Google’s business-friendly Android phone list has a big problem

Google’s extremely severe about making Android interesting to the enterprise and the broader universe of enterprise customers.

That is the official firm line, no less than — and the narrative Google’s been pushing exhausting since launching its Android Enterprise Really helpful program in February 2018.

Android Enterprise Really helpful, the corporate instructed us, can be a “Google-led world initiative that raises the bar of excellence for enterprise gadgets and companies.” It’d set up “finest practices and customary necessities” for business-ready Android gadgets, and it’d guarantee any telephone with the stamp of approval supplied an expert and correctly supported expertise with out all the widespread ecosystem asterisks.

It actually sounds good and smart. The enterprise realm particularly is intently tuned into safety and information safety, and having staff carry gadgets that do not obtain well timed and dependable software program updates — whether or not we’re speaking concerning the month-to-month safety patches or the larger working system releases round them — poses an unacceptable threat for any cautious group.

Some 4 years after its launch, although, Google’s Android Enterprise Really helpful program appears to have devolved right into a largely meaningless afterthought. There is a disconcerting disconnect between this system’s front-facing promise and what you discover once you dig deeply into its choices and look intently at what’s truly taking place with the gadgets it is endorsed.

And for any firm that is counting on that seal of approval as a information to which Android telephones provide an optimally safe and up-to-date atmosphere appropriate for enterprise use, that disconnect may result in some troublingly flawed selections.

The Android Enterprise Really helpful story

I first wrote concerning the points with Google’s Android Enterprise Really helpful program practically two years in the past, in July 2020. On the time, I famous that this system’s “Gadgets” web page prominently featured some telephones that have been woefully old-fashioned and in direct battle with the security-minded guarantees on that exact same display.

Particularly, as I noticed on the time, the primary telephone listed on the web page was the Motorola-made Moto Z4 — a tool that was “validated by Google” for assembly its “highest requirements,” with “common safety updates assured,” because the web page proclaimed.

The Moto Z4, nevertheless, had obtained the then-current Android 10 working system replace greater than six months after its launch, with completely no communication alongside the way in which. And reporting on the time indicated it had gone months with none safety patch updates and remained perpetually old-fashioned on that entrance as effectively.

Now, the really surprising twist: Pull up that very same first-level “Gadgets” web page as we speak, practically two years later, and what do you see? Yep, you guessed it: the now-three-year-old Moto Z4, nonetheless prominently featured as the highest system incomes Google’s stamp of approval.

01 android enterprise recommended devices JR Raphael/IDG

Google’s Android Enterprise Really helpful “Gadgets” web page nonetheless prominently options telephones from 2019. (Click on any picture on this story to enlarge it.)

The Moto Z4, suffice it to say, hasn’t been formally supported with updates for months at this level. Heck, it was barely supported even when it was technically nonetheless in line for lively ongoing rollouts. And but, it is by some means nonetheless the top-featured system on Google’s Android Enterprise Really helpful web site — together with different equally outdated and no-longer-supported merchandise.

And that, sadly, is simply the tip of the iceberg.

A deeper system drawback

Having a distinguished introductory web page that does not appear to have been up to date in years clearly is not an excellent signal for the state of the related program. However possibly that is simply an oversight. Possibly the database itself remains to be present and stuffed with significant enterprise-ready Android telephone suggestions. Proper?

Nicely, possibly. However not precisely.

Make your manner over to the total record of Android Enterprise Really helpful merchandise, and you’ll certainly see some extra present gadgets within the assortment of authorized and endorsed objects. For North America, particularly, telephones such because the Motorola Edge (2021), Moto G Stylus (2022), and Samsung Galaxy S21 and S22 are all included, as are a lot of present Google-made and Nokia-made gadgets.

I made a decision to dig deeper but, although, and see how effectively a few of these merchandise have been truly maintaining with the Android Enterprise Really helpful promise. And out of doors of Google’s self-made Pixel merchandise, the reply is not precisely uplifting.

The Moto G Stylus, as an illustration, nonetheless hasn’t obtained the now-seven-month-old Android 12 replace as of this writing. Equally unsettling, it is operating a five-months-outdated safety patch from December 1, 2021 at this current second — regardless of the system’s in-phone System Replace display assuring homeowners that “every little thing seems good” and that they are “utilizing the most recent software program.”

