The latest version of the two most popular smartphone operating systems, Google’s Android version 7 (Nougat) and Apple’s iOS 10, are set to be rolled out to devices around the world at around the same time.
While both will mainly contain updates aimed at the consumer market, there are also some stand-out features that might be of use to enterprise customers. But which operating system is now the best for the enterprise?
Both platforms have introduced a few new features that will make them more usable.
Unique to Nougat now is the ability to rearrange tiles on the Quick Settings menu so that the user can customise it according to their requirements.
Nougat’s enhancement of Android’s ‘Doze’ mode may also enhance its battery life. Since version 6.0, Android phones have had a Doze mode that can defer CPU and network activities when a user leaves a device unplugged, stationary, and with the screen turned off.
Android devices will now be able to drop into lower power usage even when it is being jostled around, so even people on the move will see their power consumption reduced.
With iOS 10, stand-out points include the removal of the swipe to unlock feature and its replacement with pressing the home button to unlock.
In addition, the lock screen notifications have been upgraded, with new users now able to interact with them in more detail. Users can also clear all notifications.
However, the most important item on the list of the enterprise concerns about smartphones is of course security.
Apple products have a strong reputation for security. iOS's walled garden means that iPhones can only run apps that are pre-approved by Apple, whereas Android is an open platform.
Apple also has control over rolling out updates to all iOS devices.
In relative terms, Android devices have generally had a poor reputation for security. Some vendors such as LG and Samsung have introduced proprietary security solutions on their devices in order to bring the security close to the standard of that of iOS.
Nougat brings some new security benefits to all Android devices, however.
Nougat incorporates file-based encryption, which means that individual files and folders can be encrypted. This differs from block-level encryption, which encrypts the whole disk or entire sections of it.
Paul Swaddle, CEO of Pocket Apps, says that the file encryption is one of Nougat’s “most important new features.”
He says “business is increasingly taking place via mobile in the modern world, and the ability to offer top of the range protection will secure Nougat’s place as many enterprises’ first choice of platform.”
Nick McQuire, Vice President of Enterprise at CCS Insight, says that some of the improvements in Nougat are playing catch-up with iOS, but that Nougat get Android close to “on a par” with iOS in terms of security, which already has features such as native encryption.
In a sense, the updates with Nougat seem more of a step-change to Android than version 10 does to iOS.
“Apple already has the edge in terms of its installed enterprise base,” says McQuire. “iOS 10 is a natural iterative improvement to the installed base.”
Nougat’s security changes on the other hand can be seen more as part of a wider project to make Android enterprise-ready.
Alongside the work Google has done on its Android for Work platform, this should be seen as part of its targeted pitch for enterprise customers.
McQuire says that the coming months should see a fairly “level playing field” between new Android and iOS 10 devices coming into the enterprise.
According to McQuire, the next frontier will be the app stores rather than the operating systems. He highlights the high investment in Android but suggests that the Play Store could be next. For example, the move to badge specific apps as business apps could be an indicator of this strategy.
Overall, while some of the new features have brought the two operating systems closer in line, such as the security additions on Nougat, the Android versus iOS dilemma will still come down to a matter of personal choice and budget to some extent.
It is possible to get cheaper Android devices than iOS devices, for example. Some employees or executives will simply favour one of the operating systems over the other.