GMS Vs Non-GMS for Android Devices: An Overview

With an upsurge in the number of capabilities and added control that organizations want to exercise on their devices, the demand for OEM devices is on a steady rise. Various enterprises are today opting for custom devices in order to have an iron grip over their corporate devices while leveraging the power of Android. But is it the right move? Should organizations choose non-GMS devices over GMS devices?

GMS vs non-GMS
GMS vs non-GMS

In this article, let us have a quick glance at the difference between GMS and non-GMS for Android devices.

GMS or Google Messaging Service: Introduction

Depending on the organizational needs for managing Android devices, enterprises choose to opt for GMS or Google Messaging Service apps. Unlike other Android entities and offerings, these are not a part of the Android open source project (AOSP) and hence need a license before being pre-installed on an Android device. For OEMs to obtain a GMS license, they have to pass a series of tests including Compatibility Test Suite (CTS), Compatibility Test Suite Verifier (CTS Verifier), CTS Audio Quality Test Suite (CAT), GMS Test Suite (GTS).

For GMS licensing, the manufacturers and Google need to create an agreement amongst each other and the devices are subjected to the privacy restrictions by Google. Acquiring GMS licensing is harder for specialized devices created to cater to the medical or sports industry and is fairly easy for consumer devices.

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

GMS comes in a set consisting of a popular bundle package and another bundle package out of which the popular bundle package needs to be pre-installed on Android devices by the manufacturers. Essentially, these are the pre-loaded apps that can be found on any Android device such as Google Search, Chrome browser, YouTube and Playstore. The other bundle package of apps consists of Google Drive, Gmail, Google Duo, Google Maps, Google Photos, Google Play Movies & TV and YouTube Music. There are other packages available on GMS devices, offered by Google that are not pre-bundles with AOSP devices.

GMS package capabilities are critical for Android device management including SafetyNet Attestation- to check the integrity of a device, security patches that cannot be delayed for more than 30 days, location services, Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM), or Crashlytics. App developers with GMS can provide a strong set of system-specific capabilities that are crucial for device operation as well as management.

Choosing GMS devices for enterprise use

GMS are consumer devices that are available off the shelf, available easily and used by millions of users for personal as well as business purposes. But these devices are not suitable for long-term use with a new, upgraded version being launched every six months. This adds to the inventory cost of the organization.

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For OEM devices that are not top Android OEM, procuring the GMS license, paying for the testing processes and waiting for the verification takes longer, and any other firmware rollout needs to go through the same procedure, increasing the time to market. System updates and acquiring the new OS releases on these OEM devices are harder, especially for organizations that want to quickly implement the new changes that are ushered in with Android updates. What suffers the most with this line of action is the security updates. While some manufacturers hence always choose to go with an older device version, updates for which are available easily, some standardize a new GMS device and keep on updating with the update cycle as and when needed.

For use-cases where organizations want to extend fully-managed, single-purpose or kiosk devices, the GMS capabilities, especially the apps that take up the ROM and RAM space are not necessary. Organizations want to configure the devices with corporate apps- often not available in the Google Play Store and do not want to have pre-installed apps on the devices that they will have to uninstall when turning the device into a kiosk. These certified devices cannot be controlled on a granular level and the policies applied on the devices have to fit in Google’s Privacy and Terms of use, not to mention the limitations of device policy and security configurations.

Hence, for COSU- Corporate-owned, single-use devices, GMS capabilities hence take a back seat and non-GMS devices come into play.

Non-GMS for single-purpose devices

These are custom devices powered by Android that make use of some other remote common services except the Google Messaging Service. These devices essentially have no restrictions enforced by Google and enable the enterprises to control hardware buttons, add system signatures for additional control and security features and can be pre-packaged with an Android EMM solution. All GMS devices are considered AOSP and there are several non-GMS devices that are popularly available as consumer devices- for example, Amazon Kindle.

The industries where enhanced device control is critical and the use-case is fairly single-purpose, non-GMS devices are preferred over GMS devices. For organizations that require an Android OS version other than 9 or 10 (or lower) and require design targets impacts across device ID and firmware, non-GMS is the right way to go.

Non-GMS devices extend the flexibility to provision the device to suit the enterprise use-case trading off against Google apps and services that are offered by Google. Organizations that want to deploy third-party apps have to also ensure that these apps are not dependent on the GMS capabilities and are essentially AOSP without GMS ready. Some apps work exclusively on GMS devices only and this is the call enterprises need to take based on their requirement.

GMS vs non-GMS devices: How to make a choice?

Consider the following pointers when deciding between GMS and non-GMS devices:

  • What is your use-case? Is it always going to be single-use/COSU?
  • Which hardware brand or model are you willing to use?
  • How many devices do you need?
  • What are the apps that you need on the devices?
  • What are your requirements around firmware and OS updates?
  • Which device agents and APIs will you be using?

Answering the above questions keeping in mind the pointers specified for GMS and non-GMS devices described in the article will help you to zero on a decision. Scalefusion extends management capabilities for both GMS as well as non-GMS devices. The non-GMS devices can be provisioned and managed with Scalefusion with OEM partnerships and APIs and administrators can iron grip the devices with enhanced capabilities for security and operation.

Scalefusion has several customers belonging to the hospitality, IT and telecom industries where non-GMS devices are effectively managed with Scalefusion EMM.

Get in touch with our sales and support to help you make a decision or to know about the transition from GMS to non-GMS devices for enterprise use.

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Renuka Shahane is a Sr. Content Writer at Scalefusion. An engineering graduate, an Apple junkie and an avid reader, she has a 5+ years of experience in content creation, content strategy and PR for technology and web based startups.

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Thousands of businesses rely upon Scalefusion for managing their mobile device, desktops & laptops and other endpoints