With G Suite, hardware often follows software—after a company moves to G Suite, I usually see Chromebooks replace Windows or macOS systems, for at least a few people in the organization. In my experience, this typically happens within 12 to 18 months of the initial adoption of G Suite.
The move to Google hardware makes sense because G Suite includes device management tools. Mobile device management capabilities for Android and iOS devices are part of the core G Suite services. An administrator can adjust many settings that apply within Chrome on all platforms, with comprehensive Chrome OS management available as a per-device subscription. When you begin to select Chrome or Android devices, the criteria you consider is a bit different than the criteria you use when you buy a Windows laptop or current model iPhone. As always, you need to be clear that a device will meet each person’s individuals needs and preferences. The standard criteria of device size, weight, battery life, speed, and screen resolution all will help refine your options. The following additional considerations may help you more quickly identify hardware that will work well in the long run for your organization.
SEE: G Suite: Tips and tricks for business professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
1. Get Google hardware
The most obvious and simplest choice? Standardize on Google’s Chrome and Android devices. As of December 2018, Google offers the Pixelbook laptop, Pixel Slate tablet, and Pixel 3 and 3 XL phones. These devices receive regular security updates and typically also receive new features first.
Prompt updates and premium performance come at a cost. The Pixelbook starts at $999, the Pixel Slate starts at $599, and the Pixel XL starts at $699. Preferred Care for each of these adds $249, $149, and $129, respectively, to the cost, as does the price of optional accessories, such as a keyboard for the Slate ($199) or a stylus pen ($99).
2. Consider Chrome devices
Several vendors, such as Acer, Asus, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, offer Chrome systems at lower prices than Google devices. In the $500 to $850 range, you can find excellent Chrome devices for work, including standard laptops and 2-in-1 format devices.
Before you buy one of these devices, look for Android app availability and the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date for the device.
Most, but not all, newer Chromebooks allow you to install and run Android apps, which helps when a web-friendly app isn’t otherwise available, or when the Android app supports capabilities not offered via the web. Check the list maintained at The Chromium Project to see Android app support status for your device. If in doubt, I’d recommend a system that lists Android app status as available on the Stable Channel, which is the current standard version of Chrome OS.
Also check the AUE date list for your Chrome device: That’s the date beyond which your device is no longer guaranteed to receive Chrome OS updates. For example, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 has an AUE date of November 2022, while the Acer Chromebook Spin 13 has an AUE date of June 2024, since the Spin was released more recently than the Flip. The later the AUE, the longer your device will receive system and security updates.
3. Standard Android devices for work
These Google-maintained lists filter for two slightly different goals. Android Enterprise devices allow for bulk device enrollment, deliver a minimum of eight hours of battery life, and meet minimum hardware requirements (e.g., 2 GB RAM, 32 GB storage or 16 GB for rugged devices, and have a 2 MP front camera and 10 MP back camera). Android One devices offer a standard Android user interface, with minimal tweaks or customizations, and also include support for all the latest Google software. Devices on both lists will receive regular and consistent system and security updates.
SEE: BYOD spotlight: Mitigating risk and implementing policies and solutions (Tech Pro Research)
Choose a device that appears on both lists to ensure easy deployment, consistent security patching, and a relatively consistent user experience. For example, the mid-range Nokia 7.1 (about $350) released in 2018 appears on both lists, as does the less expensive Nokia 6.1 (about $180).
If you use G Suite, what criteria does your organization use to select Chrome or Android devices? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@awolber).