What to Consider When Shopping for An Android Solution

The DroidDevCast is a weekly podcast brought to you by the team at Esper, where we explore all things Android, mobile DevOps, and open source software development. On this episode, Esper Content Marketing Manager and podcast host Rin Oliver is joined by Esper COO and Co-Founder Shiv Sundar to discuss best practices business owners and decision makers need to consider when shopping for purpose built Android devices.

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Off-the-Shelf vs. Purpose Built Devices

When Android first was released, the majority of devices were off-the-shelf ready, such as mobile phones and tablets. Over time, these use cases evolved as enterprises came to understand that their customers were likely going to be deploying devices. As such, they often end up purchasing said devices from retailers such as Amazon or another OEM provider. The simplest thing to do in this case, Sundar explains, is for enterprises to use an MDM, install their enterprise applications on the device in Kiosk mode, and launch them. This approach can come with significant security risks, such as users being able to exit out of kiosk mode, and the ability to bypass security settings and policies to install other applications.

“In some cases the phone form factor or the tablet form factor isn’t the most optimal. You need something that is rugged in transportation use cases. You need some ports that are required. In some cases you need hardware, or internet access, and those options are not available on retail devices. So there are some shortcomings. It’s a good stock option, but I think as you scale your business and if you have more needs and you really know what your use case is, it’s better to do something that has been purpose-built, rather than go to the dealer,” says Sundar. 

Another area that Android devices have seen significant growth in, is that of the small business point-of-sale solutions now available to business retailers. Oliver later touched on the fact that this particular use case is a key way in which Android devices are being used, rather than just as mobile phones. They also added that in the current economic climate, having the ability to still operate one’s business entirely online, or from a socially distant event and still be able to process sales, is crucial to the success of these small businesses. For Sundar, this experience, he said–Is all about focusing on speed to help improve your small businesses sales using the power of Android point-of-sale solutions.

“Usually, when you’re banking with Wells Fargo or Bank of America, they’re tied up to some point-of-sale vendor that they would actually give it to you for free. Getting that IPO assistant can make a big difference in your margins and revenues. How streamlined you can make your processes, how the customer experience is, and how soon you can make orders happen,” said Sundar. 

Considerations When Building Custom Hardware

As businesses scale, they often look to source their devices from China, or other countries where manufacturing of devices may not have stringent quality standards. When putting into place a purchasing plan for an order of devices from a manufacturer, Sundar explained that your organization must be willing to put in the effort to learn more about where that device came from, where its components were made, and its manufacturing journey in order to ensure that you are getting not only an affordable device, but one that is effective, and will meet your business needs long-term. 

“Let’s say you go deploy 10,000 of these devices and your manufacturers go bust. How are you going to support those devices? There are multiple people in the (hardware manufacturing process) ecosystem, and you eventually are buying it from somebody who’s selling it. So you don’t know who the source of the hardware is. It’s very critical to understand who the device came from.”

If your organization is able to, consider making a factory visit to better understand how and where your device hardware is made. Sundar explained that having a source on-the-ground is crucial. Another talking point was that of software. When deploying an Android in enterprise scenarios, Sundar mentioned that buyers of devices need to consider what kinds of spyware or bloatware may be present on a lower-price-point device, particularly if they are going to be used in business use cases where security is critical. 

“It’s very important that you get full control of the source as a part of the purchase agreement. You negotiate that, ‘Hey, I want the entire source. I’m going to build my entire Android operating system, I’m going to sign it, I’m going to maintain it. So taking control over software is critical when sourcing hardware from China (or elsewhere). When you ask for a software source, or software binaries, you know that the person selling you the hardware doesn’t own the hardware or own the software. So you can quickly discover those issues. I think people should take a much more scientific approach to purchasing, especially for enterprise use cases.” 

In this Episode of The DroidDevCast: 

00:44 – Sundar’s thoughts on devices such as phones and tablets that are used in hospitals, retail, and restaurants for single-use cases
02:22 – Key things that companies need to follow when sourcing devices from China or from other areas of the world
05:12 – Is building custom hardware the right choice for vertical use cases?07:11 – Good reasons to purpose-build a device
09:03 – Building a mobile-first small business POS solution
11:27: Important considerations for working with single-purpose devices that companies should keep in order to succeed at their own business goals

You can read the full transcript of this interview on Simplecast. We’ll be back next week with another exciting episode. In episode seven, we’ll be discussing Android use cases in the healthcare industry, and new approaches to telehealth in the time of the current Covid-19 pandemic. We will be joined by Shawn Withrow, who is a Business Analyst at Common Spirit, working with Cerner ProVision Document Imaging (CPDI).

As always, be sure to like, subscribe, and listen to the DroidDevCast wherever you get your podcasts from.