Android has supported full disk encryption for some time now, with Google shoring up the technology at the time of releasing Android 5.0 Lollipop by originally mandating that all devices with this version of the operating system were encrypted out of the box. Although this requirement has now been relaxed, thanks to the additional overhead involved and it reducing performance, which is more noticeable on lower end devices, encryption is still a technology very much in peoples minds. Full disk encryption is a means of encrypting a device such that the contents may not be written without the necessary key. However, whilst Android has supported encryption since version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, despite a pick up in interest when Android 5.0 Lollipop was released, has not received much attention from the media. Perhaps to this end, modern mobile chipsets are not optimized for dealing with encryption and because of this, the overhead associated with reading and writing to encrypted memory remains. However, because of an FBI investigation trying to force Apple into unencrypting a device, the technology has once again been in the news.
In what might have been unfortunate timing, earlier this week Amazon removed the ability to encrypt its Fire tablet devices in a software update. At the time, the company claimed that customers simply were not using the feature. Perhaps this is because the Amazon Fire tablet is more a casual-use device and it not necessarily used for productivity work but instead for consuming content rather than creating it. We have reviewed several Amazon Fire tablets in the past and found them to be commendable devices; they have respectable operating systems, performance and battery life and are ideal for those customers who are existing Amazon users. Amazon have broadened the range of Fire tablets to include smaller, lower cost devices through middling size tablets and into the full size arena. Amazon use Fire OS on the Fire tablet range, which is a fork of Android and has supported the encryption technology out of the box. Perhaps as unfortunate as Amazon’s decision to remove encryption is some of the negative attention the update has received but we now have word that Amazon is to reintroduce the update in the spring and issued the following statement.
We likely won’t know if Amazon had planned to remove support for encryption for some time or if it was a knee-jerk reaction to the Apple and FBI conflict, or perhaps an oversight and it was too late to stop the release of the update this week.