A tablet to play with for two children? A smartphone for business and private use? SwitchMe enables you to set up multiple user accounts on an android and to switch easily between the accounts.
A tablet – a whole family with different interests – can that be combined? SwitchMe wants to master this balancing act and offers the possibility of creating different profiles on the Android device. It has been a long time since the PC is used to it, the system is multi-user capable, but Android is still not. Often the desire arises to be able to carry out a profile change. For example, you can let your children play with your tablet in a relaxed manner without affecting your own profile. Or you can separate your private profile from your professional profile. In the following, the different use cases will be discussed in more detail and the possibilities of SwitchMe will be examined.
SwitchMe can be installed free of charge from the market, but the free version only offers the option of creating two profiles. The paid key removes this restriction, but costs around 1.50 euros. For this, the number of profiles is only limited by the available memory and your own profile is protected by a password.
Profile change yourself
In the private sector, SwitchMe can be used very effectively, your own, active account is quickly separated from the account of the children or partner and can be used independently, different app installations and Google accounts can be used comfortably. This works smoothly and the change to the second profile is completed quickly – simply select and “switch”, after a reboot the second profile is available.
Unless too many apps are installed and the application memory is overfilled, several people can share a device and have their own user profiles in use. This is particularly advantageous with games, because each profile saves its own progress, so games can be played by several users and operated with different accounts. In the private sector you can certainly overlook the protection of the profile and get over a lack of encryption, but in the corporate environment, additional requirements for an app like SwitchMe quickly arise.
For now, however, you should consider how SwitchMe works: The app requires root access. Necessary to save the user-specific data from / data / and / system / and to force a new setup with a “pretended” reset of the device – i.e. the deletion of the data. New user accounts are linked and apps created under / data / and / system /, of course at the expense of the available memory. Additional profiles can only be created as long as space is available in the internal memory.
Data loss is imminent
Depending on the Android device, the air here gets thin relatively quickly. In the event of a user / profile change, the current data is packed, deleted and the data of the previous profile is unpacked, the device is then restarted and work continues with this data. This usually works well, as long as you make sure that you have not connected the device to the PC and enabled the SD card, because in this case the change quickly fails and can lead to irreparable damage to the profile.
SwitchMe is not yet compatible with all devices, in the test the change did not work perfectly on a Samsung Galaxy Note, on a Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc and PLAY, as well as an HTC Desire with CyanogenMod, however, we did not find any problems. Let us concentrate at this point on the use in the company environment, here the clear separation of the profiles and the protection of the stored data are in the foreground.
No app management
Unfortunately, SwitchMe offers little to meet these requirements: Profiles can either be cloned or recreated. In the first case, the memory consumption is doubled, especially with multiple users, the memory of the smartphone is quickly exhausted. In the second case, an empty profile is created and the user has free leeway, which is often not desired in the corporate environment. Here the user should not be allowed to make arbitrary decisions about the device and should be able to install any app.
SwitchMe is therefore far from being a centrally managed solution. In corporate use, people want solutions that are maintained by an administrator who manages the installation of apps and prevents the unauthorized installation of applications. At the same time, the data should be kept separately and stored in encrypted form. SwitchMe has so far only offered password protection for the archive in the paid version.
In corporate use
Let’s imagine a customer in the healthcare sector, either using tablets in the ward or using smartphones for mobile care services. Both groups keep a certain number of devices for the users and hope for an easy user change. Most of the applications are not tied to a specific user; access to patient and billing data is permitted to all users of the end devices, regardless of their user accounts. The smallest part of the applications require their own user accounts, in our example these would be Exchange mail accounts.
For such a company use, a defined number of devices are available in the respective house, which are freshly charged and wait for their user. A ward doctor takes a device at the start of work and switches to his profile. After restarting the tablet, his personalized apps are available – e-mail, quality assurance and billing systems – but also general patient data, which are available to all treating wards.
In this case, you would either have to clone a profile in SwitchMe and set up the personalized applications for each user individually, or work with empty profiles in which all the applications that all users need in turn are installed. What is still feasible with five users, quickly loses sense with more than 20 users and usually fails due to the available application memory.
Useful in some cases
SwitchMe is therefore only suitable for corporate use to a limited extent. A separation between company data and private use of an Android device by the employee is still easy to implement. A “pool use” of devices that are equipped with SwitchMe, however, is almost impossible to implement. Using Google Apps puts the picture into perspective, because there are additional functions available to adapt the devices with security guidelines – apart from Android and especially SwitchMe – to company specifications.
A purely professional profile, in which access to the company network, including VPN connections and apps that are approved by the employer, as well as a private profile that is operated with your own Google account and contains applications that you can use according to your own preferences installed, can be implemented quickly and easily. App developers will also be happy, because they can create empty profiles and test their applications for their functionality without the influence of apps installed in parallel, all without a virtual machine or a dedicated development device.
Features are missing
SwitchMe has already mastered these simple cases without any major problems, provided, of course, that the corresponding device is supported! However, especially in the current initial phase, it is advisable to make a sufficient backup of the running system, preferably using Nandroid Backup. Unfortunately, it happens every now and then that the system used is not properly supported and the change fails, or you can no longer switch back to the previously active profile. However, if your own device is supported by SwitchMe, then the change will go smoothly and you will wonder how you could previously work with a system that can no longer be used.
For use in the corporate environment, however, it is currently not advisable to use it, as some essential functions are missing here, which in our opinion are extremely important: Missing application memory for the large number of users of “pooled devices”, encryption of the data, options for administration via an admin, Restriction of users (prohibit installation of apps) and an option to only “switch” certain system data / apps would be of central importance here.
The last point in particular is one of the major stumbling blocks that go hand in hand with the functional structure of SwitchMe. A variant of only changing partial areas, in the above example possibly the Google account and the e-mail / exchange facility, but leaving all other installed apps untouched without cloning them and duplicating them in a second profile, would be for use in the The company environment is essential.
If you can live with these restrictions, or if you want to operate SwitchMe in a private environment and have a rooted Android device with at least Android 2.1, then SwitchMe is definitely worth a look. The application offers many advantages and opens up possibilities that you often only discover as an active user of the app.
- SwitchMe: https://market.android.com/details?id=fahrbot.apps.switchme
- SwitchMe Key: https://market.android.com/details?id=fahrbot.apps.switchme.key