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How long should you support Android phones in the enterprise?

The Android OS can run on a wide range of devices, but how long should enterprise organizations support Android phones? Find out which factors help determine the lifecycle length.

Determining how long Android devices are supported can be a major challenge for an enterprise organization due to the wide range of manufacturers that can run this mobile OS.

Regardless of why an organization deploys mobile devices, IT teams need to develop a plan to manage and support them. The Android OS is available on more devices from different OEMs than the Apple iOS is, so the length of support for Android devices varies and can present challenges for IT administrators.

Supporting these devices goes beyond what IT teams must do to troubleshoot performance issues. It also includes the support they get from vendors when there are problems with the device's hardware or OS. Support for the OS is especially critical because it ensures that users will continue to receive important security updates.

Failure to understand the lifespan of enterprise devices can put organizations at risk, so IT must know what affects an Android's lifespan and how that factors into effective endpoint management. There are a few considerations that can help admins define the overall lifecycle length of their organization's Android smartphones.

Select a hardware vendor that offers Android support

It's vital for organizations to purchase Android hardware from a vendor that provides support. Still, there are several small vendors that sell Android-based devices on Amazon, eBay, Alibaba and other online stores that don't offer a way for customers to access support or warranties.

More established brands can provide support directly or through their resellers, so it's safer to purchase enterprise Android devices from a company that is known to provide support for its enterprise customers. Companies such as Samsung have also been making Android devices for a long time and are likely to have far longer support for their hardware than other newcomers to the mobile space.

Understand the length of support from both the hardware provider and Google

With Apple devices, the maker of the hardware is also the maker of the operating system, but this is not always the case for Android devices. As a result, Android hardware may have different end-of-life support than the operating system itself. Organizations that purchase these types of devices must track the length of support for the hardware from the manufacturer as well as Google's end-of-life support for the different versions of Android OS.

Maintaining older hardware does not always save money in the long run

Another factor to consider when choosing to maintain Android devices for an extended period of time is their overall performance. Not only can the battery of the device have a reduced charging capacity, but newer operating systems from Google could perform poorly on older devices given their increased need for faster processors and more memory. Attempting to extend the lifespan of Android devices can have disadvantages as a result.

Opt to receive repairs from the manufacturer first

While there are plenty of mobile device repair shops that consumers can turn to when hardware or software problems occur, this isn't an ideal option in the enterprise. Organizations store company data on their mobile devices, so it's important to keep that data secure and solve any issues as quickly as possible. Since retail repair shops can't always guarantee fast repairs, a better option is to first work with the device manufacturer to receive support or repairs. If that fails, a retail repair shop can be a last resort.

Not only can the battery of the device have a reduced charging capacity, but newer operating systems from Google could perform poorly on older devices given their increased need for faster processors and more memory.

Always use MDM software for enterprise smartphones

Whether a company has deployed a few dozen mobile devices or a few thousand, using a mobile device management (MDM) system is critical to maintaining an accurate inventory of all endpoints. This can help track warranties and versions of the OS and identify any device that may be due for an upgrade or replacement. Google offers Android Enterprise, a mobility program that integrates with MDM platforms, as well as Android Enterprise Essentials, a more simple management service for small to midsize businesses. Admins can look into many other MDM platforms that are compatible with Android and the management tools that Google provides.

Standardize which devices employees can use

The variety of hardware vendors that organizations can choose from with Android can also cause problems with inconsistency for IT and users. Several different vendors offer varying hardware features that may appeal to different users. This can quickly create the demand for multiple devices from different manufacturers, leading to complexity and confusion around who to contact or have a service contract with. To avoid that, IT teams must establish one provider that they can use for all their mobile device needs. Organizations can purchase different models, but maintaining one vendor as the standard can help alleviate any potential support problems and provide admins and end users with one go-to resource for their support and repair needs.

Maintain OS and firmware updates

For the hardware side of the smartphone, users and IT must ensure that all enterprise devices have the latest OS updates to Android 12 or later. This will both ensure that the device is supported and help keep the organization up to date on all critical security updates and software patches.

While some may frame Android devices as a cheaper alternative to Apple devices, many of the popular Samsung and Google phone models are comparable to Apple when it comes to pricing. Still, there are some lower-end, less expensive Android OS devices that might be appealing to companies looking to reduce equipment costs. These devices are more likely to have manufacturing defects or simply need more updates to keep them protected, so it's important to ensure that they are supportable.

If admins fail to make sure that the right support is implemented for these smartphones, there's a much greater risk of poor performance, data breaches and disruptions to users who might find themselves without a smartphone while they wait for repairs to be completed. One way to avoid purchasing less reliable devices is to look at the Android Enterprise Recommended list, a directory of Android devices that have gone through Google's strict certification process. This certification confirms that devices are updated, secure and compatible with Android Enterprise.

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