Is 2017 the year of Native Android?

Back in 2015 I wrote an article challenging if OEM Android could ever be safe given the lax attention to security that device manufacturers were giving and the massive market fragmentation that surrounded it. Fast forward to 2017 and it looks like the rise of Native Android is about to hit a hockystick moment. At Mobile World Congress last week 2 of the old guard released some rather interesting devices both with a focus on stepping back from Android overlays to one of adopting Native Android capabilities and in the process moving the attention to their hardware. Is less more?

Let’s start with the BlackBerry KEYone. Shipping with Android 7.1 and no extra bloatware apart from some apps is a great start but more impressive is BlackBerry’s commitment to providing monthly security patches on time. This is something BlackBerry committed to about a year ago and today is reaffirmed that actions do speak louder than words with a comprehensive and publicly facing monthly security bulletin published at A perfect track record in 2016 with 12 monthly Android security patches released. Well done BlackBerry. Apart from the Nexus/Pixel range I believe BlackBerry may be the only other Android device to receive all 12 throughout 2016. (Please comment if you know of any others) Add to this the underlying hardening of Android that BlackBerry has carefully implemented and there we have it. A secure enterprise grade Android device complete with zero day patch support from the OS manufacturer in Google. Is it possible that BlackBerry can be known as a leading hardware manufacturer once again?

Next up is Nokia. Yes Nokia. Back from the ashes with a new focus. This time with Pure Android inside. From the page it is clear the focus is about not messing with Android but rather focusing on the hardware as the core differentiation. No less that 4 times on one page is this point driven home.

  1. Sleek curved design meets pure Android™ experience
  2. What’s best, your Nokia phone will stay secure and up to date with regular software updates
  3. LATEST ANDROID Pure, secure and up to date. Nokia 5 comes with Android Nougat, the full spread of Google Services and no unnecessary extras. You get an experience that’s focused and clutter-free, and we’ll make sure you keep getting regular updates, so you’ll always stay on top of features and security.
  4. Clean and clutter-free Android Nougat with regular updates

With 3 new variants (3,5 and 6) on offer I must say I am very impressed with the on paper specs of the Nokia 5. As a fleet phone I think this will be very hard to beat. With a list price of $189 Euro (Estimate ~$300 AUD inc GST) and the fact it includes an ongoing commitment to security, fingerprint access, premium alloy build (see video below) and a 5.2″ screen I think it will find its place in the volume enterprise fleet market very quickly. Previously phones at this price point came with no security patching commitment effectively making them insecure from day one. Would you ever deploy a company laptop that could/would never be security patched by Microsoft regardless of how cheap you could buy it for? Well done Nokia. Can’t wait to get one of these in my hands.

So there you have it, the 2 old guards are at it again. BlackBerry and Nokia. Who would have predicted this?

Here is my prediction for 2017. More and more Enterprise customers seeking a good fleet phone for a good price will mandate that the device supplier commit to providing monthly Android patching directly from Google as part of their RFQ process. (At least I hope this prediction comes true).



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