Analysis: How mobile phone operating systems compare in price, security and functionality.
There are many device makers trying to win the lucrative enterprise mobile market. There are also several mobile operating systems to choose between. But with so many different factors, including security, user experience, functionality and cost to weigh up, it takes a lot of thought.
CBR looks at four major operating systems and what they have to offer enterprises.
Apple products have a strong reputation for security. iOS’s walled garden means that iPhones can only run apps that are pre-approved by Apple, whereas Android is an open platform.
Apple also has control over rolling out updates to all iOS devices.
Due to Apple’s popularity within the enterprise, companies have developed many workplace and productivity apps for the platform, so there will be no shortage of tools for your employees using iOS devices.
The main concern about Apple devices is cost. The flagship iPhones can cost over £500 apiece, with the iPhone 6s being sold in some places for around £600, meaning that they are really only suitable as devices for executives or in the small business market.
However, Apple has aimed to address this with some of the products announced at its 21 March event.
The new iPhone SE aims to provide a more affordable smartphone for businesses looking to equip their workforce with fully featured iPhones.
The smaller device claims to offer some fundamentals that may appeal to businesses: faster LTE and wi-fi speeds and better battery life. In terms of specifications, it is the equivalent of the iPhone 5S.
The 16GB model is priced at $399, and the 64GB one at $499.
Apple also cut the price of the Apple Watch at the event, which could see further roll-out in the enterprise as a result.
Android devices have a relatively poor reputation for security. There have been several major revelations of vulnerabilities in the Android code such as Stagefright and Certifi-gate.
Android updates have to go through telcos and mobile operators to get to the end-user, which means that a given device has not always got the latest vulnerability patched.
There has been some progress in this area, however. Following the StageFright revelation, Samsung Electronics and Google both announced that they will provide monthly security updates to their devices to tackle security vulnerabilities as and when they arise.
In addition, many of the device makers including Samsung are taking more direct control over the security of their proprietary devices.
For example, Samsung devices are now equipped with Samsung Knox, while LG smartphones, including the V10, G4, G3 and G2, as well as several of its tablets, have LG’s Guarded Access to Enterprise (GATE) solution built in. Google also launched the Android for Work platform last year.
Cost-wise, Android devices straddle a broader range than Apple devices, and it is possible to get them far cheaper than the average iPhone. However, it is the premium devices or at least the premium vendors that provide the sort of enterprise-grade security mentioned above. Taking Samsung as an example, a Galaxy S7 will cost £569 and a Galaxy S7 Edge £639.
On user experience, Android also varies considerably because the device makers have so much control over the code. However, the premium devices will again have user experiences that rival Apple’s while the lower-end ones may not. Android as a whole is also well served by productivity applications.
Essentially, an Android phone can be as secure and usable as an iPhone but you have to buy the right one, and it is unlikely to be much cheaper.
3. BlackBerry OS
BlackBerry has the strongest reputation for security, especially with the integration of secure containers from Good Technology
Where BlackBerry falls down is in user experience. BlackBerry OS devices are targeted at the enterprise and unlike Apple and the iOS are little used by consumers in their personal lives.
While the high level of control that they provide, including the management capabilities of BlackBerry’s enterprise mobility management solution might make them a dream for IT, but this does not necessarily translate for users.
A survey by Computing found that BlackBerry had the strongest disparity between the overall satisfaction levels of end-users and IT, with 61 percent satisfaction in IT and 44 percent for users, a gap of 17 percentage points. iOS and Android had gaps of 1 and 10 respectively.
BlackBerry for example does not necessarily have access to the same apps as iOS and Android.
There have been signs of BlackBerry moving to address this, with a recent update to BBM adding some WhatsApp-esque features. BlackBerry retains a die-hard base of users and the physical keyboard seems to remain an attraction for many who find it difficult to accomplish work tasks using the virtual touch screen keyboard.
Currys currently sells the BlackBerry Classic outright for £299, so it is significantly cheaper than some of the more expensive Apple and Android phones.
4. Windows Phone
Windows Phone is considered very secure, with security experts from Kaspersky having said that the operating system has been clean of malware.
There are several reasons for this. In some ways, Windows Phone has been less of a cyber security target due to its low market penetration.
In the same Computing survey, Windows had a 16 percentage point disparity between the satisfaction of the IT department and that of workers, suggesting that user experience might be a concern since Windows Phone is another operating system that is less used than Android and iOS by consumers.
On the other hand, Microsoft benefits from its apps, which most consumers will be used to using and many of which are essentially the industry standard. These include the Microsoft Office suite, which comes equipped on the devices, as well as communications apps such as Skype.
In terms of cost, Microsoft’s devices also span a range; the higher-end Microsoft Lumia 950 is currently selling on the Microsoft website for £419, with its larger ‘XL’ version selling for £469.99.
There is also the Microsoft Lumia 650, which definitely sits within the range where enterprises might be able to roll it out across their workforce: £159.99.
How to choose
There is no definitive answer. Every operating system has advantages and disadvantages, and not only will each one be suited to a different organisation but they may even be suited to different parts of the same organisation.
The essential decision to make is how important security is to your business. After that, each organisation can start by defining a budget for its mobile policy.
It should decide whether this budget is best spent on equipping employees with devices or deploying a solution to manage devices that employees have brought in themselves. These are increasingly device-agnostic and can be deployed with multiple operating systems.
If the company does decide to buy devices to equip its workforce, it needs to make a decision on how secure these need to be, how this balances with the need for a strong user experience and functionality, and then find a device within the available budget.
iOS is the most obvious choice, but probably the least economical. However, with the iPhone SE at a far more affordable price point this may change. Premium Android devices could be an alternative, but lower-end Android devices should probably be looked over for security reasons.
Enterprises should look seriously at the often-overlooked Windows Phone, especially for example the Lumia 650, which balances many of the key factors discussed above.
BlackBerry should also not be ignored, particularly in areas where security is core to the business. The Android-based Priv devices might be a good alternative for those who value BlackBerry security but want access to Android apps – however it is around the price of a flagship iPhone at £579.99.