Android is one of the most popular operating systems in the world for a reason. The OS boasts many developer- and enterprise-friendly features that evolve with every new OS update. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many system admins and IT team members are curious about what Android 12 brings to the table.
As one might expect, Android 12 builds on Android 11’s improvements for managing employee-owned devices. That said, the new OS also makes it easier to manage company-owned devices, streamlining a number of common challenges. Let’s take a look.
Android 12 Demands Greater Emphasis on Privacy and Transparency
Android 12 will empower users to understand their privacy settings better than ever before. This may cause some challenges for developers and administrators, who in many cases will need to do a better job justifying data collection features.
Device users have access to a feature known as a Privacy Dashboard, showing which apps use services like location monitoring. App developers will have the chance to justify permissions by including an explanation in the Privacy Dashboard. Even if a device is fully-managed, the admin must clearly disclose that the user will not have control over permissions (provided the admin decides to manage them).
Android 12 changes the way some major permissions work as well. Users can now permit apps to track only “approximate location,” as opposed to precise location. Notably, Google mandates that all apps provide users with the option to choose between precise and approximate location tracking. Perhaps in response, admins using a device policy controller (DPC) to regulate secure network access no longer need location permissions to request a list of connected networks and Bluetooth devices.
Additionally, starting with Android 12, apps running in the background cannot run most tasks in the foreground. In other words, if a user is not currently using an app, that app can’t do anything intrusive enough to merit notifying the user. Still, Google will offer a workaround through a new type of background task called Work Manager Expedited Jobs, which can perform important tasks with higher priority than normal background tasks.
Streamlined Password Approval Brings Clarity
Every admin may have a different personal opinion of what constitutes a “complex” password. In order to sidestep potential controversies, Android 12 now has predetermined definitions for low-, medium-, and high-security passwords.
If admins want to impose a more rigorous password policy, they can do so through Work Profiles. Specifically, they can use the Work Profile Security Challenge feature to set custom password standards. The OS will then inform the device user if their device password meets those standards. If not, the user can either update the device password or create a security challenge specifically for accessing work apps.
While not strictly related to passwords, Android 12 introduces another critical security measure for non-managed devices: namely, the ability to support certificate management with the help of a certificate management app. This will let worker-owned devices access sensitive resources more safely without the need for full management or a full Work Profile.
Admins Gain New Ways to Manage Some Devices
While Android 12 focuses heavily on user agency and transparency, this doesn’t mean device management features are weaker than before. In fact, admins will have some exciting new forms of device management to utilize. In particular, company-owned devices now offer more granular ways to control usage.
As long as a device is company-owned, admins can stop USB activity, such as data transfers, while still permitting devices to charge via USB. This is hugely convenient for enterprises that once needed to shut down USB functionality altogether, reluctantly depriving users access to USB-based charging functionality.
Additionally, admins can now control which input devices users can access if they have work-owned devices with a Work Profile. Specifically, admins can ensure users don’t use external input devices, even in the context of the personal profile. This can help to restrict users from providing unusual characters or otherwise creating complications.
Deploying Android 12
As you can see, Android 12 is worth watching and waiting for. It will graduate from beta to final release in the fall of 2021, although it may take some time for it to roll out to every supported Android phone.
If you’re looking to get ready, you may want to prepare yourself using an MDM solution. Enrolling your firm’s devices with MDM software now means upgrading will be painless when the time comes for you to make the change.
An easy starting point for MDM software is choosing to work with 42Gears, whose dedicated Welcome Team makes it easy to enroll, secure, monitor, and manage devices as needed. 42Gears is committed to providing Android 12 zero-day support through SureMDM, the 42Gears MDM solution. This ensures admins will be able to keep devices secure the instant they update.
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