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’s the official firm line, no less than — and the narrative Google’s been pushing exhausting since launching its Android Enterprise Recommended program in February 2018.Android Enterprise Recommended, the corporate advised us, could be a “Google-led global initiative that raises the bar of excellence for enterprise devices and services.” It’d set up “best practices and common requirements” for business-ready Android gadgets, and it’d guarantee any telephone with the stamp of approval supplied knowledgeable and correctly supported expertise with out all the widespread ecosystem asterisks.It definitely sounds good and wise. 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 Recommended program appears to have devolved right into a largely meaningless afterthought. There’s 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 surroundings appropriate for enterprise use, that disconnect may result in some troublingly flawed choices. The Android Enterprise Recommended storyI first wrote concerning the points with Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended program almost two years in the past, in July 2020. At the time, I famous that this system’s “Devices” 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 screen.Specifically, 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 standards,” with “regular security updates guaranteed,” because the web page proclaimed. The Moto Z4, nonetheless, had acquired the then-current Android 10 working system replace greater than six months after its launch, with completely no communication alongside the best way. And reporting on the time indicated it had gone months with none safety patch updates and remained perpetually old-fashioned on that entrance as nicely.Now, the actually stunning twist: Pull up that very same first-level “Devices” web page at present, almost 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 machine incomes Google’s stamp of approval. JR Raphael/IDG

    Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended “Devices” web page nonetheless prominently options telephones from 2019. (Click 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 one way or the other nonetheless the top-featured machine on Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended web site — together with different equally outdated and no-longer-supported merchandise.And that, sadly, is simply the tip of the iceberg. A deeper machine problemHaving a distinguished introductory web page that does not appear to have been up to date in years clearly is not a great signal for the state of the related program. But possibly that is simply an oversight. Maybe the database itself remains to be present and stuffed with significant enterprise-ready Android telephone suggestions. Right?Well, possibly. But not precisely.Make your method over to the complete checklist of Android Enterprise Recommended merchandise, and you’ll certainly see some extra present gadgets within the assortment of authorised and endorsed gadgets. 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 plenty of present Google-made and Nokia-made gadgets.I made a decision to dig deeper but, although, and see how nicely a few of these merchandise have been truly maintaining with the Android Enterprise Recommended promise. And exterior of Google’s self-made Pixel merchandise, the reply is not precisely uplifting. The Moto G Stylus, as an illustration, nonetheless hasn’t acquired the now-seven-month-old Android 12 replace as of this writing. Equally unsettling, it is working a five-months-outdated safety patch from December 1, 2021 at this current second — regardless of the machine’s in-phone System Update display screen assuring homeowners that “everything looks good” and that they are “using the latest software.” JR Raphael/IDG

    The Moto G Stylus’s System Update 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 a lot better on the safety patch entrance. I checked out the Nokia G10 for example and located it to be working the safety replace from March 5, 2022. Sure, it is lacking the more moderen April replace, in battle with its said promise for month-to-month safety patch rollouts, nevertheless it’s no less than fairly near the place it must be.But that is the place the excellent news ends. The Nokia G10 remains to be working 2020’s Android 11 software program as of this second — a launch that is now almost 20 months old-fashioned. And as anybody who research Android intently can inform you, 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 necessary modifications to the best way apps are allowed to work together with gadgets and delicate consumer information.Neither Motorola nor Nokia has made any significant communication to prospects concerning the standing of their rollouts, both, or when any progress could be anticipated.And keep in mind, the core Android Enterprise Recommended promise is an assurance that you’re going to get “timely security patches and clear information about major updates” with any endorsed gadgets (although amusingly sufficient, the Android Enterprise Recommended website’s database truly has a built-in filter to determine merchandise the place the safety replace frequency is “not provided,” and it at the moment options 227 gadgets with that designation). Beyond that, Nokia’s G10 telephone is technically additionally a part of Google’s Android One program for customers, which has the same speedy-update promise — although that program seems to be deserted and now not actively maintained. JR Raphael/IDG

