Oct 10 AT 2:21 PM Anthony Domanico 21 Comments

AT&T’s new Toggle service freaks me out


AT&T has announced Toggle, an application that allows smartphone and tablet owners to quickly switch between business and personal modes with a simple tap of the finger on Android 2.2+ devices. Personal and Work modes are defined as follows:

  • Personal Mode: Allows users to use their phones as they normally would, including the ability to send text messages, watch TV shows and movies, and play games. These personal activities would remain segregated from business activities as defined by your employer.
  • Work mode: Users can access corporate email, calendars and contacts as they would on a standard company-issued device. Assumption: We assume that in work mode, you won’t have access to text messaging, video services and games. (Though you could access these things by switching the toggle to personal mode).

Unless I’m missing the boat here, Android 2.2+ devices all have access to the handy Email application, which allows them to sync contacts, email and calendar from enterprise email accounts already. Additionally, you can access these things without restricting access to other applications and services.

This leads me to believe that AT&T’s new Toggle service isn’t geared toward AT&T’s customers, but towards the enterprise community. Indeed, AT&T’s press release (which you can read below) seems geared towards IT departments, which AT&T argues faces increased hardships as more and more of their workers elect to use their personal smartphones for work-related things.

What worries me is that AT&T Toggle will give employers the option to mandate “Work Mode” during normal working hours, thus disallowing employees to use their devices as they see fit. Since our phones already have the capability to access enterprise data, it’s hard for me to discern what else AT&T is hoping to provide with this new service. (AT&T’s press release is sparse on the details).

AT&T Toggle gives your company’s IT department the ability to do the following:

  • Manage which employees have access to which company resources
  • Add, update and delete business applications on employees’ personal devices
  • Wipe all corporate information stored in work mode if an employee leaves the company or loses their device

This definitely gives IT departments the ability to do their job in a more efficient manner and makes it easier for them to ensure that their valuable data stay safe from improper access.

But at what cost?

Bottom Line

When all is said and done, if my workplace insists on having control over what I can and can’t have or access on my device, I will demand that they provide me with a strictly-work device. Or I will continue to not access work resources from my personal device.

The thought of the IT department at my workplace being able to essentially remotely control or wipe my device (even if it’s only business-related applications and data) feels a bit too big-brother-y for me. Though, I already don’t have my work email account synced to my phone due to the minor inconvenient requirement of having to enter a passcode every time I unlock my device.

What do you guys think? Am I overreacting? Or do you agree that you should be able to access whatever you want on the devices and service that you pay for with your hard earned money?

Show Press Release

Switch between work and play with a few quick taps on your smartphone or tablet. Carry one device, loaded with your favorite games and apps as well as your business email, contacts and calendars. And imagine your company not minding one bit.

All this is coming from AT&T*.

AT&T Toggle separates and safeguards business data on employees’ mobile devices, creating a distinct work mode apart from the typical personal mode in a single smartphone or tablet. AT&T is the firstU.S.carrier to announce this type of application, with availability expected before the end of 2011.

  • Personal mode: When not working, send text messages to friends, watch TV shows and movies, and play games on your mobile device as you otherwise would. Personal activities remain segregated.
  • Work mode: If it’s time to buckle down and focus on business, employees can enter their work environment. In this mode, users can access corporate email, applications, calendars and more, just as they would on a company-provided device.

“Our research shows that approximately 50 million employees in the U.S.alone could benefit from business mobile applications,” said John Stankey, President and CEO, AT&T Business Solutions. “Mobile applications delivered in a cloud computing environment can transform business operations. AT&T is focused on integrating advanced technologies — like cloud and mobility — to create valuable solutions for our customers.” 

Many Connected Devices, Few IT Resources

According to a July 2011 Forrester Research, Inc. report, nearly 60 percent of companies allow employees to use personal devices for work and provide IT support for some or all of these devices.

