In the enterprise mobility management space, we often have to deal with the fact that for any given feature or app, support for Android is likely to lag behind support for iOS. Hearing the phrase “And of course we’ll be rolling out our Android support for this feature in the coming months” is an all too common occurrence. This is frustrating for all parties involved, but unfortunately it seems like it’s something we just have to live with.
We know that Android is difficult. The core version of Android doesn’t have the greatest management features, and third-party management is a fragmented mess. Mobile app management can help deal with fragmentation by creating apps that run on all versions of Android, but this is a lot harder in practice than in theory—making apps that run well on any Android device is a huge challenge. And we’re talking about mission-critical apps that have to be secure and have to work well, too. No matter which way you slice it, EMM support for Android is difficult.
Then there’s the other side of the equation. While Android may be enormously popular on a global scale, when it comes to the corporate world in the US, iOS is still king. Contacts at EMM vendors tell me that even today in late 2013, many corporate environments average somewhere around 90% iOS. My own unscientific polling shows that out of the 40 or so employees in TechTarget’s San Francisco office, only two use Android. (That would be Brian and our video producer Justin, if you were curious.) The rest of the office are iPhone users.
The fact that Android is difficult to deal with and that most corporate users are on iOS means that EMM vendors often release new features and products for iOS ahead of the equivalent Android features and products. They are businesses, after all, so that makes sense—the (relatively) easier products with the larger potential market will naturally get released first. It’s just a fact of life.
This makes life difficult for IT departments that are trying to give Android users the same level of support as iOS users. When somebody has to say to their users, “Hey, we got this great new app on iOS! What? Oh, we don’t have an Android version right now,” it’s a frustrating experience for all involved.
So what can we do about this tough position? And will it ever change?
One idea is that as EMM matures, new features and updates will gradually become more incremental. So instead of, “We have a file syncing app for iOS, but not Android,” the scenario could be, “Our iOS apps support single sign on, but our Android apps don’t yet.” While smaller features might be out of sync between iOS and Android, as long as the same fundamental apps and features (like email, file syncing, basic MDM policies, etc) are there for both, then we could be in good shape. However, there are many unknowns that could crop up and prevent this type of parody from happening.
Or do we just need to stop thinking that iOS and Android should always have the same features? The reality is that they are indeed very different, but try telling that to a user who’s asking IT to support their Android device. This has to be hard for vendors, too. It’d be way easier it was possible to just say, “Sure, treat all your devices the same!”
For right now, we’re certainly trying to check all the boxes for both platforms, but we also just have to accept that Android and iOS support will different and figure out ways around it.