As a Hosted Exchange provider and IT service organization, ConnectWise fields many support calls and questions regarding smartphones. Modern businesses lean heavily on a mobile workforce that requires on demand access to email, documents and other data; smartphones are quickly becoming the new medium for this access to data and a variety of other mobile communications. One of the most important and utilized functions of a business oriented Smart Phone is email, and email in today’s business world means Microsoft Exchange. All of the major smartphone players on the market support some form of Microsoft Exchange sync (Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and iPhone), but the new kid on the block may have some hard lessons to learn before it is ready for secure and reliable Enterprise Email usage, welcome Droid.
Since Droid’s release last fall, users have been reporting issues with the smartphone’s Exchange support, most notably; virtually no support for many of Exchange’s enhanced security features. A couple key security features Droid devices lack are: the ability to perform a remote wipe of the device in the event of loss or theft or the option for user specific PIN codes prior to accessing Exchange email. The following lists some of the most notable user complaints regarding Exchange ActiveSync on Android devices:
1. Inconsistent and untimely syncing to Exchange
2. Won’t sync to Exchange on Wi-Fi
3. Default mail app won’t allow users to accept/decline calendar invites
4. No option to create an email signature
5. Unable to file/sort email to folders
6. Inability to change alert settings for the notification bar on the device
7. Difficulty with the initial setup and settings
8. Messages in folders do not load
9. Doesn’t search for contacts on the Exchange Server, only local contacts
* These complaints have not been verified, based on a forum thread on http://forum.androidcentral.com
ConnectWise engineers have found that some of these Exchange compatibility (or lack thereof) problems can be solved using a third-party mail app such as TouchDown by NitroDesk. This can help fill the gap for enterprise users until Google provides a much needed update to the Android’s base mail application.
Looking at the future for Android based phones; many are starting to realize that a variety of smartphone manufactures are quickly flooding the market with differing versions of the Android OS. This non-standardization shows no clear upgrade path for either the operating system or applications and a wildly inconsistent deployment of core features on devices. This is a problem desktop Linux has battled for years; becoming merely a starting point for a variety of incompatible devices offering consumers little cohesion between platforms.
In my opinion, corporate users shopping for a smartphone device should consider their short and long term smartphone needs before choosing to embrace this new OS; Android still has a long road to adulthood.