The “bring your own device” trend can benefit businesses in a number of ways, saving on costs associated with company-owned equipment and satisfying employees’ desire for flexibility. At the same time, IT personnel often struggle to maintain control over dozens of different smartphones and tablets, stretching their time and budgets to the limit.

With the number of mobile applications projected to reach 1.3 million by the end of this year — as opposed to only 75,000 applications for personal computers — managing employee-owned devices is not getting any easier.2

“When it comes to connected devices, one size doesn’t fit all,” said Chris Hill, Vice President, Advanced Mobility Solutions, AT&T Business Solutions. “People want to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, but that practice can create major headaches for businesses’ IT departments. AT&T Toggle helps resolve the issue in a simple, affordable manner.”

AT&T Toggle offers a convenient web portal that allows IT administrators to:

  • Manage which employees have access to which company resources.
  • Add, update and delete business applications on employees’ personal devices.
  • Wipe all corporate information stored in work mode if an employee leaves the company or loses his or her device.

Designed to strip away complexity for both businesses and their employees, AT&T Toggle can be used on devices running Android 2.2 and higher, and with any service provider.

AT&T customers have already indicated interest in this type of solution. For one organization that provides company-owned devices to more than 1,000 employees, the CIO is exploring a new policy, which would allow employees to use personal smartphones and tablets to connect to the corporate network. With AT&T Toggle, the IT department could manage work-related functions remotely, controlling mobile and security preferences based on employee location and responsibilities. The CIO can protect business data — his number one priority — while simultaneously saving on the costs of issuing separate devices to employees.

Innovation in Action

AT&T Toggle is the latest addition to AT&T’s portfolio of mobility products and services for businesses, which includes mobile device management solutions. AT&T’s Advanced Mobility Solutions group aims to flexibly deliver content, applications and solutions — like AT&T Toggle — to any device, at any time.

The AT&T Toggle program was cultivated through three innovation initiatives currently underway at AT&T: The Innovation Pipeline (TIP), AT&T’s Fast Pitch program, and The AT&T FoundryTM. Together, these initiatives helped speed an idea to market in just months by dedicating resources to the project and enhancing collaboration between AT&T and third party developers.

This is just the beginning. Starting in 2012, AT&T plans to introduce a series of additional services and features designed to free employees from the constraints of company-owned devices and turn personal handsets into tools for business productivity.

“AT&T’s approach to seeking out best-of-breed solutions, certifying key applications in major vertical or horizontal segments, and providing wraparound services such as implementation, integration, and support creates a service portfolio that is highly adaptive across enterprise segments,” wrote IDC analysts in an August 2011 report.3

Today, more than 18,000 AT&T business customers have adopted mobile applications — up nearly 400 percent since the end of the first quarter of 2011.

To learn more about how AT&T can transform personal phones into business-ready devices, contact your AT&T account representative.

1 Forrester Research, Inc., Forrsights: Mobility DominatesEnterprise Telecom Trends In 2011, July 22, 2011.

2 IDC, Managing Consumerization of IT: CIO Recommendations for Effective Bring Your Own Device Strategies, May 16, 2011, Doc. #LM51T.

3 IDC, Strategies and Opportunities Driving MobileEnterprise Application Development Life-Cycle Services, Doc # 229772, August 2011.

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

Source: AT&T

Anthony loves all things technology, from hardware to apps and games. You can connect with him via Google+ or Twitter by clicking one of the fancy doo-dads above.

    Most Tweeted This Week


    “you should be able to access whatever you want on the devices and service that you pay for with your hard earned money?”

    enough said !

    By the way AT&T’S prices scare me more

    • http://www.anthonydomanico.com Anthony Domanico

      Granted this was with corporate discounts (yes, I get the irony), but AT&T’s plan was 2nd cheapest for me, only behind sprint.

  • Mike

    I generally think you should have separate work and personal devices regardless.

    • rfvgyhn

      As someone who’s had to do that, carrying around two devices blows.

