Android Customization: Bringing Your Innovative Ideas to Life

Android or iOS? Consumers have been on either side of the battle line for years — some are ardently Android while others inevitably favor iOS. In the end-user commercial space, the choice is effectively cosmetic: which platform provides the form and features that best meet customer expectations?

When it comes to purpose-built B2B devices, meanwhile, fundamental functionality is informed by OS choice. This lends greater weight to the iOS/Android debate: which operating system wins the day for corporate customization?

The Great Debate: iOS vs Android

For businesses, iOS has long been the operating system of choice. Part of this preference stems from Apple’s mobile device management (MDM) protocol. Launched in 2010, MDM gave enterprise IT teams greater visibility and control over iOS devices on their network. The company’s commitment to iOS consistency also spurred corporate adoption — with all device manufacturing under Apple’s auspices, new OS releases happened in unison across mobile environments.

But this same consistency creates challenges for customization. As noted by Popular Science, the open-source nature of Android makes it possible for developers to modify key features and functions, while Apple’s proprietary approach means users have to live with what they’re given. Android devices allow customization of home screens with the addition of widgets, the implementation of launcher apps that allow custom swipes and gestures, the assignment of different default apps for different operations — such as web browsing, email, and maps — and the installation of multiple services to handle SMS and text messaging.

On iOS, meanwhile, users are stuck with default SMS, browser, and home screen apps. While Apple is making customization inroads by allowing the addition of certain widgets and the removal of specific home apps, the core tenet of iOS is consistency — whether users like it or not.

For enterprises, the iOS/Android debate comes down to a clear distinction: if customization is the priority, Android is the path.

Exploring the Android Advantage

Android 11 boasts the fastest adoption rate of any Android version, beating the previously-held record of Android 10. Android 12, meanwhile, has already been released for Pixel devices and is in late-stage beta for non-Google offerings. The takeaway? Android is making significant strides in addressing its most common criticism: fragmentation. Paired with Android Enterprise Recommend, a regularly-updated list of devices and services that Google identifies as enterprise-ready, IT teams are better equipped to find best-find Android devices for specific use cases. Devices can be filtered by OS version, RAM, screen size, regional availability, and other characteristics to help pinpoint ideal options.

And the choice doesn’t stop with Android device type. Because Google’s OS is open source, customization is a core component of the system. Development teams can choose to leverage existing code as the basis for complete OS overhauls that meet specific business needs or choose to leverage built-in enterprise features, such as:

  • DPC-first work profile provisioning

From Android version 5.1 onward, teams can provision work profiles using Android Device Policy to reduce the risk of accidental data compromise.

  • QR code device provisioning

Android’s enterprise mobile management console can also be used to generate a QR code that admins can use to quickly provision a fully-managed or dedicated device, in turn streamlining the process of secure device deployment.

  • Device security challenge

IT admins can implement specific security challenges — or challenge combinations — on managed devices. These include PINs, patterns, and passwords, and can also be customized for work-specific profiles to increase overall security.

  • Advanced password management

Android permits the implementation of password quality rules that include the use of biometrics, numeric characters, complex numeric characters, minimum password length, and a minimum number of symbols, letters, or special characters. IT teams can also specify password expiration timeouts for password updates and the number of failed passwords allowed before corporate data is wiped from the device.

  • Hardware security management

It’s also possible to lock down specific hardware elements for improved security management. This includes the ability to block users from mounting physical external media, prohibit data sharing from devices via NFC, and restrict the ability of users to transfer files over USB.

Prioritizing Purpose-Built Potential

While customizing home screens and default app preferences can help streamline device operation, Android also makes it possible to create purpose-built device profiles designed for specific industry needs. 

Consider healthcare implementations; informed by pandemic pressures and driven by the increasing demand for telehealth solutions, many organizations are leveraging kiosk mode for Android, which restricts the device to a set of pre-selected applications or even a single app. The challenge? Not all kiosk approaches are created equal — some simply hide a consumer OS behind an existing MDM layer, in turn creating potential security and privacy risks for protected health information (PHI). 

Across government and hospitality enterprises, meanwhile, there’s a growing need for wearable devices and POS systems that are both scalable and secure. For example, first responders benefit from the on-demand information available from wearable devices, but agencies need a way to ensure this data is securely handled, transmitted, and communicated. And when it comes to retail and hospitality POS systems, flexibility is paramount; from in-room guest experience devices, self-check-in kiosks, and mobile point-of-sale systems, customers expect on-demand accessibility — while teams need streamlined backend data handling and processing frameworks to keep pace with increasing data volumes.

In practice, this level of customization requires complete control over your Android OS. The Mason OS platform offers low-level OS control that allows your team to remove or configure more than 500 components in a matter of minutes to create secure, purpose-built user experiences. Unlike generalized customization solutions that simply layer MDM onto consumer OS, Mason gives you granular control over every byte of software running on your devices. You define it and we deploy it to minimize security vulnerabilities, ensure uninterrupted user experiences and limit variability across your device fleet.

Bottom line? While iOS comes out ahead for consistency, Android is the go-to option for complete OS

customization.Expand your Android ecosystem and bring your innovative ideas to life with Mason. Schedule a consultation today.