President Obama has long complained that his job doesn’t permit the luxury of carrying an iPhone. Prior to his election, Obama owned a personal BlackBerry that was replaced with a custom, highly-secure model once he reached office. But it seems Obama may have the chance to switch to Android before his term concludes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the White House is currently testing smartphones from Samsung and LG for internal, official use. The White House Communications Agency — which directly oversees Obama’s communications — is taking part in the effort along with an “internal technology team.”
These tests are still in the early phase, according to the Journal’s source, so Obama won’t be able to drop his longtime phone for “months.” But seeing as Obama doesn’t leave office until 2017, there’s a chance BlackBerry may lose its most famous customer before he departs the White House. The US government was for years one of BlackBerry’s most reliable sources of income, but as the company’s struggles continue, many agencies have looked elsewhere (mainly iOS and Android) for their mobile needs.
CEO John Chen has made regaining that dominant hold on government contracts a priority of BlackBerry’s revival. Any new device for Obama would need to undergo heavy modifications and gain clearance from agencies including the NSA. In the end, Obama’s Android phone would be a far cry from consumer models. His BlackBerry only allows him to communicate with 10 people, just one example of the stringent security policies meant to ensure his conversations remain private (and documented).
Update: BlackBerry says it’s still far ahead of Samsung and LG in terms of adhering to various government requirements:
We value the long-term relationship we’ve had with the White House and have been securing their mobile communications for more than a decade. The U.S. government requires the highest levels of security. We were the first mobility platform to receive the ‘Authority to Operate’ certification from the Department of Defense.
Governments test new technologies frequently, but nevertheless the U.S. government continues to choose BlackBerry for its unmatched security and cost effectiveness. Other vendors such as Samsung and LG still have a long way to go to catch up to meet the government’s stringent requirements and certifications. BlackBerry’s operating system has already received the highest security approvals from the United States, Great Britain and NATO, and our latest operating system, BlackBerry 10, is already certified for high-security users in various NATO countries.