02 android enterprise recommended moto g stylus JR Raphael/IDG

The Moto G Stylus’s System Replace message, as seen in late April 2022.

A telephone’s value should have no bearing on its skill to maintain up with this program’s guarantees, after all, however for perspective, even Motorola’s 2021 Edge flagship — which sells for $700 and launched final September, roughly one month earlier than Android 12’s launch — simply began getting the Android 12 replace days in the past, in late April.

Nokia’s gadgets, in the meantime, appear to be faring significantly better on the safety patch entrance. I checked out the Nokia G10 for instance and located it to be operating the safety replace from March 5, 2022. Positive, it is lacking the more moderen April replace, in battle with its said promise for month-to-month safety patch rollouts, however it’s no less than fairly near the place it must be.

However that is the place the excellent news ends. The Nokia G10 remains to be operating 2020’s Android 11 software program as of this second — a launch that is now practically 20 months old-fashioned. And as anybody who research Android intently can let you know, working system updates completely do matter past what you see on the floor. They sometimes comprise quite a few privacy- and security-related enhancements together with critically vital modifications to the way in which apps are allowed to work together with gadgets and delicate person information.

Neither Motorola nor Nokia has made any significant communication to clients concerning the standing of their rollouts, both, or when any progress might be anticipated.

And keep in mind, the core Android Enterprise Really helpful promise is an assurance that you will get “well timed safety patches and clear details about main updates” with any endorsed gadgets (although amusingly sufficient, the Android Enterprise Really helpful website’s database truly has a built-in filter to establish merchandise the place the safety replace frequency is “not supplied,” and it at present options 227 gadgets with that designation). Past that, Nokia’s G10 telephone is technically additionally a part of Google’s Android One program for customers, which has a comparable speedy-update promise — although that program seems to be deserted and not actively maintained.

03 android enterprise recommended nokia g10 JR Raphael/IDG

The web page selling the Nokia G10 on the Android Enterprise Really helpful web site.

Following an preliminary acknowledgment of my inquiry, Nokia didn’t reply to a number of requests for touch upon this matter. Motorola, in the meantime, supplied the next assertion through a spokesperson:

We all know OS and safety updates are vital, and we’re always evaluating our technique and dealing with companions and our inside groups to make sure customers have the most recent and finest expertise on their Motorola gadgets. Important options can be up to date through the Play Retailer, which permits us to offer key updates extra typically. Customers can anticipate ongoing assist for software program options like new My UX experiences, new digital camera options, and new Prepared For experiences, depending on {hardware} compatibility. Moreover, we all know safety is vital to our customers, so we’ve elevated [security maintenance release] replace assist from two to a few years to all mid-tier and premium gadgets.

As for Samsung, after years of dismal software program assist efficiency, the corporate is definitely doing a fairly first rate (if nonetheless slower-than-optimal) job at maintaining its gadgets updated and maintaining its clients within the loop about its progress. The Galaxy S21, as an illustration, at present has Android 12 and the April 2022 safety patch.

However, considerably troublingly, all Galaxy telephone fashions depend on the identical common Samsung privateness coverage, as Samsung confirmed to me — and that coverage, amongst different issues, states that:

  • Samsung “could enable sure third events (resembling promoting companions) to gather your private data.”
  • Samsung “could have” beforehand offered delicate information to undisclosed third events — every little thing starting from “distinctive private identifiers” related to a tool to “data of services or products bought, obtained, or thought of”; “different buying or consuming histories or tendencies”; “web and different digital community exercise data, together with, however not restricted to, shopping historical past, search historical past, and data relating to your interplay with web sites, functions, or commercials”; and “inferences drawn from any of the knowledge recognized above to create a profile about you reflecting your preferences, traits, psychological traits, predispositions, conduct, attitudes, intelligence, talents, and aptitudes.”
  • Samsung could have additionally “disclosed” much more private information to “distributors” for “a enterprise objective” — together with buyer names, addresses, telephone numbers, signatures, checking account numbers, bank card numbers, buy histories, shopping histories, search histories, geolocation information, and “inferences drawn” from all of that.

