Why I Am Dropping Android Phones And Moving To iPhone

Look… I am a huge fan of OSS, Linux, and most everything else that OSS implies. I love the CLI and SSH. BASH makes me happy. But, more than anything else, I am a bigger fan of the best tool to get the job done.

Recent Android developments at work have led me to believe that Android phones are not the best tools for the job anymore.

What Happened?

I roll with a Droid X right now. The phone is awesome. I am lucky to be able to enjoy all that Motorola allows me to enjoy with Android 2.2, MotoBLUR, and rocking hardware. However, as far as corporate support is concerned, things are beginning to slide downhill… fast. The primary use for my phone is corporate connectivity.

Like many companies in the wild, we run Exchange for our corporate email. And, just like many companies, we are typically behind in the major versioning. However, we are implementing Exchange 2010 SP1, and I am a tester.

After connecting my phone to the new Exchange environment, my email rolled in, my contacts continued to be synced with Exchange, and everything was golden. About 1 week later, I started seeing some funky behavior… specifically, emails not always syncing. However, it was not the end of the world. The next time around, the emails would popup again. Plus, we were still tweaking Exchange 2010.

My dislike for Android Exchange functionality popped up when we moved our VP of Sales to the new environment. We casually moved the account, setup the phone, and moved on with life. Little did we know what would happen next.

Sure enough, the phone Exchange functionality stopped working. Just would not work any more, plain and simple. At this point, we started digging into the issue:

  • Active Directory account permissions were correct for the user object, including inheritance.
  • Exchange 2010 OWA was showing his phone as being blocked. Allowing the phone did not make a difference.
  • Get-ActiveSyncDeviceStatistics –mailbox:username consistently showed the device being blocked due to policy
  • We removed all policies and the phone was still blocked.
  • We explicitly allowed his phone ID to be linked to his Exchange account and it still does not connect.

After 1 full day of man-hours (split across 3 people), it turns out that ActiveSync is not fully implemented in the DroidPRO. Uh… wha!?!?!? The DroidPRO is marketed as being a global business class phone device and it does not fully implement ActiveSync? That has to be a joke.

Further research shows that not only is the DroidPRO having issues with Exchange 2010 SP1, but many people are reporting issues with Droid X. How is this possible? I still do not have any idea yet.

I spoke with a person at my Verizon dealer and asked what my options were. He said it was the first time he had heard of the issue and wondered if there was another person on my family account that was due for an upgrade.

Why the iPhone?

We have a couple users on Exchange 2010 SP1 with iPhone 4 (v4.2) with no issues. So, it appears that it works perfectly.

But, this is more of a principle statement than anything else.

The iPhone is under control of Apple. While this may come across as the man keeping you down, or something like that, the reality is that it is a closed environment. And, there is something to be said for the hardware and software being controlled by a single entity.

Apple has really made efforts to enter the corporate environment. The configuration tools for companies are great, they licensed the Cisco VPN client, and their email functionality (via ActiveSync) works great. They want their devices to sit on my desk and deliver my email to me.

Android, on the other hand, is really showing some problems. The OS appears to be just fine. However, it is the hardware vendors that are the problem. Motorola has a fleet of various Android phones in its arsenal. Per their site, 18 phones are listed. Plus, who knows how many are in development and will be released soon.

How can Motorola keep the phones updated? Every version of Android needs to be tested across the board. Then, the mobile provider (Verizon, in my case) needs to verify the updates and provide them to the end user device. There is a lot of room for delay, drop in priority, and error (in general).

However, it appears as though Motorola has a fundamental flaw in their process. MotoBLUR and their replacement of the standard .APK applications. My phone runs MotoBLUR and DroidPRO is running MotoBLUR. My phone mostly works with Exchange 2010. DroidPRO does not work. There is something different between my version of MotoBLUR and the Email application even though we are both running on Android 2.2. Why would there be a difference? Yeah, the hardware is different. But, the OS should be abstracting that such that the included email application and ActiveSync implementation should be the same across the board. However, clearly, it is not.

Apple, on the other hand, has a single platform to work on. Consistent hardware, consistent OS, and a reliable update procedure/mechanism. If Apple finds an issue with ActiveSync implementation, they fix it. If Motorola finds an issue with ActiveSync, which does it fix first? Why does it differ from platform to platform?

What Do I Do Now?

Until I can get my hands on a Verizon iPhone, I am stuck waiting to see if my phone will tank itself and join the ranks of DroidPRO phones that will not work either.

Android developer forums appear to have identified the issue. Motorola is practically ignoring the issue in their forums and were offering (at one point) vouchers for free Touchdown licenses. Verizon has no idea this is an issue yet. So, when is the fix going to get pushed out? As more and more customers move to Exchange 2010 (which they will), this is going to be a hotter and hotter issue. Simply saying that they need to purchase new hardware because that is what is running the latest code is not going to fly. Plus, this is not the first update the vendors are going to need to make. Apple has the update process down. Motorola and Android need some work.

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6 Comments

  1. What you are describing sound like a Verizon Droid X Exchange issue, not an Android issue. We’ve been using Sprint EVO’s exclusively with Exchange and it’s worked phenomenally well.

    Reply

    1. Hi Greg,

      You are correct that this specific issue is a Droid X and DroidPRO issue. However, more than anything, it is an issue with Android as a whole and Motorola’s implementation of Android devices. There are no clear statements on why something is happening, updates, etc… Motorola brings devices to EOL and will not always support going forward. Look at the Droid Eris as a great example.

      Android appears to be solid. However, the vendor implementations are what is truely lacking. As a result, it makes Android look bad. Implementations are inconsistent across vendors and Enterprise-quality support is just not there. ActiveSync should be enabled fully across all of the Motorola devices. Yet, Exchange 2010 shows that DroidPRO does not support the remote wipe functionality… and further research is showing that the PRO is not requesting the ActiveSync policy, which is causing it to be blocked.

      The closed environment from Apple as well as their efforts to move into a corporate environment is very enticing at this point. Single vendor, single phone OS, and reliable update process (logically).

      We have people using Samsung’s Galaxy on Verizon and AT&T and it works great. Same Android 2.2. Just not Motorola.

      As vendors continue rolling out their own Android smartphones, are there going to be any other gotchas that are going to bite us? Probably, but we may not know until it is too late.

      ~Bill

      Reply

    1. Hi j@t.com,

      Thanks for the notice about Microsoft addressing this issue with the ActiveSync Logo program. This is great news for businesses that rely upon ActiveSync for email communications! I am excited to see what comes of it in the future.
      I am not surprised that Microsoft, Nokia, and Apple are going to be the first logoed phone manufacturers. But, as this relates to business penetration and adoption, it makes perfect sense. I know Samsung appears to be making a push into more corporate style support for their Android phones and the Motorola Atrix is a great proof of concept of what a smartphone can turn out to be when it grows up. But, until they play nicely with corporate email applications as advertized, I forsee them looking in from the outside for some time.
      It definitely sounds like I need to get an iPhone now!

      Thanks again for the info!

      ~Bill

      Reply

      1. If you like Android, get a Samsung… I’ve got the whole family… iphone, ipad… and since when I got the galaxy tab… all the Apple’s stuff rests in dust!

  2. Hi Bill,

    I’ve got the same Exchange in my corp and no issue with android. The company provided Galaxy Tab 7″ to the executives and we had no issue at all.

    My own tab is also eavily cracked and hacked having replaced everything including the kernel, but again, no issue of sort…

    Maybe Moto’s droid incanration isn’t so good?

    Reply

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