Android enterprise features may make Ice Cream Sandwich tastier for IT

Sander van Vugt

Some of the most important Android enterprise features include full-device encryption, face-recognition security, new memory technology and enhanced VPN connectivity. Android 4.0 device availability is limited now, but more new devices are expected to ship with the operating system later this year, and some older Android devices will be able to upgrade as well.

Android enterprise security features

Full-device mobile data encryption, which allows IT to protect sensitive data, is available on Ice Cream Sandwich. This technology is also included on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but that is primarily a tablet operating system. With Ice Cream Sandwich, full-device encryption is available on Android smartphones for the first time.  

More on Android 4.0

This Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 review covers performance, the user interface and apps.

Another of the new Android enterprise features uses the device camera and face-recognition software to prevent unauthorized access. Face recognition is cool, but its success in actually unlocking the device depends on external factors, such as the amount of surrounding light. On many occasions face recognition fails, and the user needs to fall back on secondary authentication methods, such as a pin code.

Android 4.0 offers more subtle security enhancements as well. New address space layout randomization technology makes it much harder for hackers to predict (and thus exploit) app memory locations, because it shuffles the memory spaces in which data is stored.

In addition, Ice Cream Sandwich provides a VPN application programming interface. Vendors can now create VPN tunnels on Android 4.0 devices, which let users establish secure connections to applications behind the corporate firewall.

Other new Android enterprise features

Ice Cream Sandwich boasts several other Android enterprise features that will help IT and business users do their jobs better. For example, it comes with an app that lets users monitor mobile data usage. This feature is especially important and useful now that more and more carriers are setting limits on the amount of bandwidth that subscribers may use on a monthly basis (and charging when users go over that limit). And the app will come in exceptionally handy in organizations that pay their users’ phone bills.

The Android 4.0 interface is also designed to improve productivity. Instead of a traditional contacts list, it uses the People app to let users access information about their contacts across multiple apps, keeping everything related to a contact in one place. Users can see a contact’s phone number and email, plus current status information from social networking applications such as Twitter and Facebook.

One last thing IT should pay attention to are the new sharing options in Ice Cream Sandwich, which make it easier than ever to send photos, videos and documents anywhere. Bluetooth and Gmail are standard export destinations, but Android 4.0 lets users send media to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa and Dropbox, too. It’s very convenient for users, but it could have security implications if workers share sensitive data.

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