Why is Android GMS certification turning out to be vital for the business world?

In the race to become the global leader in mobile operating systems, it is a general consensus that Android OS is a real contender with the lion’s share in the mobile device market quickly garnered being a relative newcomer. Android’s lineup of devices has fared remarkably well in the workplace too, though the topic of whether Google can outshine the Cupertino giant in terms of enterprise offerings is up for debate now. The open-source software stack, the object-oriented architecture based on the mature Java language, and the swift integration with Google’s extensive services are the major causes behind the reliable and consistent user experience provided by Android.

Whether it be a consumer device or an enterprise device, users cannot afford to lose any pre-loaded apps or services that they expect to be available right out of the box. Google Mobile Services (GMS) offers such a set of pre-installed apps and services meant to boost the productivity of certified Android devices. GMS certification is the process of verification that all the Google proprietary apps and services work properly as most standard Android devices do, and everything essential comes pre-shared.

GMS certification is an often-overlooked factor when it comes to choosing the ideal hardware for your business. To choose wisely and put the highest quality devices to the ecosystem, one must have a good understanding of what GMS certification is and what it means for Android systems, especially when used as dedicated devices. Here, we attempt to scrutinize whether GMS certification is the greatest blessing or the darkest curse for Android device users.

What is Google Mobile Services (GMS)?

Popular apps like Google Play Store, Search, Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Hangouts, Google Maps, Calendar, etc. typically comes under the GMS package though there will be regional variations based on country availability and licensing requirements. Major GMS capabilities include Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), SafetyNet APIs, location APIs, etc. Integrating GMS into the Android system requires a fee per device for the OEMs. What the end users have to pay depends on a particular application’s/service’s requirements though all Google Mobile Services are generally free to use for the consumer set.

Advantages of GMS:

  • Increased efficiency due to a large bulk of productivity apps.
  • Over-the-air updates.
  • Consistency and uniform functionality across multiple devices.
  • Google guidelines and support to ensure security.
  • Services to ensure the proper functioning of other mainstream apps.

Is GMS a part of the Android operating system?

Core Android OS by itself doesn’t support some mechanisms and features necessary for enterprises though it provides device-level functionalities like emailing. So, in order to provide these additional requirements, GMS is built on top of the OS and hence is not a part of the Android operating system. Unlike the Android operating system, GMS is not open source and is a different product. GMS is not for all types of devices. It can only be added by obtaining a license with Google. It is possible for a device running the Android operating system to work without including GMS within it.

What is GMS certification?

GMS certification is a deal between manufacturers and Google. In addition to getting the brand certified, manufacturers have to get each of their models GMS certified before their retail distribution in order to launch them with the GMS suite of apps and services. Obtaining GMS certification often involves a time consuming and expensive road, especially for device makers who are not a top Android OEM. In order to be approved and certified by Google, the device must pass through a series of tests like Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), CTS Audio Quality Test Suite (CAT), GMS Test Suite (GTS), and so on. Both the hardware and software of the system will be thoroughly examined and validated to ensure that they meet Google standards in terms of performance, quality, and reliability.

GMS license vs. GMS certification

How to obtain GMS certification?

Compatibility Definition Documentation

Applying for and obtaining GMS certification is not a simple process but involves different steps, some of which are very complicated as compared to others. Here is a quick overview of the development cycle an OEM should go through in order to launch Android devices with GMS certification.

GMS certification process

Step-1: Initial phase

Step-2: GMS pre-check phase

Step-3: Development phase

Step-4: Testing phase

  • Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) — Also known as Android Compatibility Tests, CTS helps reveal incompatibilities early on by running more than 300 K unit test cases. CTS helps to verify the compatibility of the device’s hardware and software. It consists of a set of tests like signature tests, platform API tests, platform resources, platform permissions, and so on.
  • Compatibility Test Suite Verifier (CTS-V) — After completing the CTS, the device undergoes Compatibility Test Suite Verifier (CTS-V) to verify the Android compatibility further. It is a manual testing tool that allows the validation of functions and APIs that are unable to be tested without manual input. Device camera, sensors, touch screen, audio, etc. are manually tested using this tool.
  • Vendor Test Suite (VTS) — Checks the compatibility of the OEM device and the Android system aiming at the lower layer of the Android architecture. VTS consists of a set of test cases that are intended to improve the performance and compatibility of the Android system. It automates the HAL and OS kernel testing with test sets that are automated or structural. It encourages a test-driven development process.
  • CTS Audio Quality Test Suite (CAT) — Helps validate the recording quality and audio playback capabilities of devices. CAT verifies the audio quality of the device without requiring full-fledged test environments.
  • GMS Test Suite (GTS) — Tests the compatibility of Google proprietary apps with the device. This automated test verifies whether the GMS apps have been appropriately integrated and ensure user data security with a few security-related tests.
  • Security Test Suite (STS) — Checks for security vulnerabilities and ensure the safety of the device. It guarantees that the devices are safe and vulnerabilities have been fixed correctly. It is updated monthly, and so device makers can undo any latest type of bugs identified in the system.

Step-5: Submission Phase

Step-6: Approval Phase

Step-7: Product Launching Phase

PROs and CONs of GMS certification

The PROs

  • GMS devices are loaded with the latest version or the preceding version of Android OS, so little to no security flaws are experienced.
  • GMS devices get monthly security patch updates.
  • GMS devices come with a broad mix of apps and access to the Google Play Store, which can be controlled using a UEM solution.
  • GMS devices come with commonly used APIs like location services.
  • Android Enterprise is supported to integrate with UEM solutions for better device management.
  • Application stability and over-the-air updates.

The CONs

  • Forced software updates and apps utilize extra resources.
  • Google Play Store opens doors for easy malware distribution.
  • Devices must pass through a complex suite of tests that costs a lot of time and money for device makers.
  • No support for older Android versions.
  • Limit options for device customization.

GMS in the enterprise

Hexnode MDM is an award winning Enterprise Mobility Management vendor which helps businesses to secure and manage BYOD, COPE, apps and content.