IOS4 v. Android 2.2: Which is Better for Business?
For IT Administrators
• Availability. IOS4 will be available as a free platform update for existing iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPod Touch devices later this month. When the iPhone 4 launches on June 24 it will also be equipped with IOS4. Apple has only one hardware platform and only one supported OS version, so there is more stability and consistency in terms of managing the devices.
Android is a much more fragmented platform. Android 2.2 has been rolled out to the Nexus One, and is expected to be officially available on other platforms "soon". However some Android smartphones may never get the update.
• Diversity. IOS4--or more specifically the iPhone it runs on--is only available from one wireless carrier--AT&T. It is also only available on one form factor. There are slight variations between the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and upcoming iPhone 4--but for all intents and purposes it is the same hardware platform.
For businesses that are already contracted with another carrier--like Verizon, or Sprint, or T-Mobile, IOS4 is not an option. Organizations that want a physical keyboard, or a different form factor will appreciate the diversity of smartphone hardware available running Android.
Point: Android 2.2
• Management Tools. The iPhone has generally been perceived as a consumer gadget first and foremost. However, Apple revolutionized the game, and more or less erased the line between consumer and business when it comes to smartphones. Over time, Apple has developed a fair set of tools for IT administrators to be able to provision, deploy, monitor, and manage iPhones in the enterprise. Apple has also made strides in strengthening the security of the iPhone.
There are third-party management frameworks such as Good for Enterprise that enable IT administrators to manage Android devices, but by itself Android is still playing catch up in the enterprise tools department.
So, that leaves us with three points for IOS4, three points for Android 2.2, and one tie. The bottom line, though, is that "best" or even "better" is a subjective measurement tainted by opinion and personal preference. As noted, in some cases where the company is already under contract with a given wireless provider, the decision may be more or less dictated by what's available from that carrier.
In selecting a smartphone platform for the enterprise, IT administrators and business professionals need to keep these factors in mind, but these are by no means the only factors. Signal strength for a given carrier in your region, whether or not the smartphone will work globally for users that travel frequently, how the smartphones fit with any data protection or information security compliance requirements, and a myriad of other factors must also be taken into consideration in order to determine what is "better" or "best" for your unique situation.
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