When Bruce Poon Tip was exploring in the South Pole earlier this month, he needed a way to communicate with his 1,500 employees scattered across the globe.
But Mr. Poon Tip, the founder of Toronto-based global travel company G Adventures, was faced with a challenge: His laptop was too heavy to carry across Antarctica.
Employees from G Adventures use all Apple products all the time
His solution? The Apple iPhone.
“We're in some of the most unique corners of the world so mobility is very important,” he said. “We have people communicating with us through just the touch of their iPhone from Bolivia to Mongolia.”
Mr. Poon Tip said most of his team is equipped with an iPhone and iPad which they use to Tweet out updates during trips, to access travel apps and to post photos.
Other devices simply aren't an option.
“We had people arriving here with BlackBerry and Android phones and they can't survive in our environment because of how fast we move,” he said.
G Adventures is just one of hundreds of companies which are starting to allow their employees to use iOS smartphones and tablets to access their corporate networks rather than devices made by Research In Motion , which have long been the industry standard.
But while companies are flocking to iOS in droves, Google's Android operating system hasn't attracted the same level of interest, despite the platform's gains in the consumer market.
A new study from mobility solutions firm Good Technology found that iPhones represented roughly 53 per cent of new device activations in the fourth quarter of 2011 for its enterprise customers, compared to 28 per cent for Android-based phones. Even excluding the impact of the iPhone 4S, which was released in October, iOS activations outpaced Android every quarter last year.
Add to that a survey from Forester Research, released Thursday, which suggested more than 21 per cent of “information workers” use Apple products at work. The breakdowns say 11 per cent use iPhones, nine per cent use iPads and eight per cent use Macs.
Yet Android continues to surpass iOS on the consumer side. Among people who bought a smartphone in the last three months, 52 per cent purchased Android devices compared to 37 per cent who chose the iPhone, according to Nielsen.
Companies may be holding off on Android for now because the platform is perceived as less secure than iOS, analysts say.
“The Chief Information Officers that we talk to say they're not going to go with Android because there's the perception of a security problem,” said Steve Drake, who covers enterprise mobility for IDC. “This is the big challenge for Android.”
Because Android is an open platform, users can download apps from sites that aren't associated with Google's Android market. Since Google doesn't actively monitor the quality of these third-party sites, Android devices may be susceptible to malware and other viruses contained in these apps.
Juniper Networks(JNPR) found that malware in the Android Market soared 472 per cent from July to November last year.
Google could not be reached when asked to comment on security concerns related to Android.
iPhone users, meanwhile, can only download apps contained in Apple's App Store, which the company controls.
While many consumers are focused on smartphone features like price and availability of apps, mobile security is a high priority for enterprises looking to ensure their corporate data remains safe.
“Because Android's app market isn't curated, even if malicious apps are removed relatively promptly, sometimes the damage is already done,” said Mark Tauschek, lead research analyst at Info-Tech who specialized in enterprise mobility. “There's just much more concern about security from enterprises.”
Google is trying to convince companies that its phones are safe with a host of new offerings to tap into a market ABI Research expects will reach $11-billion by 2016.
Last April, the search giant rolled out new security features which let business users locate a stolen Android phone on a map and remotely reset the password. Users can also now encrypt all data stored on tablets running Android 3.0.
Android partners are also trying to help Google grab share in enterprise with new security offerings.
Android handset maker Motorola launched a security management and remote access platform for the operating system late last year, while AT&T announced an app called Toggle that lets workers create personal and business modes for their Android devices.
But Android is essentially playing catch up to Apple, which began rolling out enterprise management tools back in June 2010.
“When we look at our customers it takes three or four releases for a platform to become enterprise-ready,” said Bob Tinker, president of mobile device management company MobileIron. “Apple is maturing and rolling out applications of scale, while Android is just now transitioning out of the pilot phase.”
Tinker said his customers are less concerned about Android-related security issues than fragmentation. Android has multiple operating systems running on devices, a slew of manufacturers making handsets for the platform and different user interfaces.
“There's not one handset maker, there's inconsistency...it's the biggest headache we hear from our customers about what's holding them back on Android,” he said. “But I think that while fragmentation is slowing things down in the enterprise, it's why the platform is growing quickly in the consumer market.”
Showcall, a D.C.-based event production company that plans large-scale global events like 2010's Nuclear Security Summit has given iPhones to nearly all of its 32 full-time employees. The company uses apps like Dropbox and Basecamp for project management, as well as programs like Lens Calc for making lighting calculations at its events.
“We went all Apple about four years ago as far as laptops and desktops and just about everyone has migrated to the iPhone since then,” said co-Founder Blayne Candy. “We have one holdout on the Android side – but that's our accounting person.”