This chart compares worldwide market share for smart phones in the first quarter of 2011 and 2010. Research in Motion’s BlackBerry has lost share while the iPhone and Android devices have gotten more popular.
Before Apple’s iPhone turned smart phones into coveted consumer devices, most corporate employees were toting around BlackBerrys. The devices weren’t slim or sexy, they didn’t boast hundreds of thousands of apps, and surfing the Web with them was awkward. But employers trusted Research in Motion, which marketed its BlackBerry phones as a secure way to let mobile workers access sensitive company information.
The perception persists among many technology executives that a BlackBerry is more secure than an iPhone or a phone running Google’s Android software. And yet the popularity of those rivals has led many companies to loosen their restrictions on which mobile devices people can use for work. When employees ask to use their iPhones and Android phones, are they putting the company at risk? It depends more on what people do with their phones than on which phones they use.
One traditional advantage of the BlackBerry is that it encrypts not only e-mail but also regular Web traffic that wouldn’t normally get such treatment. RIM’s server software also gives technology managers precisely targeted control over every BlackBerry a company hands out. Scott Totzke, RIM’s vice president of BlackBerry security, says there are 500 different settings for locking down the devices. For example, a company can decide that employees can download only certain approved applications, or none at all. They might be permitted to access and post to Facebook, but not to have the social-networking site access the company e-mail directory via the BlackBerry.
The iPhone doesn’t offer quite such sophisticated tools for managing the device’s settings. Still, IT departments can manage e-mail to the iPhone and Android devices with third-party programs such as Microsoft’s Exchange system.
When it comes to the damage that malicious code can wreak on smart phones, however, some security experts give the iPhone the edge for safety (assuming the device isn’t “jailbroken,” or modified to get around some of Apple’s restrictions). That’s partly because of the process that Apple requires software developers to go through if they want to create iPhone applications. Apple’s method for authenticating and identifying their code is more rigorous than RIM’s. (Google doesn’t have an up-front screening process for the Android app marketplace.)