Android sucks balls for enterprise, BYOD won't work

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy November 12, 2013
Summary:
Moving from one Android phone to another should be simple. But it isn't and casts doubt on the whole notion of BYOD as a viable way of going forward.

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Pardon the provocative title, it's one borrowed from Jon Reed who likes to use the 'sucks balls' expression for anything that sucks badly. In this case I think there's a good fit. ;)

Last week I swapped out my 'old' Samsung Android phone for a new one. Kept the same carrier and whatnot. As the very helpful Best Buy person was doing all the activation stuff I asked:  "Will all my apps just go over?" "Sure, just get into Google Play and it'll just pick up where you left off." Satisfied with the answer, I walked away $543 the poorer (inc tax) having also invested in a Mophie Juice Pack for the Samsung S3. But - it's not quite that simple.

It turns out that you cannot realistically clone your device without rooting the device, which in turn means you void the phone's warranty. To go further, and as one correspondent told me:

You can't do jack on Android without root - that sux

If rooting goes pear shaped - tough nuts. Now - most of the Android forums imply that provided the device is supported then everything should be fine. As a long time consumer of technology I know that Sod's Law has a habit of coming and biting the unwary in the ass. In Android's case, part of the problem seems to arise because Google has a pretty sloppy way of allowing apps onto the marketplace. What do I mean?

Most apps that come from Google itself merely require me to re-introduce my Google credentials and Google will then understand which apps I have and get me back in accordingly. So far so good. It does not apply the same rigor to third party apps. This means that apps coming off the old device often need to be set up individually from scratch.

Easy setup - right? wrong!

That's not too much of an issue if all the usernames and passwords are the same or similar or you can remember them all or - as in my case - you don't have direct access to them all but have authorised a service way in the past but don't have access to the original credentials. If you're in THAT situation then you're likely screwed.

I did try and find out if there was a way to overcome this problem. It seems there may be methods but none of them look terribly reliable to me. Searching on Google didn't produce much of help and inquiries via Twitter fared little better. So it seems that if you are in the state I described then there is no satisfactory way of cloning without some risk of bricking the device while voiding its warranty.

Having said that, there are plenty of apps that allow backup and restore but even here, experience varies. For example, I elected to go with Wondershare's Mobile Trans and Wondershare MobileGo for Android Pro (Mac). Big mistake. Mobile Trans only works on Windows so that's fine as I have a Parallels VM set up. But the Mac version of MobileGo doesn't work - and the support is crap. As a side note: you need to be careful when buying these solutions because there are bundling arrangements but they are very confusing at first look.

There's more. Some apps like to authenticate your device. They do this by sending an SMS to the device. All good so far. Except that some of those apps don't bring over usage history. What'sApp is a great example. I love that app as it is a very convenient way for me to contact folk who are overwhelmed with email and other forms of communication. I was in the middle of something when I made the switch. Result? I didn't know if my correspondent had replied to my last message so ended up annoying myself and them no doubt by repeating myself.

Verdict

Android is a relatively new OS and like Linux in the past, it's a Wild West of OS tweaks and versions that makes support a nightmare in the short term. But, I argue this is another case of Google not really caring about enterprise and so not thinking through what it means to have these types of device in the enterprise.

That may not matter for those enterprises that can manage devices through something like VMWare Horizon Suite. What surprised me though was that even though I put out two public tweets on the topic, VMWare (some of whose peeps do follow me) didn't ping me back.

In turn I suspect that might mean BYOD will turn out to be a flawed approach to device management where there are large populations of Android in play. I am happy to be disavowed on this topic but right now, the paucity of easily available answers suggests to me that we're looking at a clusterfuck in the making. What does this mean?

Well - Apple got in early and despite being accused of losing their sparkle, they still have a very well managed marketplace of apps that are closely (mostly) controlled. If I'm going to end up in pain on Android then why wouldn't I swap out. But how about this? Microsoft, for all that some of us might enjoy making fun of them, is starting to get a few important pieces of their puzzle right. Windows 8 is one of them. Windows is an enterprise standard. Need I say more?

OK - so consumer devs tend to view Windows as passé where Apple remains cool while Android gets its share of kudo. Maybe Microsoft has to pass on the mobile phone thing for the time being. But if I was in IT management today, I would be happy to hear the case for supporting Windows phones in a BYOD environment. I am far from sure if I'd feel the same way about Android.

But what do I know? After all, I'm just a user with a passing understanding of backup/restore/cloning - and that's probably more than most consumers out there.

PS - someone please tell me I am wrong...and how to solve this problem.

Image credit: InnerActive, featured image: iWebMantra

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