The record retains going from there, with a complete separate coverage surrounding a Samsung software program layer that, if enabled, can acquire, analyze, and even share person information related to Samsung’s Galaxy-branded calendar and browser apps.

How is any of that acceptable for enterprise use — or for anybody who’s severe about defending their privateness, for that matter?

Android enterprise solutions

To be truthful, Google’s in a little bit of an ungainly place right here. Given Android’s open-source nature and the way in which device-makers are in a position to change and customise the core working system software program, there is not any possible way Google itself may fully management each facet of the person expertise — together with the supply of updates on gadgets exterior of its personal Pixel line.

Once I introduced a few of these findings to the corporate, a Google spokesperson supplied the next assertion:

Android Enterprise Really helpful offers companies with a straightforward option to discover the very best gadgets to deploy for his or her wants. Companions and their gadgets are assessed and vetted based mostly on a lot of standards, and we’re at all times working to make enhancements to this system. Once we grow to be conscious of any discrepancies in what companions are reporting by means of Android Enterprise Really helpful, we work with them to carry their gadgets into compliance with the Android Enterprise Really helpful program.

That appears smart sufficient, however the truth stays that these points in this system have been current for years now — and the identical device-makers and even particular system fashions proceed to be included regardless of their clear lack of compliance with its parameters.

And that finally factors us to the actual root of the issue.

“The promise of this program is fairly clear,” says Avi Greengart, lead analyst at analysis agency Techsponential. However, he notes, this system’s effectiveness appears to rely completely on the person distributors maintaining with their finish of the cut price — and when gadgets aren’t in compliance, there seems to be no actual recourse or actively enforced system for correction.

“It is not clear to me [that] there is a course of in place that Google has for kicking distributors out of this system, flagging merchandise that are not in compliance, and extra to the purpose offering some assurance to enterprises that in the event that they purchase this as we speak, it is going to be maintained,” he says.

So, wanting Google turning the ship round and really beginning to implement its requirements, what is the final reply for corporations in search of out steerage on which Android gadgets might be optimally updated, safe, privacy-protecting, and usually advisable for enterprise use?

The fact, sadly, is that there is no straightforward reply. Android Enterprise Really helpful was created to handle that very drawback — the shortage of clear, official information about which gadgets might be trusted to offer well timed and dependable updates and a completely optimum, enterprise-appropriate setup. And when you understand that this system’s suggestions do not imply a lot, there’s little you are able to do past relying in your personal experiences with totally different device-makers and any accessible analysis performed by impartial, exterior sources.

My very own Android Improve Report Playing cards communicate volumes. The constant message, yr after yr, is evident: If you would like gadgets which are assured to stay optimally updated and with the strongest privateness, safety, and efficiency protections potential, Google’s self-made Pixel telephones are the one totally advisable choices it is best to contemplate.

They use Google’s personal core Android software program, with out the interface-muddying and generally privacy-jeopardizing modifications different producers make, and so they reliably obtain all software program updates inside days of their launch, straight from Google — even once they’re not the new new children on the block.

For all of its progress as of late, Samsung nonetheless would not come shut to matching that commonplace. Its most present top-of-the-line flagship had a 65-day delay in receiving Android 12 within the US, whereas its previous-gen, simply one-year-old flagship telephone waited a full 95 days — greater than 1 / 4 of a yr — to get the most recent Android software program.

Past that, nobody else is absolutely even attempting.

Android most actually can be an efficient possibility for the enterprise, and Google’s strategy to pulling integral system-level components out of the working system and updating them independently, through the Play Retailer, affords an vital and broadly underappreciated benefit over Apple’s all-in-one bundled replace strategy — even with Apple having the good thing about being the only device-maker inside its iOS ecosystem.

However even with that issue, working system updates and safety patches stay an vital a part of the general equation — for anybody, actually, however particularly for enterprises that require essentially the most present and full measures and strategies of safety. And for now, no less than, Google’s Android Enterprise Really helpful program merely is not an efficient option to assess how dependable any given system might be at constantly offering these items of the puzzle.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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