The last several years have seen the increased proliferation of desktop phones that use the Android OS as firmware. While the most productive manufacturers (think Mitel-Polycom (News - Alert)) have historically released phones running on proprietary firmware, mid-range manufacturers (think Yealink, Grandstream and RCA) run Android OS as a base more frequently. In some part, this has been the case because it is significantly cheaper to simply modify Android (News - Alert) OS and leverage the enormous and free developer community rather than develop proprietary firmware in house. However, in an increasingly larger part, there are substantial advantages to using a common operating system that can serve as a bridge between the worlds of mobility, unified communications and office desktop telephony, and all while leveraging the depth and breadth of productivity software available in the Google (News - Alert) Play Store. Telephone manufacturers are starting to more explicitly market Android desk phones, like Jablocom’s Raven, as smart desk phones or as a flagship model – Fanvil – and other major manufacturers like Panasonic (News - Alert) plan to shift more of their SIP phone catalog to Android in the near future.
At issue is the downward spiral of desktop telephone sales, which is now officially underway with the recently announced Mitel purchase of Polycom. Mobile phones, computer desktop client software and browser-based WebRTC tools are all developments that have created alternatives to the desktop phone, particularly among the next generation of office workers (studies suggest millennials in particular do not value the utility of desktop phones). And yet tens of millions of office workers still use desktop phones. At VoIP Logic (News - Alert) our service provider partners assert that while the importance of the hard phone to a sale has dropped from among the top two factors (it used to be up there with price) it is still squarely in the top four (with business integration and useful extensions like a mobile client – and price).
Android OS desktop SIP phones have nice color touch screens, are excellent for videoconferencing, are cost effective to maintain and upgrade and, as mentioned, have the advantage of a huge amount of productivity software via Google Play. In addition, a separate phone while at work tends to promote a better telephone experience – more consistent performance notably.
So where should SIP phones running the Android OS fit into your future strategy? Here are some thoughts:
Integration with Cloud UC Services
Perhaps, from the perspective of VoIP service providers at least, the most interesting argument for Android for desk phones is found in the rollout of cloud UC services. Most hosted telecom systems are premised upon simplicity and ease of installation and operation. In contrast to the potential complexity of soft clients from an IT perspective, a SIP desk phone is, literally, plug and play. According to Frost & Sullivan’s Mohamed Alaa Saayed, phones meant for the cloud UC space are set to make up an increasing share of IP desk phone sales (from 22 percent of total sales in 2014 to 55 percent in 2021).
Android SIP desk phones occupy a unique and potentially valuable space between the computer desktop, the mobile phone and the traditional PBX integrated handset. With access to contacts syncing traditionally associated with PC-based information managers, the Android desk phone can quickly and painlessly integrate with the office worker’s contacts and business flows. However, since it is Android, the phone also automatically syncs contacts, apps and data from the user’s profile in the Google ecosystem. Furthermore, the Google Play store grants the phone automatic access to a whole host of mobile clients for business productivity suites, all the while remaining tightly integrated into the office’s traditional PBX structure. In short, the Android desk phone sits at the center of the Venn diagram of the office worker’s communications and productivity worlds.
A final interesting potential value for the Android desk phone may lie in the development of hosted PBX on mobile networks. A few manufacturers (see again Jablocom’s Raven) are incorporating features (SIM card and mobile network support) that seem to anticipate the development of mobile-first PBX. With mobile-first PBX – a system where the hosted PBX is housed on the mobile platform – it would make sense to facilitate the desk phone’s tight integration into the PBX with these mobile attributes. By anticipating and preparing for these developments, manufacturers could place themselves in an ideal position to capitalize should mobile-first PBX take off in the near future.
For the moment, Android desk phones are something of a novelty – beautiful and interesting, but functionally situated in a strange space between the mobile phone and the computer desktop. However, as manufacturers get wise to the potential value of Android in the desk phone context, we will see these devices marketed and used more and more in the ways described above. Service providers, especially those involved in the provisioning of CPE, would do well to understand and stay abreast of this development.
Edited by Alicia Young