The smartphone world had another dynamic and interesting year in 2014, with continued growth and market positioning by manufacturers from all four major platforms.
Google Android based devices dominated by market-share, mainly due to the large selection of handsets from numerous manufacturers available at every price-point. Samsung continued to be the lead brand.
Apple maintained second place, finally introducing not one, but two larger iPhones: the 4.7” iPhone 6 and the even larger iPhone 6+ with its 5.5” phablet-sized display.
Canadian smartphone pioneer BlackBerry and Windows Phone based devices hold the remainder of the market.
Despite having a selection of solid hardware and suite of market-leading secure network services, BlackBerry continues to struggle while working through a major corporate make-over. Its core government, corporate and law-enforcement markets continue to show strength while its consumer market is still weak.
Windows Phone has never gained much market traction and doesn't seem able to present a compelling reason for users to switch or adopt the platform, despite Microsoft's substantial marketing strengths and recent acquisition of Nokia's handset division.
Smartphones continue to penetrate the business world because of their advanced computing and communications capabilities, mobility and relative affordability when compared to laptops – but simply issuing phones to mobile workers or adopting the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) model is fraught with dangers. These include: loss of the device through accident or theft, loss of the often confidential data they contain, unauthorised access to corporate networks and data and interception of voice and data communications.
Smartphones used for business should be protected through a strong password-based access control system and data stored on the device should be encrypted.
Since business smartphones have access to corporate networks and data, that access needs to be tightly controlled. This should include controlling app installation, since some apps, especially on Android devices, are prone to malware and other security vulnerabilities.
Interception of private and confidential communications between smartphones and the corporate network is also a risk. Free WiFi access points are particularly risky, so using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and encrypting data in transit are important features. Traditional Organised Crime (TOC) groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs have the motivation, and may have the ability and necessary sophistication, to intercept unencrypted communications.
The ability to wipe a lost, stolen or misplaced smartphone is also a critical feature, whether the device is used for business or personal use.
Lack of security
The most significant challenge for business use of smartphones, whether the device is company-owned or BYOD, has been the lack of strong native security on non-BlackBerry devices. Other phones have basic security features such as password access-control and add-on security apps but lack a security-centric foundation.
Smartphone pioneer BlackBerry, on the other hand, has numerous security features build right into the operating system (OS) level on all handsets, which is far more effective than just adding them on top of the OS.
All BlackBerry devices meet government-level FIPS 140-2 certification, one of the highest security certifications available. Their network services and Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) system is also built on a security focused foundation, extensively using encryption and various device-control and management features.
The headsets feature security starts with password protection, which prevents people from using poor passwords such as “password” or “ABC123,” and passwords are not limited to simple four digit number combinations.
BlackBerry Protect comes standard on each device, allowing users to locate a lost or stolen phone and remotely lock it or wipe its data.
In the business environment, BlackBerry Balance provides two separate user environments on the same smartphone; a personal side that the user controls and a corporate side that the IT department controls. Data cannot be exchanged between the two environments and the user does not have administrative privileges on the corporate side of the device.
BlackBerry 10 devices have 256-bit AES encryption available for stored data and memory cards.
BlackBerry's EMM solution, BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES), is the clear market leader in terms of security, features, affordability and the ability to manage smartphones from all four platforms. BES12 was recently launched to excellent reviews.
Also recently launched for enterprise users is BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Secured. It includes three layers of encryption for messages in transit, and all BBM messages and databases are encrypted on devices.
BlackBerry recently completed the acquisition of Secusmart GmbH, a German firm that produces market leading high-security systems for encrypting voice and data communications on smartphones. SecuSuite for BlackBerry 10 devices is used by German government agencies and departments and Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Thousands of law enforcement users around the world use BlackBerry smartphones running software from Canadian company Mobile Innovations. For smartphone access to CPIC, 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) must be in place. It generally uses a smart-card wirelessly connected to the device. The connection must remain active for CPIC access to continue.
BlackBerry introduced two new smartphones aimed solidly at the business market late last year.
The first all-new device is the radically different BlackBerry Passport, which has the same outside dimensions as a standard paper passport. It features a unique square 4.5” touchscreen with a resolution of 1440x1440 and an impressive 453 pixels per inch (PPI) density with 24-bit colour depth.
It also features a revolutionary new three row mechanical keyboard that is touch sensitive in the same manner as a laptop touch-pad, allowing users to control a number of features by simply swiping their fingers over it.
The Passport is powered by a 2.2 GHz quad-core processor, 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of user storage. A microSD slot accepts up to 128 GB of additional user storage. Its massive 3,450mAh integrated battery is rated at 30 hours of mixed-use.
It also features a 13MP autofocus rear camera and a 2MP fixed-focus front camera, latest generation cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, an FM-radio receiver and the typical compliment of sensors. It uses an industry-standard microUSB port for charging and wired connectivity.
The Passport has been very well received, particularly by the business market, where it is proving to be a very powerful productivity device. Industrial-design and build quality are excellent. Many technical specifications best the overhyped iPhone 6 and 6+.
The second new device is the BlackBerry Classic, which resembles an updated Bold 9900, often considered to have been BlackBerry's best smartphone.
It features a larger square 3.5” touchscreen with a resolution of 720x720 at 294ppi. It is powered by 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, has 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of user storage. A microSD slot accepts up to 128 GB of additional user storage. It has a non-removable 2,515mAh battery rated at 22 hours of mixed-use.
It features an 8MP autofocus rear camera and a 2MP front camera, latest generation cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS connectivity, FM radio receiver, the typical compliment of sensors and a microUSB port for charging and wired connectivity.
The new Classic was highly anticipated, particularly by business, because it features the return of the tool-belt, a row of four feature-buttons and an optical trackpad as last seen on the famous Bold 9900. Many existing users were apparently not willing to move to newer BlackBerry 10 smartphones because they lacked the tool-belt. It was released just before Christmas and has generated a lot of sales and excitement.
Security the key
With the large amounts of information stored on smartphones, and their ability to connect to many kinds of networks, the importance of keeping the device and its data secure is becoming more important. Security of voice and data in-transit is also crucial.
With the rush to add smartphone access to corporate networks, security frequently seems to either be forgotten or ignored.