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Hands on with new Microsoft Outlook for Android

Screenshot_2015-01-29-11-41-16Today Microsoft released a long-awaited Outlook application for iOS and Android platforms. I downloaded a preview version from Google Play and installed it to my Android phone to give it a quick test. I’m used to accessing my corporate email through the standard Android Email application (which got a significant facelift in Android 5.0) and was mostly happy with it, so I planned to give Outlook app a test drive and then delete it. But after I played with app for a few minutes I realized that it’s a keeper.
Microsoft Outlook app for Android can read email from multiple sources: (of course!), Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. When user is first opening the application he’s prompted with a slideshow explaining most important features of the application, and then asked to configure the email accounts. I added my corporate email server (which is Office365 tenant) and proceeded to the inbox view.photofun-175116168
The first thing which I noticed was two views of the inbox:
– focused
– other
“Focused” view displayed more important emails,  “Other” contained less important. I’m not sure what algorithm Outlook app used to sort emails by these two views, but it’s working well. I’m definitely more interested in seeing email from Focused view.
photofun-14217648Just like built-in Android email application, Outlook is displaying a colored square of the left of each email message. I guess this should be sender’s picture, but in my inbox it only contained sender’s initials. I know that Email app is pulling these pictures from Google+ profile, and Outlook in theory should be either going the same, but I guess it can’t match corporate email addresses to google profiles. I wonder it Outlook app could pull user pictures from Active Directory? Maybe in a next version…
There is a “Quick filter” button which allows to quickly select all unread, flagged or messages with attachments. Very handy.
There is also a fully functional Exchange calendar built into application, which is looking and functioning great.
When I tried to compose a message, I was very nicely surprised by an option to attach a recent email attachment (i.e. a file which you attached recently or received as an attachment). I wish my desktop Outlook client had the same feature. photofun-142114623You can also attach files directly from Google Drive and Dropbox (why not OneDrive?) or take picture with a phone camera.
When I opened email message details I realized that Outlook can group messages into threads (Android email app can’t do that) and also (a killer feature!) can properly display HTML mails where image is embedded into email body. Android Email app is considering every image an attachment and displaying it at the bottom of the email message, which is seriously inconvenient.photofun-1968123631
On top of all, main email view supports finger swiping actions. Swiping message on the left deletes the message and swiping message on the right allows to “schedule” message, i.e. to create a notification based on this message and snooze the message display until further date). This feature is similar to Google Inbox app.
Microsoft Outlook client for Android is a cutting-edge, modern, useful, productive application. From now on it’s going to be my default email application on my phone.
P.S. Our own Joe Palarchio shared with me his security concerns regarding this app. He found out that application is storing user credentials and user content on it’s servers which are running on AWS (this fact probably  being a is heritage of Acompli) and doesn’t seem to respect Exchange email security policies (remote wipe, etc). I hope these concerns will be addressed in the release version of the application.

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Stan Tarnovskiy

Solutions Architect at Perficient

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