Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ActiveSync Contacts, Android and a 50 Gallon Fish Tank

By Vern Weitzman





Lets imagine we drop a 50 gallon fish tank from the second floor of our office directly onto the cement sidewalk (No fish please!). After the tank shatters, assume we count the glass fragments.
What has the greater fragmentation?
  • The glass fish tank (approx  36 x 18 x 17  )
  • The number of different implementations of the Android Operating system?
If there are less than 12,000 pieces of glass, the smartphone OS wins the fragmentation contest. As of July, 2013, there were 11,868 distinct Android devices cataloged by OpenSignal. (If you haven't installed the OpenSignal app on your iPhone or Android, I recommend you try it.)
If you are a software developer, the permutations for coding and QA is a product of these variables:
  • Manufacturer and Model
  • Screen Dimensions
  • Operating System Version
This is a very big number so it isn’t surprising that there were almost 12,000 Android variants detected this past summer.  Now with Kitkat 4.4, the fragmentation grows more.
Whenever there is an issue syncing Outlook contacts to a smartphone, our customers often call us first. We are pretty accessible via phone and email so it isn’t too surprising. Our Unified Contact Management software is responsible for updating GAL, CRM, Vendor and emergency contacts in user mailboxes across many Exchange Servers.  Even if another vendor is causing the problem, we still try to help the customer. In a recent case, it was a smartphone OS issue.
Consequently, if you support Android users with Microsoft Exchange Server, Kitkat 4.4 has already snagged an ActiveSync authentication issue.  It breaks ActiveSync if you upgrade to 4.4.  The speculation is that this will be fixed in 4.4.1. What is the solution if you can’t roll back?
Because of the variants of Android EMail clients between different vendors (more fragmentation), we have suggested using Touchdown from Nitrodesk,  It happens to be an solid email client that also does a much more consistent job at contact sub-folder synchronization. When the itrezzo Unified Contact Manager pushes contacts to sub-folders in Outlook, Touchdown is always able to sync those contacts.  

As a short conclusion, consider avoiding future smartphone OS incompatibilities with Microsoft Exchange Server using a third party email client. As a bonus, smartphone help desk duties become easier when there is a single consistent user experience across all of your fragmented Android devices.