AT&T to usher in split-personality mobile devices

AT&T Toggle allows you to run two separate and distinct identities on your phone: one for work and another for personal use.

Your mobile device could soon go the route of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The work side of the HTC Inspire. AT&T

AT&T today unveiled AT&T Toggle, a service that allows you to create two separate and distinct identities on your smartphone or tablet. The first would be a personal account where you can freely browse the Internet, text your friends, and watch videos. A second, more secure identity would house your business apps and documents and can be managed by your company's IT department.

The personal side of the HTC Inspire. AT&T

AT&T is using an app called Divide , which was created by start-up Enterproid.

The service will help aid the trend of individuals bringing their own devices to use at work, which kicked off with the iPhone a few years back and has spread to other smartphones and tablets. The announcement comes ahead of the CTIA Enterprise & Applications conference, which kicks off tomorrow in San Diego.

"When it comes to connected devices, one size doesn't fit all," said Chris Hill, vice president of advanced mobility services in AT&T's business services group. "People want to use their own smartphones and tablets for work, but that practice can create major headaches for businesses' IT departments."

Individuals like it because they're no longer constrained to the few options that companies give them on smartphones. Companies like it because they no longer have to bear the financial burden of outfitting their employees with mobile devices.

AT&T is hoping Toggle will provide a boost to this trend. The service will be available by the end of the year to phones running on Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, or higher. AT&T said it plans to expand the accessibility to other mobile operating systems next year. In addition, the service can work on phones running on any carrier.

AT&T plans to charge businesses a license fee of $5 per device each month on top of any other service fees. Once the company buys the license, it can assign it to an employee, who will be able to download the Toggle app from Android Marketplace or AT&T's application store.

Companies using the service will be able to allow certain employees the ability to access corporate data depending on their responsibilities. They will also be able to add, update, or delete business applications on their employees' personal devices, and remotely wipe corporate information on the device if it is lost or stolen.

AT&T said some of its corporate customers have already expressed interest in the service.

The distinct sides, however, may be a bother for workers who are already used to using one phone for work and personal use. That's because the person has to manually shift to work mode to access their corporate account, and vice versa. AT&T said users can set up a widget on one identity to alert them of e-mails from the other side. The company added the service would continue to evolve over time.

The smartphone has become an increasingly important tool in the workplace. AT&T said more than 18,000 of its business customers have adopted mobile applications, a rise of nearly 400 percent since the first quarter of the year.

Hitting the "bring your own device" trend harder, AT&T plans to launch a series of additional services and features that will help workers rid themselves of company-issued devices.

Updated at 11:49 a.m. PT October 10 to include additional details on Toggle.

 

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