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Android Device Administrator: The end of the road or just a bend?

Narinder Dhiliwal, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) Specialist at O2, Telefónica UK, discusses the imminent deprecation of the Android Device Administrator API.

The Android Operating system has come a long way since the first commercial version, Android 1.0, was released nearly ten years ago. It’s now on its eighth major release, with version 9.0, also known as Android P, due out later this year. With more than 2.3 billion active devices worldwide, the forthcoming changes in administration are sure to affect most enterprise Android deployments.

Back in December 2017 Google announced the deprecation of the widely used Device Administrator API, used to support the security management of mobile devices. The API has been in place since the launch of Froyo (2.2) in May 2010, and is still available in the current version, Oreo (8). There will be deprecated functionality in Android P (9) and no support in Android Q (10).

Android Enterprise was introduced in Android Lollipop (5). It is the supported deployment approach for Android in your business environment and is now replacing the deprecated Device Administrator approach.

So why the change, and why should you care?

The Device Admin API was originally introduced to allow IT administrators to take some control over the growing number of devices being used to conduct business. However desirable from the IT Manager’s perspective, the world has moved on since the Blackberry days of COBO (Company Owned, Business Only) devices. With the arrival of iOS and Android, and with the relentless demand for consumer mobile devices, it’s inevitable that employees want to use their devices for more than just work. In this context it’s worth asking whether full-blown administrative access or control over a BYO (Bring Your Own) device is still appropriate?

What does this mean for you?

If you are still using the Device Administrator enrolment model to manage your Android devices, I recommend that you start to implement and evaluate Android Enterprise without delay. Even though your current devices may never receive an update to Android Q, with a bit of forward planning you should ensure that you do not encounter any issues when Android Enterprise is the only supported deployment option.

So what’s the solution and what does it involve?

If only there was a one-size fits all solution, however every enterprise deployment of Android will be unique. Factors such as device types, operating system version, the EMM (Enterprise Mobility Management) solution and the use cases supported all need to be considered. It is essential to understand fully the different deployment models, as well as any implications that a migration might have. I cannot stress enough the importance of testing each use case when moving from one form of deployment and life management model to another.

It’s time to start planning. The deaf blind author and political activist Helen Keller’s quote seems particularly appropriate:

“The bend in the road is not the end of the road…unless you fail to make the turn”

Please feel free to get in touch and let me know your experiences on the journey from Device Administrator to Android Enterprise. You can contact me via LinkedIn.

Documentation and resources from Google on API deprecation are available here.


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