Salesforce on Android: Options & Opinions

The official Salesforce for Android Beta application was released last week, and we are breaking down the pluses and minuses for you on how to get Salesforce on your droid.
Salesforce on Android: Options & Opinions

Which app comes out on top? Read to find out in this post's app showdown.

Android: an unwritten word on this blog, and rightfully so thus far. We are an Apple shop and Android has primarily been a mobile platform for consumers since its inception. However, many firms are willing to try new technologies and support their employees' choices for technology that helps them get their work done. Salesforce started a revolution for enterprise adoption of Android when they released Chatter for Android in Summer '11, and most recently when they announced a third-party client and HTML5 web app at Dreamforce '11. So without further adieu, let us jump into the ring and see which native client comes out as the champion.

Salesforce.com for Android Beta

In this corner, we have the official Salesforce app. As with all of Salesforce.com's other apps, Salesforce.com for Android Beta is attractive and has a pleasing user interface. It bears a close resemblance to the layout and feel of their iOS application, and the icons for each of the objects are the same as they appear on the web. The application supports read-only access to Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Tasks, Events, and Cases. You can also access a list of recent records and search for something that I want to find quickly.

When viewing a record detail page, all of the sections are collapsed by default, and the related lists appear at the bottom grouped in their own section. As with the iOS and BlackBerry apps, there are settings for a passcode lock, data synchronization down to the device, and two editions: Mobile Lite and Mobile Full. Overall, the UI is attractive and gets me the information that I need for my Accounts and Contacts, which are the standard objects that I use most in the Arkus org.

Although with my praise, I do have some criticisms. The beta version is currently read-only. This is slightly disappointing because I would have liked to see the ability to add activities or enter new records. However, my biggest grievance is the limited selection of list views. For events, I only can select from All Events, My Events, or My Delegated Events. These all return a list of the subjects without dates or additional information that would make it easy to find the record that I want to view. We landed a few punches, but this app is definitely holding its own as a beta.

SeesmicCRM for Salesforce Beta

Now let's take a look at the other side of the ring. At Dreamforce '11, Seesmic released their Android client at the Wednesday keynote, though I had downloaded it the day before when it was released to the Android Market. The only difference between this and the official app is that it does not support Cases. This is hardly a downside because it still supports all the Sales Cloud standard objects, Leads, Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities.

The presentation of activities in this app is far superior to that of the official Salesforce app. It lists the subject, related record name, and date in the list view for events and tasks. But wait, there's more! The knockout punch is the way the app handles calls placed to records from the app. When I went to call my work number on my contact record, it automatically added a call to Salesforce for me and I could go back after the call and edit some of the information.

To be fair, I need to point out the apps weaknesses. The Seesmic app is more like a rugged duffle bag, while the official Salesforce app is the diamond-crusted handbag. Seesmic focuses on functionality and relaying information in lengthy scrolling windows with no sections. It gets the job done and does not provide the pretty presentation for a record's detail page. This makes finding a specific field difficult.

Salesforce Touch To Unite Them All

So these applications are great starts and are featherweight in terms of their functionality, but both seem to be holdovers until real beauty of mobile Salesforce platforms comes in Salesforce Touch. Announced at Dreamforce '11 with the Safe Harbor Statement, we know that it is slated for early 2012. Salesforce Touch leverages HTML5 to deliver a functional and nice-looking interface on a variety of devices, from the iPhone to an Android tablet, and everything in between. It gives a user access to all objects in their Salesforce org, both standard and custom.

So which of these apps is our featherweight champion? I'm picking SeesmicCRM for Android Beta. The automatic call logging and ability to edit records is great and more than makes up for its rudimentary UI. As always, if you want to talk about Android and Salesforce, or have comments regarding my post, feel free to comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArkusInc or contact me via Twitter @RogerMitchell.

Note: Both of these apps are available on the Android Market by searching for their names, or you can click the following links to check them out for yourself: Salesforce.com for Android Beta and SeesmicCRM for Salesforce Beta.

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