Back in February, Google announced its Android Enterprise Recommended program, a “shortlist of approved devices and services” to help large businesses pick Android offerings that “meet elevated enterprise requirements.” Recognizing the demand for devices that are safe to use in tougher environments, Google is today adding a collection of ruggedized products to the list, with Honeywell in the first batch and Panasonic promised for the near future.

The ruggedized category is interesting for a few reasons, most notably including heightened requirements designed to guarantee that the devices will be useful for five years. Google is requiring that devices are Android 7.0 or later, receive at least five years of Android security updates within 90 days of Google’s release, and get support for at least one additional major Android OS release. Additionally, the rugged devices need to be drop-test rated, and certified for ingress protection, though apparently not at specific levels.

Initially, the rugged Android Enterprise Recommended devices will include:

  • Honeywell CT40, CT60, and CN80
  • Point Mobile PM45
  • Sonim XP8
  • Zebra TC20, TC 25, TC51, TC56, TC70X, and TC75X

Google says that Datalogic’s Memor 10 will launch in October, while Panasonic and others are in the process of getting devices certified for “the coming weeks and months.” And apparently, the ruggedization requirements won’t stay static: Google claims that it will use customer feedback to tighten the standard with each new Android platform release, requiring devices to reach a higher bar each year.

Improving Android’s appeal to the enterprise isn’t an easy feat, but it could be lucrative. Based on current IDC projections, Android could surpass Windows in 2019 as the largest rugged OS by shipments, as ruggedized Windows device shipments have continued to decline.

While Android devices in some cases are less expensive up front than Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows alternatives, their inability to guarantee multi-year reliability and ongoing security updates means that they are practically sure to require more frequent replacement. To address those omissions, Google has expanded software initiatives such as zero-touch enterprise configuration, as well as its outreach to customers in non-boardroom enterprise environments, such as warehouses, retail stores, and manufacturing plants.

Small tweaks — and certification programs — could expand Android’s appeal to customers that buy hundreds or thousands of devices at once. The full list of Android Enterprise Recommended devices is available here, with technical and software requirements available here.

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