  • Dustin Earley

    This certainly freaks me out. I WILL get my tin foil hat for this one.

  • Jimsu

    I’ve known some folks that use “Good Technology”, which essentially allows android and iphone users to install an app, from their respective app store/markets, to their device. They are given a code which allows it to check email, calendar, and contacts from their work account. Everything is supposedly encrypted in this software, both in transit, and any information that is stored on the phone.

    Their employer can REMOTELY WIPE THE APPLICATION.. which is quite a bit more acceptable to me, than them having the ability to wipe my entire device.

    I’ve been a long time firm believer in not wanting carriers to be getting involved in content at all. Of course, I don’t want manufacturers disallowing me from using pure android either.. so I guess I’m a bit of a nutcase. :P

    • jimsu

      Sorry.. I meant to put in there that I’d prefer to carry 1 device over 2. The reason being that if you are on call all the time, I really don’t want to carry 2 devices, chargers, etc. Even if you have two, there will be people who call you on your personal anyway, if you didn’t pick up within 2 rings on the work phone.


    Setting a new world record

    >Apple iPhone 4S pre-orders exceed one million in first 24 hours


    • jimsu

      Spam much? /me makes apple gestures.

    • Donald

      WOW cant believe 1 million + people are that dumb. Guess you apple fans have a winner. Buy the same thing twice. Maybe the second time it will be better.

  • dnar56

    If the company pays for the phone and the bill then its their property and they should have that right but shouldn’t try to touch your own personal device if you pay the bill.

  • Taylor

    Google already does this through the Google Apps service. I was using my employer-managed Apps account on my phone for 6 months before getting an email that directed me to the Market to download the Device Policy app in order to continue using my personal device for work purposes. I can choose to not use my phone for work, but my employer will not buy a device for me, nor subscribe for a plan accordingly. As a result I am left to choose between my patients (work) and timely communication and exclusive control of MY hardware and the services I pay for. Not my ideal situation, but a compromise I make in the name of better service to my clients. It’s not just AT&T in this boat…

  • Glock

    @Anthony Domanico

    I think the boat you’re missing is that this is meant for work issued devices. In this instance, the employer should be allowed FULL control of the device because IT’S THEIR DEVICE! If they are footing even a portion of the bill, they have the right to say something about how you use it on their clock.

    The problem is that too many people are “stealing time” in corporate lingo. They play on their phones too much and become unproductive.

    Now if it’s a personal device, I don’t believe the employer has the right to enforce things such as toggle…but they should reserve the right to tell you to stay off your phone. This is especially true if they provide a strictly work device.

    Business plans are not cheap and employees who abuse work phones make it miserable for the others on the plan and cost the company upwards of thousands per year. If you don’t like the corporate policy for your cell phone usage while YOU’RE ON THEIR CLOCK, quit a find a new job. Or maybe you’d like them to start counting the time you spend using your phone for personal things and then just deduct that from your paycheck? Why should they pay you to goof off?

  • Rashad

    This seems dumb. It was probably invented as a feature at&t could point to when saying Android is “Enterprise Capable”

  • Eric Bardun

    As an IT professional I am glad to hear about this service. Services like these and Good Technologies are great for the Android community because they allow business to move away from RIM/Blackberry and into Android. Most businesses are concerned about securing their data, and without technologies like these the choices are RIM or nobody.

    For users there are 2 boats.
    My Company pays for my phone and plan. I save $100+ a month for unlimited everything and free phones, and now I can be offered something other than a blackberry.

    I have a personal phone and I want to check my work email and work data on my personal device. My Company says sure thing, but we need to secure the data, or you can’t have access.

  • Martin

    Just on a side note, there is software such as ZDBox that allows for password on an app for app basis. I have no lock on the device, but work mail, social networks and other “sensative” information is password protected. Very usefull if you ask me =)

  • YNWA

    Uhh yeah no one is going to agree to this on their phone unless it is provided by work for free. Even then people will still prefer to have their own personal phone.

