5 Advantages of a Custom Mobile OS
Official new releases of Android appear about once a year. They’re well supported by the Android ecosystem, and they’re deployed on hundreds of millions of mobile devices.
You might think, then, that there is little reason not to use one of the official Android releases on your device. Why would you use a custom mobile OS instead?
Well, for a variety of reasons. Here’s a look at the top five.
Customization Means Optimization
Probably the most obvious reason to create a custom mobile OS is because of the opportunity to customize it to fit your business’s needs and priorities.
What can be easy to overlook, however, is that customizability is about more than just tweaking the look and feel of the OS. Customization also provides the ability to optimize OS performance by, for example, removing libraries that aren’t necessary for your use cases. You can also customize the OS in ways that improve security by stripping out components that aren’t required (thereby reducing the size of the attack surface) and adding other OS-hardening features that aren’t part of stock Android.
In short, a custom OS gives you the ability to create an OS that is better from a UI/UX, performance, and security perspective than generic Android.
Deploy OS on Your Own Schedule
Relying on official Android releases increases the pressure to deploy OS updates to your devices based on Android’s own release schedule.
There is no law saying that you have to upgrade your OSes whenever Android issues a new release, of course. But if you wait too long to upgrade, you risk compatibility issues. So, in essence, you are beholden to Android’s own schedule for OS upgrades. That said, with Android 9 and above, Google is cracking down on OS updates, forcing consumer devices and MDMs to release updates more often, with a forced update at the 90 day mark.What’s more, you may also need to plan application deployments and upgrades around Android’s official release schedule. You likely don’t want to deploy a new application on the same day as an Android update, because doing so would increase the risk of something going wrong on the untested new OS.
A custom OS saves you from being tied down by the official Android release timeline. You can upgrade your OS – and your applications – according to whichever schedule suits your business best.
Given that Android is free, you may not think that a custom mobile OS can save you any money. If the official Android releases cost no money, how do you save anything by building your own custom version?
It’s true that you may not save on direct OS development costs (in fact, you’ll have to pay for the custom development). But in the long run, a custom OS can save money by allowing you to create a deployment environment tailored to your needs. By reducing the complexity of the environment, or integrating components into the OS that you would otherwise have to install on top of it, you can simplify the time and money required to build and deploy applications.
Even if you base your custom OS on Android, it provides a safeguard against being locked into the stock Android platform. When you have your own custom codebase, you don’t need to worry about how changes in Android itself could impact you.
For example, imagine if Android announced that its next official release won’t work with a specific hardware component you need, or that it will include a software library that is not compatible with one of your apps. Or, even worse, imagine if the Android project changes its licensing policies in ways that prove problematic. (We recently saw how open source license changes can upend a community when Elastic modified its licensing policies.)
If things like these happen, you’ll still be free to take your existing custom OS code and do with it as you please. You won’t have to worry that decisions made by someone else will undercut your ability to deploy the mobile hardware and software that your business requires.
Monitor and Manage Mobile Devices More Easily
Full control over the OS running on your devices makes them easier to monitor and manage. With stock Android, you can only collect the monitoring data and use the management frameworks that Android supports.
A custom OS allows you to extend Android’s native management functionality. You could have the OS include additional data in the device profile to help you identify each device in your fleet and track its update history. You could also install a custom tool for deploying applications, which may be more secure and easier than what Android (or your device vendor) offers by default.
A custom mobile OS provides benefits to all stakeholders: Developers, IT operations teams, end-users, and even C-suite decision-makers. It makes software deployment and management easier, while also improving performance and security. It may also save money to boot.