    The web page selling the Nokia G10 on the Android Enterprise Recommended 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 know OS and safety updates are necessary, and we’re continually evaluating our technique and dealing with companions and our inside groups to make sure customers have the newest and finest expertise on their Motorola gadgets. Essential options may also be up to date through the Play Store, which permits us to offer key updates extra usually. Users can count on ongoing help for software program options like new My UX experiences, new digicam options, and new Ready For experiences, depending on {hardware} compatibility. Additionally, we all know safety is necessary to our customers, so we’ve elevated [security maintenance release] replace help from two to a few years to all mid-tier and premium gadgets.As for Samsung, after years of dismal software program help efficiency, the corporate is definitely doing a fairly first rate (if nonetheless slower-than-optimal) job at preserving its gadgets updated and preserving its prospects within the loop about its progress. The Galaxy S21, as an illustration, at the moment has Android 12 and the April 2022 safety patch.But, 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 “may allow certain third parties (such as advertising partners) to collect your personal information.”
    Samsung “may have” beforehand bought delicate information to undisclosed third events — every part starting from “unique personal identifiers” related to a tool to “records of products or services purchased, obtained, or considered”; “other purchasing or consuming histories or tendencies”; “internet and other electronic network activity information, including, but not limited to, browsing history, search history, and information regarding your interaction with websites, applications, or advertisements”; and “inferences drawn from any of the information identified above to create a profile about you reflecting your preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes.”
    Samsung might have additionally “disclosed” much more private information to “vendors” for “a business purpose” — together with buyer names, addresses, telephone numbers, signatures, checking account numbers, bank card numbers, buy histories, looking histories, search histories, geolocation information, and “inferences drawn” from all of that.
    The checklist retains going from there, with a complete separate coverage surrounding a Samsung software program layer that, if enabled, can gather, analyze, and even share consumer information related to Samsung’s Galaxy-branded calendar and browser apps.How is any of that applicable for enterprise use — or for anybody who’s severe about defending their privateness, for that matter?Android enterprise answersTo be truthful, Google’s in a little bit of an ungainly place right here. Given Android’s open-source nature and the best way device-makers are capable of change and customise the core working system software program, there is no possible way Google itself may fully management each side of the consumer expertise — together with the supply of updates on gadgets exterior of its personal Pixel line.When I offered a few of these findings to the corporate, a Google spokesperson supplied the next assertion:Android Enterprise Recommended gives companies with a straightforward technique to discover the very best gadgets to deploy for his or her wants. Partners and their gadgets are assessed and vetted based mostly on plenty of standards, and we’re all the time working to make enhancements to this system. When we grow to be conscious of any discrepancies in what companions are reporting by Android Enterprise Recommended, we work with them to convey their gadgets into compliance with the Android Enterprise Recommended program.That appears wise sufficient, however the reality stays that these points in this system have been current for years now — and the identical device-makers and even particular machine 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 pretty clear,” says Avi Greengart, lead analyst at analysis agency Techsponential. But, he notes, this system’s effectiveness appears to rely solely 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’s not clear to me [that] there’s a process in place that Google has for kicking vendors out of the program, flagging products that aren’t in compliance, and more to the point providing some assurance to enterprises that if they buy this today, it will 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 searching for out steering on which Android gadgets can be optimally updated, safe, privacy-protecting, and customarily advisable for enterprise use?The actuality, sadly, is that there is no such thing as a simple reply. Android Enterprise Recommended was created to deal with that very drawback — the dearth of clear, official information about which gadgets could be trusted to offer well timed and dependable updates and a totally 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 by yourself experiences with totally different device-makers and any accessible analysis performed by unbiased, exterior sources.My personal Android Upgrade Report Cards communicate volumes. The constant message, yr after yr, is obvious: If you need gadgets which might be assured to stay optimally updated and with the strongest privateness, safety, and efficiency protections attainable, Google’s self-made Pixel telephones are the one totally advisable choices it is best to take into account.They use Google’s personal core Android software program, with out the interface-muddying and generally privacy-jeopardizing modifications different producers make, they usually reliably obtain all software program updates inside days of their launch, instantly from Google — even once they’re now not the recent new children on the block.For all of its progress as of late, Samsung nonetheless does not come near 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 newest Android software program.Beyond that, nobody else is actually even attempting.Android most definitely could be an efficient possibility for the enterprise, and Google’s strategy to pulling integral system-level parts out of the working system and updating them independently, through the Play Store, affords an necessary and broadly underappreciated benefit over Apple’s all-in-one bundled replace strategy — even with Apple having the good thing about being the only real device-maker inside its iOS ecosystem.But even with that issue, working system updates and safety patches stay an necessary a part of the general equation — for anybody, actually, however particularly for enterprises that require probably the most present and full measures and strategies of safety. And for now, no less than, Google’s Android Enterprise Recommended program merely is not an efficient technique to assess how dependable any given machine can be at persistently offering these items of the puzzle.

    Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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