My background in mobile computing began in ernest when I first acquired a Palm V. From there I moved though a Palm M515, to a Palm Tungsten T3. After this line of PDA’s I then jumped ship to smartphones – first on Windows Mobile via a XDA Stellar (aka HTC TyTN II) and latterly on Android via a Motorola Droid2.
Now I’ve made the jump to tablets and I’ve recently took delivery of then started using a Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime (TF201 – 32GB, Champagne model) (Amazon)
It’s a beast of a machine – quad-core 1.6GHz Nvidia Tegra3 chipset, 1GB RAM, 32GB storage, micro SD reader, mini-HDMI port, 10.1 inch screen and a 12hr battery life. It can get even crazier when I get the keypad dock.
But… this isn’t a unit review – there’s plenty of those out there if you want to Google for them. This isn’t even an OS review (it runs Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich – and looks very fine doing so) because they are out there too.
This is a software suite selection blog – namely for Android business apps I’ve decided upon.
As background, I work for a US-based IT managed services company in the Network Operations department. This means that when setting up Android for my work purposes I had some fairly wide-ranging software requirements – everything from standard MS Office-style word processing, through corporate email and remote desktop access and ending up with to Virtual Machine monitoring.
As of today (15 Mar 2012) I’ve got the bulk of software I need now to replicate the tasks I perform day-to-day with my work laptop. There are a few outstanding issues though – and I’ll cover them too.
So, without further adieu…
Office Suite: Polaris Office
I’ve been a bit cheap here and I’ve kept the default installed app that comes with the Transformer Prime – it’s OEM only and is more than sufficient to allow me to edit Word and Excel documents on the go. If you’re looking for an independantly purchaseable app, though, then you can not go wrong with DataViz’s Documents to Go app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dataviz.docstogo) which I’ve used since my first PDA. Polaris fills the need though, and I’ve had no real complaints.
Email: Moxier Mail (for Tablet)
My company operates an Exchange environment and so I started happily setting up the tablet for access to the server accordingly using the built-in email client. I was, however, presented with a notification that I would need to hand over security settings and remote wipe capability to Exchange. While this would be no issue with a work-supplied device, this was a little more than I was willing to do for a personal device.
So, I started shopping around for a seperate app – one that would allow the remote wipe/security features but for that app only (leaving the rest of my data alone!)
In the end I located and plumped for testing of two applications – Moxier Mail and Touchdown HD. Touchdown appears to be the older of the two applications and unfortunately it showed a little in the UI – although it was certainly usable, it was less intuitive than the newer Moxier Mail.
I can’t say enough good things about this app – it has a nice selection of good looking widgets for your homescreen, and the application itself has a clean and very intuitive UI while retaining all the power of a full-featured Exchange client.
Connectivity: Cisco AnyConnect ICS
So, for anything else my company operates I was going to need to get behind my corporate firewall. Luckily, Cisco have an AnyConnect client for Android 4.0 to compliment the one on my laptop. I’d previously tried installing AnyConnect on my Android phone (2.3, Gingerbread) and unfortunately it would require me rooting my device to do so.
No such worries here – straight and simple install, and after mirroring the settings from the desktop version, I’ve placed the included widget on my homescreen and can now log on to my company network securely wherever I can get wifi access.
Remote Desktop Access #1: Splashtop THD
Bit of an impulse purchase this one but it has served me extremely well (and likely to only get better in future versions). This is a high-performance remote desktop solution, that requires a local streaming client to work. You install Splashtop Streamer on any PC you need to access, enable your Google account log in (optional), and then so long as that PC is powered on you can remote into it and do anything you like.
And I mean anything – it’ll stream video and audio played locally on the PC and even allow you to play the PC version of Skyrim if you have it installed (with more games support coming).
From a business perspective, I have the streamer installed on my laptop which enables me to quickly switch to my desktop via the tablet when I’m on the datacentre floor, without heading back to the Operation Centre.
Remote Desktop Access #2: PocketCloud Remote Pro
Of course, the Spplashtop Streamer isn’t something I’d be installing on our corporate servers, so I needed another solution as well. The bulk of our (Windows) servers can be controlled via RDP so I had to find a decent RDP client. I went through a couple but when I discovered this one, I stopped looking. I’m currently running the free edition of the above but will be upgrading in the very near future as it has one of the best UI features for pointer interaction I have ever seen! Try it, you’ll like it!
Terminal Access: ConnectBot
This is an application I brought over from my smartphone – it’s a basic, but fuctional, SSH client – great for when I need to dive into one of the companies’ Cisco firewalls or switches to check or monkey around with the config.
Ignore the reviews that state there’s no landscape support – it’s just not enabled by default (Settings > Rotation mode > Automatic).
Network Tools: Fing
Not something I’m going to need every day but I absolutely wouldn’t be without it – Fing is a tool to allow not just network discovery, but also pinging, traceroutes and more. When things go wrong, I want a tool like this in my bag of tricks!
Now, for the (little) downside – there are three applications that I absolutely need in my line of work that I have not yet found acceptable or working versions of. Here they are…
VoIP Telephony: Cisco Jabber
While the application I need exists, it can not be installed on a tablet that has no phone functionality. I’m currently researching if there are any viable alternatives for my corporate VoIP infrastructure, but no joy yet.
As a VoIP app it should have no requirements to need the phone functionality – and I remain hopeful that it will be “fixed” in the near future.
IM/Teleconference: Lync Mobile 2010
Another case of an existing app, that can not be installed on a tablet that has no phone functionality. More infuriatingly, research has showed that previous versions had no such requirement and ran perfectly fine.
As such, I’m hoping that it too will be fixed in the near future (since in this case, it has been working fine!)
Server Management: VMware vSphere Client
Unfortunately, this is a case of being available for the iPad but not for Android-based devices. The article does mention, however, that “supporting Android tablets is on our radar.” so one year down the line I’m hoping that an official tool emerges soon.
In the interim, I’ve looked at a few third-party apps and while there are a few out there, they are not quite ready for prime time (either limited UI, or require outside connectivity to verify a license). You can check them out here.
Feel free to let me know what your favourite business/productivity/server management applications for Android are, and I hope this list helped you find a few new favourites!