  • Perry

    If the company pays the monthly bill, even if the contract is in your name, then in essence they have a right to do whatever they want on “their” device. Best solution though not the easiest solution is to have 2 devices, one for work and one for personal use.

    It is a hassle but this way you can do whatever you want on your own phone and not have to worry that big brother is spying on what you download or look at on your phone. Imagine if you “borrow” some music online or load up your phone with the latest SI swimsuit photos and your company scans your phone remotely and sees this “unacceptable” stuff.

    I’d rather have a work issued device and lug two phones than lose sleep at night worrying that some gestapo IT guy is remotely looking over my Brooklyn Decker photo collection in the middle of the night on my phone

  • Tangent

    My workplace has a simple policy: Feel free to check your work email through the browser on your phone all you like. But if you want to sync with Exchange that gives us the ability to wipe your device and we’re going to implement tools soon that will enforce the same policies that we have on our work-issued Androids. (you have to use a screen lock with a PIN, etc…)

    Nobody needs to do this on their personal device and we not only recommend they don’t, but give them fair warning about what we can then do to their device if they do it anyway. Sorry, but we’re not going to compromise our network security just cause you want more convenient access to your work email. If you have a real need for mobile access to it you’ve already been issued a phone that we’re paying for.

    It’s amazing how many people have told us “Oh, I didn’t use it anyway” and quit syncing with Exchange once we told them they’re giving us access to a “wipe device” button and that we’d soon enforce other policies…

  • charlie88

    I think a lot of people don’t see that this service is actually a great thing. Especially since til’ now there was no real way to get an Android phone that’s truly secure and can be used by corporations.

    The reason RIM is still being used by lots of companies is because it’s the only party that can ensure and guarantee that it’s phones are secure enough to be used in a corporate setting. Android had no real way to compete, since it just doesn’t offer the same options that RIM offer.

    Wether or not texting or other non-work related activities will be blocked in Work Mode will probably be up to the company. In which case, if you don’t like that your company wants to do this: it seems more of a general issue you should discuss with your colleagues or your boss. Insteadof whining about the option coming to phones. If everytime you started texting on your phone, your boss gave you a weird look… you’d hate your boss. Not ur phone.

    Secondly, lots of people want to be able to check their work-mail and access work-related contacts on their phone. But when you lose your phone and the information is on the streets… that’s a big problem. So the IT department being able remotely wipe the corporate part is completely reasonable. If Toggle really works the way it’s decribed, it’s great. IT people can do whatever it is they want on the corporate side and have (hopefully) no acces to the personal side. Also when you quit your job, easy… They can wipe the corporate side and that would be enough.

    This is even better than a BlackBerry, where I believe they could potentially access anything on the phone (on corporate accounts) at any point and time.

    And that there are apps that could do the same… Yes, probably. But it’s very difficult to sell a phone when you have to constanly say: “And if you download blah-blah-blah-app you could also do blah-blah-blah-feature.” I think companies want to know that the phone is secure from the getgo.

  • Kirk Rheinlander

    The real problem, from an enterprise perspective, is the potential for data loss/exposure, either accidental or maliciously. Once you have a device that has access to corporate data, and that device ends up in the hands of someone can cause harm (a reporter, a competitor, a thief, a disgruntled employee, etc.), the potential for financial harm and legal liability exists. If all this data is only available when tethered, a company can shut down access, but when the demand for local apps, and untethered use of proprietary / confidential data is provided, the problem gets a lot more difficult to manage.

    SO, if you want to use your device on the corporate data, AND you don’t want restrictions, then sign up for legal responsibility for potential losses. Let’s say it is something like a Target data breach, tied to your lost phone. Got a spare $2 BILLION to cough up, to say nothing of paying the salaries of all the terminated employees resulting from the business loss?

    Most want the mobile convenience, but are unwilling to accept the responsibility, or look at the restrictions placed on the use, as onerous.