exist as well, like the Samsung Galaxy S II. Customization means that businesses have the ability to offer branded phones to employees or to configure their client’s phones in unique ways. This is important especially since one of my tips for businesses is to standardize on a platform, or at least standardize by business unit.  This way the sales team may be running smartphones in the field while while the field staff may have ruggedized tablets.  The point being, if you standardize, it makes it so much easier for deployment, training and maintenance of the apps–getting you to a better total cost of ownership.

Organizations looking to run custom-designed software not intended for public use will find Android a perfect fit. After all, without an app approval process of any kind, apps can be distributed internally with ease. This means the development process can iterate a lot more quickly, and employees can be running up-to-the-minute versions of apps on their phones.

All of that openness and flexibility comes at a price, however. Last month, a fake Netflix app surfaced on Android, serving no purpose but to steal your Netflix credentials. Now, the Juniper Global Threat Center is reporting on a 472% increase in Android malware since July of this year. Software isn’t always what it appears to be, and just because an app looks like the one you want doesn’t mean it isn’t stealing your password!

The fact is, with so many vectors by which to install software on an Android device, you can’t just assume that any piece of software you stumble across is going to be safe! While downloading apps from the official channels only is a good strategy, your organization needs to be careful when it comes to getting apps from unofficial sources. As with Windows PCs, a policy needs to be in place to dictate how and where employees access applications on their mobile devices. Without such a policy, confidential data can be easily compromised!

Does your org use Android smartphones? Do you have policies in place to deal with threats of malware and spyware on their mobile devices? What stories can you share about how Android’s openness has helped (or hurt) your business?
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