Mobile OS deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2

As the mobile battle narrows, the iPhone finally faces a real challenger

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Deathmatch: Security and management

Apple's not known for supporting enterprise-level security and client management demands, but iOS 4 covers much of what most businesses need in these areas. It has remote wipe, certificate-based authentication, and an assortment of password controls (such as requiring a strong password or disabling access after so many failed attempts to log in) that are manageable through Microsoft Exchange and, soon, through iOS 4-enabled management tools from companies such as Good Technology and Mobile Iron.

Unfortunately, these tools aren't yet shipping, so it's impossible to see how well they perform in practice. Apple has its own utility to deploy these security profiles, but it doesn't scale well beyond a few dozen users, so large businesses will want to look at the mobile management tools as they become available.

iOS 4 also supports several types of VPNs, provides SSL message encryption, and has on-device encryption for data such as e-mail and notes.

Make no mistake: BlackBerry Enterprise Server and the BlackBerry OS, as well as Microsoft Exchange and the Windows Mobile OS, provide better security and manageability than iOS and its tools do. (Their on-device encryption is harder to break, for example.)

But Android OS 2.2 simply can't meet most corporate security needs, and there is almost nothing in the way of mobile management hooks in the OS for third-party management tool providers to tap into. The biggest omission is the lack of on-device encryption, which pretty much renders Android unusable for corporate Exchange environments.

As previously noted, individual apps can implement encryption within their sandbox, as TouchDown does, but IT rarely has a way to ensure that only such apps are deployed (Exchange's EAS policy detection is one of those rare ways for e-mail, calendar, and contacts apps).

For smaller organizations, Android OS 2.2 is supposed to support remote wipe via Exchange, but many users have complained that it does not work. I could not test this because our corporate servers won't let Android devices connect due to lack of EAS policy compliance.

Android does support complex passwords, VPNs, and SSL message encryption.

Android OS 2.2 can back up contact, calendar, and e-mail data wirelessly to Gmail, as can iOS 4 to Apple's MobileMe service. Android can also back up system settings and application data to Google's servers. In addition, iOS can back up all of your device's data and apps to iTunes, which most large businesses would prefer not to have on corporate PCs.

The winner: It's not even close. Of the two, only iOS 4 can meet corporate security and manageability requirements. Small businesses and independent contractors can probably get away with using Android OS 2.2 -- if they keep a tight rein on their servers, passwords, and so on.

The overall winner is ...

There's no question which is the better mobile OS: iOS 4 beats Android OS 2.2 in almost every category.

But Android OS 2.2 does offer a strong core platform whose UI may be inferior to iOS 4 but is good enough for most users. Android OS 2.2's other major deficits center around security and manageability and around corporate apps. Should Google get serious about these areas, Android could easily tie with iOS. After all, it was only a year ago that iOS (then called iPhone OS 3.0) started to take corporate needs seriously, and only last month (with iOS 4) that the necessary foundation was in place to do so.

In the United States, the flawed AT&T 3G network continues to give users a reason to want an alternative to iOS, thanks to the carrier's lock on Apple, and that fact just adds fuel to the Android fire. Android's momentum with users and the support from developers and device makers alike give it a real opportunity to catch up to iOS at some point. No other would-be iPhone-killer can make that claim today.

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This article, "Mobile deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in mobile computing and read Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog at

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This story, "Mobile OS deathmatch: Apple iOS 4 vs. Android 2.2" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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