Mobility

How to auto-install Google Hangouts on Android devices in your G Suite domain

With Duo reportedly replacing Hangouts as a default Android app, enterprises can use the Google Device Policy app to auto-install Hangouts and make it easier to keep using it.

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Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

According to reports, Duo, Google's new video calling app, will soon replace Hangouts as a required app installed on new Android devices with access to the Google Play Store.

Yet Hangouts, as one of the core G Suite apps, remains far more useful than Duo in the enterprise. Hangouts supports SMS, integrates Google Voice calling, and syncs your conversations across multiple devices. If your organization uses Hangouts, you'll likely want to stick with Hangouts for the foreseeable future.

If you're a G Suite administrator, that means you'll need to change your deployment practices to install Hangouts on new Android devices. You could just ask each person who gets a new Android device to install Hangouts. Or, you could manually install and configure Hangouts on every new Android device.

Instead, I recommend that G Suite administrators install Hangouts as one of the apps deployed automatically to every new Android device that connects to G Suite. If you haven't yet configured G Suite for a mobile device management solution, the following steps will allow an administrator to deploy apps to Android devices. To set this up, you'll need to be a super administrator for your G Suite domain, and you'll need some time to review and configure the following settings.

1. Notify Android users

Before you get started, let your Android users know that you'll be deploying a new mobile management solution. (Google gives you a sample email to send.) Also, ask people to download the G Suite Device Policy app.

2. Set Google as your enterprise mobility management (EMM) provider.

Login to your G Suite Admin console (http://admin.google.com). Go to Device management > Setup > EMM binding for Android. Choose "Bind Google Mobile Management as your EMM provider for Android devices." You'll need to review and agree to Android Management terms of service. Once activated, you should receive a notice in the Admin console, and via email, that Android for Work mobility management is available.

SEE: Power checklist: Managing and troubleshooting mobile devices (Tech Pro Research)

3. Setup Mobile Management

Return to the Admin console > Device management > Setup Mobile Management and check the box under Android Sync to "Manage Android devices." Select "Save." Google suggests that the change may take up to a day to fully deploy.

I also recommend that you go to Device management > Android Settings > Work Profile and change the drop-down option from "User opt-in" to "Enforce." If the device operating system supports it (Android 5.0+ or more recent), this will create a Work folder, which will hold Google Play for Work apps.

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An administrator may choose and approve apps to deploy to Android devices connected to your G Suite domain.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

4. Manage Applications for Android devices

Next, return to your Admin console > Device management > App management (in the lower left menu) > Manage Applications for Android devices. With Android Management enabled, you can choose apps to deploy to users within your domain. Choose the "Click here to manage" option. Initially, you'll see only the "G Suite Device Policy" app listed. You can add additional Android apps to this list.

Open a new browser tab and go to http://play.google.com/work. The first time you open the Google Play for Work store, you'll need to accept the terms of service. After that's done, search the Play for Work store for Hangouts. (IMPORTANT: Note that this is not the consumer-facing Google Play store link.) Once you're on the Hangouts app page, choose "Approve" to allow the app. Then, copy the page link.

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Find the app you want in http://play.google.com/work, then: 1) Approve it, 2) Copy the app URL, and 3) Paste the URL in the Whitelist Android App field, then select "Get App."

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Return to the "Device Management > App Management > Whitelisted Android Apps" page. Choose the action button in the lower right to add an app. Paste the link to the app, then select "Get App." Then choose to "Automatically install on all devices" as well as whether to allow people to remove the app. If you use Hangouts as your organization's official messaging app, I recommend you select both options: To auto-install and prevent removal. Select "Whitelist" when complete.

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Select whether to auto-install an app, and whether users may remove it.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

5. Ask users to open the Device Policy app

Finally, ask your Android users to open the Device Policy app. They'll need to login with their G Suite email address and password, then accept mobile device management terms that allow administrative access to the device.

One logged in, the user can create a work profile. (Open the Device Policy app, then tap "Create Work Profile.") A work profile creates a folder with work contacts, the Google Play Store for Work, and the Device Policy app. The user will need to tap the Google Play Store in the Work folder and accept terms of service there, too. After that, whitelisted apps from the Play Store for Work will be available. If you set Hangouts to auto-install, it will now do so.

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The Device Policy app can create a work profile on your Android device to keep your work apps and data separate from the personal information on your device.

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Setting up a work profile keeps work apps and data separated from personal apps and data. Should a G Suite administrator ever need to remotely erase the device, only work data would be removed—all of the user's personal apps, files, and pictures should remain untouched.

SEE: Mobile Device Research: 2016 security trends, attack rates, and vendor ratings for smartphones, tablets, laptops and wearables (Tech Pro Research)

Deploy other apps, too

Once completed, you'll have successfully deployed Hangouts to all Android devices connected to your G Suite domain. Repeat the connection process for every new Android device, and they'll all still have Hangouts—even if the device arrives without it.

You can also approve or auto-install other Android apps, too. Just repeat the process in step 4 for each app you want to add. Approving an app allows users to manually find and install the app from the Google Play Store for Work. Whitelisting and configuring an app to auto-install, as we did with Hangouts above, will make the app automatically appear in the Work folder on your users' connected Android devices.

What's your experience?

Have you configured Android for Work for your G Suite users? Which Android apps do you set to auto-install?

Also see

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

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