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iPhone, Galaxy, iPad, Nexus: Here's how they really rate

Galen Gruman | March 12, 2014
Your smartphone or tablet is overrated. At least, that's the conclusion InfoWorld came to in assessing our scoring system for mobile devices.

Security and management
It wasn't until 2010 that Apple provided a security API to the iPhone; before then, you got a BlackBerry for security, and it's why BlackBerry owned the corporate market from the late 1990s until about 2012. (In the 2000s, Windows Mobile had some security capabilities through its use of the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, but Microsoft had all but abandoned Windows Mobile before the iPhone's debut, and it was no longer a factor in the market beyond some government segments.)

Apple kept improving its security APIs, and today the iPhone has displaced the BlackBerry as the corporate standard in all but the most security-sensitive organizations. Google copied Apple's approach, though with a smaller set of capabilities. At its release, Microsoft's Windows Phone didn't couldn't equal its Windows Mobile predecessor in terms of security capabilities. Even after its third version, Windows Phone has only reached parity with Windows Mobile, so it remains inadequate for most corporate enviroments.

Today, the security capabilities in BlackBerry and iOS are extensive, while Google chooses to be barely adequate and Microsoft chooses to pursue multiple, incompatible security approaches that keep it a mess. But it's clear that the security capabilities that make sense to include in a mobile platform are now pretty much available from the vendors that care about business users. Most future action will be in unifying mobile and desktop security management, we believe, not in adding more handcuffs and straitjackets to devices.

As a result, we expect security innovation to stagnate. Instead, we see the attention shifting to management, such as application distribution, application licensing, digital rights management, and content controls. The smarter mobile security vendors have been exploring various methods for digital rights management and content management, but it's still a Wild West environment. For application distribution and licensing, Apple's iOS 7 has made a huge step forward in creating a common API set for such management, and we believe it's an opportunity that some competitors will seek to replicate to make it easier for businesses to get actual value from their devices, not just protect them.

In our new scoring system, the weighting of security capabilities is unchanged at 20 percent, but management capabilities have a greater proportion of that weighting than in the previous version.

Perhaps the most subjective category, Usability has jumped from 15 percent of the score in our old system to 20 percent in our new system. We made this change because mobile devices are both widely adopted and now a maturing technology. Usability matters more in both cases.

Our criteria, though, remain unchanged: Ease of use, ease of discovery, and consistent operation matter greatly, no matter what user interface approach a platform takes to deliver them. Excessive effort for users, needlessly complex interfaces, and inconsistent execution are all demerits in our scores.


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