For the enterprise market, and for financial services in particular, it’s been hard to move on from the previous generation of mobility platforms. Traditionally, banks have relied upon old devices’ proven mobile security features, particularly their ability to protect confidential information through encryption and remote wiping when a phone is lost or stolen. However, a quickly changing mobile market has driven some enterprise users toward alternatives.

Android™ has stepped in to fill the gap. In IDC’s report, Worldwide Business Use Smartphone 2014–2018 Forecast and Analysis, Ramon LLamas, a research manager with IDC’s Mobile Phones team, predicts that Android “will have tremendous traction within the enterprise and mostly through enterprise-liable smartphone shipments.” Improved mobile security and widespread corporate adoption will drive banks away from legacy platforms and toward issuing their employees with Android devices. It will also open the door for banks to implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

Increasing Android Support for the Enterprise

In early 2015, Google introduced Android for Work™ to help adapt the platform for enterprise use. A large focus of this initiative is around secure app development. In a 2015 interview with the Financial Post, Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Android and Chrome at Work™, posited that Android’s greatness in the enterprise will come from partnerships in custom app and software creation for specific workplaces, such as financial institutions.

Still, one of the lingering worries for Android in the enterprise has been fragmentation of versions as well as perceptions about security. According to mobile expert Benedict Evans , “Android fragmentation is both massively overstated and massively understated, depending on what you want to do.” Evans argues that it’s next to impossible to avoid fragmentation in a landscape where both $600 and $50 devices coexist; differences in capabilities just comes with the territory. However, he notes that Google has been successful in minimizing Android version fragmentation. Furthermore, the latest version of Android v5.1 adds support for enterprise customers’ desired features such as Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), which answers any lingering concerns about platform vulnerabilities.

The Growing Demand for Android

The worldwide success and continued growth of Android across markets, segments and geographies has reached new heights. According to a 2014 report from IDC, corporate-liable smartphone sales were expected to hit 111 million units in 2014, up nearly 14 percent over the previous year. Though they’re not accelerating, sales are forecasted to rise at a rate of nearly 9 percent annually to 150 million units in 2018. In a sense, therefore, the enterprise market is following the global rise in demand for Android. As was widely reported, the number of Android activations had risen dramatically to reach more than 1 billion activated devices in late 2013. Now, the platform owns an estimated 78 percent of the consumer smartphone market, according to a 2015 IDC study, so it’s no surprise that the enterprise market recognizes the need to support it.

While most security-conscious companies will want to support Android by providing corporate-liable devices that ensure greater control over security settings, IDC points out that the BYOD market is larger. In fact, employee-liable devices are forecasted to grow from 221 million units in 2014 to 331 million in 2018, a higher growth rate than corporate-liable devices at 15.3 percent. Morgan Stanley rolled out the first corporate app to run on Android in 2010, oriented toward financial research for banking institutions. Today, there’s a much wider set of company apps for Android.

Mobile Security: The Key to Unlocking Higher Growth

Two factors are key to enabling Android’s growth within the enterprise market: improved platform security and more enterprise security solutions. Android’s changes through successive versions reveal numerous improvements, from the security framework enhancements of version 4.3 to device protection in the latest version, 5.1.

Beyond Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM), third-party software companies have helped to improve the security of Android devices for both consumers and the enterprise. One such company, Lookout, started as a successful consumer app and was able to gain traction quickly based on building a more positive and rewarding security experience for consumers, unlike the traditional desktop security players. As a result, Lookout has seen a strong demand from enterprise customers, said Jenny Roy, Head of Consumer Marketing for Lookout.

“People don’t typically use the word ‘love’ and ‘antivirus’ in the same sentence when referring to desktop security. So when it comes to something as personal as someone’s phone, security has to be a better experience, to not only win over the consumer but also the enterprise, as employers look to roll it out to all their employees,” says Roy.

In addition to its consumer-friendly interface, Lookout emphasizes predictive security and offers solutions such as mobile threat protection and support for enterprise customers who use corporate liable and BYOD programs.

Changing of the Guard: Moving From Legacy Devices to Androidsmartphones

As noted earlier, the enterprise market, and financial services in particular, have been slow to shift to the new device generation. However, the market is changing: IDC’s report said Android will grow in the corporate market from 2014 to 2015. Benedict Evans and others have pointed out that Samsung maintains a firm lock on the upper end of the Android market. Therefore, it’s likely that enterprise clients, including banks, may increasingly turn to Samsung Galaxy S® 7 smartphones and Galaxy Tab® tablets, which feature great enterprise features like Samsung KNOX™.

It can be hard to change perceptions, but given the trends outlined here, experts predict that the enterprise market for Android will increase significantly over the next several years.

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Michael Halloran

Michael Halloran publishes the FinTech Blog on innovation and trends in financial services firms and startups, and is head of partnerships and business development at Previously, he was with Morgan Stanley, where he managed partner relationships in the wealth management division. He began his career as a consultant at Gemini Consulting, where he helped launch the U.K.'s first online bank. He was also a managing director at Scient (now Razorfish). Follow him on Twitter: @fintechblogger

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