Critical Testing Criteria: Android Handsets

Android handsets from Motorola, Samsung, HTC and the carriers that love them are coming to an enterprise near you. Be sure to ask these questions.

Android-based smartphone handsets continue the march into consumers' hands and into the workplace. When a new handset starts clamoring to be a part of your corporate network, here are some the critical testing criteria to use when evaluating whether the device can be a good corporate citizen. While many of these criteria are dependent on the underlying Android operating system, there are device- and carrier-specific differences that distinguish handsets in terms of their suitability for enterprise use.

1. Security

Does the handset run an Android version that enables policy management APIs to enable remote wipe and screen lock? Does the device enable numeric PIN or alphanumeric password options? Can Exchange administrators enforce password policy across devices? Look for the ability to sandbox user and corporate data on the device. Does the handset have tamper-resistant technology that can be used to prevent altered phones from working on the corporate network? Can corporate date be encrypted on the device?

2. Connectivity

Does the carrier network function in the areas where employees travel? What WiFi radio specifications (a, b, g, n) are supported and at what frequency? Does the handset work with the accessories you need, such as headsets? Is there tethering capability to enable the handset to connect a laptop or other devices to the Internet? Are there bandwidth caps on tethered devices and what additional charges are associated with tethered usage? What is the limit on the number of connected devices?

3. Form factor

What are the dimensions (open and closed if applicable) and weight of the handset? What charging options are available (car, wall, inductive) and what is the weight of these required chargers? What other connection ports are available on the device? Are any of the ports proprietary or in some other way nonstandard? Do any of the ports pose a particular data security risk, and can that risk be mitigated using policy or software to satisfy corporate or external regulations regarding data security? What is the rated battery life and what is the battery charge capacity?

4. Storage

How much processor memory is supplied with the device? What storage options, such as a MicroSD card slot, are available on the handset? What is the maximum supported storage option on the card? How are applications and handset operations, including battery life and execution speed, affected when using optional storage cards?

5. Communications

What is the handset voice call quality when using the handset directly and when using a wired or wireless headset paired with the phone? Is the call quality experience significantly different for the caller hears and the called party? What keyboard options are available for typed communication, for example Swype, physical keys or a virtual keyboard? Can the camera be used for video conferencing?

6. Corporate integration

Is there anything remarkable about the Microsoft Exchange mailbox support for e-mail, contacts and calendar integration? Can Exchange policies be implemented on the handset to enforce password complexity requirements? What versions of Exchange infrastructure are supported?

7. User interaction

Do features such as speech-to-text, voice control and keyboarding work well enough to aid in performing common work tasks on the handset? Is the display sufficient in size, brightness and resolution to enable mobile workers to access and use business information? Do the keyboard options enable users to effectively interact with applications? How well do custom enterprise apps work on the device?

8. User interface

Are interface options such as Motoblur, Sprint ID and HTC Sense sufficient to support business uses of the device? If social media applications are important business tools for users, do the interface overlays enhance daily productivity with these applications? Are there tools or policies that enable central management of interface overlay options?

9. App store

In addition to the Android Market, what other options exist for getting apps onto the handset? If alternatives exist, what measures can be used to ensure that users get the apps appropriate to their job functions? Are there accounting controls to limit app costs?

10. Performance

What is the battery life under a variety of workloads? Using JavaScript rendering and other test tools such as Acid3, how would you characterize the handset's app execution speed, display capability and power management controls?