For the past month I’ve been walking on the dark side, alternating between the Android-based Moto X and, more recently, the iPhone 6S Plus ahead of next week’s Lumia announcements. During this time, I’ve been spending a lot of time with Microsoft’s mobile apps for Android and iOS, and comparing them to the built-in platform apps, when applicable, and to other competing solutions. And the one that has really stood out is Microsoft Outlook.
Outlook for Android and iOS debuted in January in the wake of Microsoft’s purchase of Accompli. Initially, the app was just a rebranded version of Accompli, which had established itself as an amazingly-full-feature Outlook-like app—with modules for email, calendar, contacts, and cloud storage—on these rivals platforms. But over time, Microsoft has updated Outlook on Android and iOS at a very rapid rate. And the app, which was already amazing, has only gotten better.
As interesting, Outlook has seriously strong competition on these platforms. Google’s Gmail and Google Calendar apps for both Android and iOS are amazing too, and even Apple’s Mail, Calender and Contacts apps on iOS are very high-quality. But Outlook outshines them all by offering the same account compatibility but doing so in a single app, and adding in pervasive support for cloud storage services like Dropbox, OneDrive, and many others.
Coming from the Windows Phone world as I do, I’m used to a more typical mobile arrangement, where separate apps—Mail, Calendar, People, plus whatever apps for storage—are used in place of a single app. But I’ve come to really like having all of this information in one place, and feel like Outlook on Android and iOS has replicated what’s good about Outlook on Windows, but without any of the bloat.
There are unique bits, too. The apps look native without ripping off the built-in apps on each platform, and on iOS in particular Outlook makes much better use of the onscreen space than does the Apple Mail app. On Android, it adopts the nice, flat Material Design look and feel.
By default Outlook provides what’s called a Focused Inbox, where email that is considered important appears in a default “Focused” view, and other email appears in—wait for it—Other. Obviously, this automatic filtering gets better over time, and you can turn this off if you’d like. I just wish I had it on the PC.
Like other mobile email clients, Outlook provides customizable swipe gestures. On my phones, I swipe left on a message to quickly archive it, and swipe right to delete. But you can choose other actions if you’d like.
My biggest pet peeve in Mail on Windows Phone is search: It’s worthless. But Outlook search is amazing and, better still, offers search term highlighting in the results Brilliant and, in retrospect, obvious.
Calendar is pretty basic—it offers only two views, from what I can see, Day and Agenda—but it does the job. And if you’re using it in a corporate environment, it works like Outlook does on PCs and lets you make sure all of the attendees are available when you schedule meetings.
The inclusion of cloud storage services is perhaps Outlook’s most unique feature. The point here is for email attachments: Instead of making sure that the file(s) you wish to send are available on the device, you can simply access your files no matter where they are.
Outlook for Android and iOS is so good that I’d like to see Microsoft port this app to Windows PCs and phones. In fact, it can’t happen fast enough and one of the worst things about going back to Windows phone is that this app isn’t available there. Come on, Microsoft. You can do this.