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Android Lollipop won't use default disk encryption due to performance issues

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Google has backed away from an early promise to enable full-disk encryption by default on all Lollipop devices. Android users can still switch on disk encryption in the settings menu, but contrary to what Google said when Lollipop was first released, it won't be the default setting. According to an official statement, the issue seems to be device performance. "Due to performance issues on some Android partner devices, we are not yet at encryption by default on every new Lollipop device," Google said in a statement to Engadget. "We remain firmly committed to encryption because it helps keep users safe and secure on the web."

"Due to performance issues on some Android partner devices."

The backtrack is part of a long-standing split between Google's ambitious plans for Android and the often limited capabilities of its hardware partners. Google's own Nexus devices already use encryption by default, and while many have observed performance penalties as a result, the devices have been able to pick up the slack — but the "performance issues" suggest that not all Android devices are ready to take on the extra load of default encryption.

There's still the option for disk encryption on Android devices with Jelly Bean or higher, but users will have to enable it themselves — and if they start to notice a slowdown, they may be inclined to switch back. The performance slowdowns are particularly rough in light of the relative obscurity of the protections offered by encrypting the phone's disk space. The vast majority of data used by mobile devices is held in the cloud, and is much more likely to be targeted on corporate servers or while in transit, neither of which would be protected by full-disk encryption.