Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 44 Comments

Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook

While I’ve often touted Microsoft Outlook for Android (and iPhone), it’s fair to say that this mobile app, while great, has a few troubling limitations. The good news? They’re working on it.

The bad news, of course, is that in the meantime we have to live with a few limitations. But the payoffs, I think, are worth it.

So let’s start with what makes Outlook so special on mobile.

First up, Outlook for Android offers the same versatile functionality as does “full” Outlook on the PC or Mac. That is, it’s not just an email app: It also provides Calendar, Contacts, and, unique to mobile, a Files view that connects to popular cloud storage services. So like Outlook on a real computer, Outlook for Android is a one-stop shop for personal information management.

Tied to this is Outlook for Android’s ability to work with an ever-growing list of online accounts and services. This includes email (and calendar/contacts) accounts like those provided by Microsoft or Google, but interoperability with Calendar apps (Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist) and storage accounts (OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, Box, Dropbox, and Google).

The benefits to this integration should be obvious, but consider this one example: You want to send a cloud-based file to a contact. With other email apps, you would need to do a bit of context-shifting. You could launch the app for the cloud storage, find the file, and then share it with your email app using Android’s built-in Share functionality. Or you could download the file to your phone and then launch the email app, find the file, and then send it. With Outlook, the workflow is both logical and non-disruptive: You never leave the app.

Outlook mobile is so good, in fact, that Microsoft is using it as the basis for its other Outlook clients on Windows and Mac. The Mail app in Windows 10, for example, is slowly being made to work more like this app, and even full-blown Outlook 2016 will be simplified and made to look and work more like Outlook mobile in a future update. This is great news, in my opinion.

Looking to the core functionality, there are some pros and cons. Outlook for Android is an excellent email and calendaring solution, in particular, and it works well with a variety of account types, not just Microsoft’s. (I use it exclusively with my work-oriented Google custom domain, and the app has no trouble setting that up or using it.) Outlook for Android sports great email features like Focused Inbox (which, yes, you can turn off), customizable swipe message options (I set this to Delete to the left and Archive to the right), and the like. It’s full-featured.

Of course, there are limitations to this app. And some have been nicely documented by readers in our forums:

You can’t edit or create new contacts. As noted by SLBAILEY1 (and LPRELL, and probably others), it’s not possible to create or edit contacts in Outlook for Android. Microsoft, obviously, is aware of this issue and promises a fix. But this is a very strange omission in another otherwise solid mobile app. My workaround is to edit contacts, and create new contacts, elsewhere. You can do this from the website for your email provider or using another mobile app. I know.

You can’t adjust the text size. This is an issue I have with many mobile apps, including Mail for Windows 10: HTML-based email often displays with very small text and there’s no way to adjust this universally. Instead, you need to pinch to zoom—which can send the text off the edge of the screen—with each email message, manually.

Overall, however, Outlook for Android points to a future where mobile productivity apps are in fact quite sophisticated and not the basic, Playskool-type experiences we see so often in this space (especially in Windows).

You can download Microsoft Outlook for Android from the Google Play Store.

Note: If you have specific Outlook for Android questions, or know about other limitations, please let me know.

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Comments (45)

45 responses to “Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook”

  1. pwaggs

    I believe the article has been truncated.

  2. Waethorn

    The reason you can't edit contacts is because Microsoft can't guarantee that they'll be compatible with the contact app that the OEM ships with the phone, and that contact app is the one that the phone app uses, which is also OEM-supplied. Some phones (like my LG V20) have contact management integrated right into the phone app. On some custom versions of Android, you can't even use online account contacts with the phone app at all. This is why Google hasn't released their own Contacts app to the Play Store for general download. Phone+Contacts is an OEM solution, and they are bundled together.

  3. robincapper

    Cant see how you can claim "Outlook for Android offers the same versatile functionality as does “full” Outlook on the PC or Mac" then a bit later in the same article acknowledge it can't create or edit a contact?

  4. Ryster

    My main issue was the app didn't synchronise contacts with the phone, or allow me to edit them, etc. A pretty glaring omission for a phone app. I got rid of it, and bought Nine Mail instead. Works perfectly and I love it, even though it's not free. If MS sort out Outlook, as an Office 365 email user I may give it another go.

  5. dstrack

    The Contacts limitation is shocking.

    The only other issue I have is for notifications. I find they don't happen for my S7 Edge and S3 Frontier. I get the Calendar updates but email notifications are non-existent I think since the last update.

  6. AnthonyB

    As a recent 'Android switcher' (from WP) I've also adopted Nine but still keep Outlook installed in the hope it will get good enough. Pretty much everyone at Microsoft also uses Nine :)

    All the limitations already mentioned, plus Calendaring is extremely limited.

    1. You cannot move/change 'Show As' status on meeting requests sent to you (you can in Outlook on PC).
    2. When creating a meeting, the set time default view is a block on your calendar that you have to drag around and resize (not always so easy on a phone). You have to click a 'more options' button to get to a 'roller dial' setting for day and time. Not nearly as nice (IMHO) as the rotary clock widget used by Nine.
    3. Can't set 'all day event' (good for reminders or multi-day events).
    4. Can't set 'Show As' status (i.e. Free/Tentative/Busy/Out of Office).

    Obviously these (and others I haven't listed) might be seen as 'not as necessary' on the mobile version, but if you use them in a work context then they are critical and thus you end up having to 'clean-up' meetings you've created on Outlook Mobile, on the full Outlook for Windows when you get to a PC.

    Contacts - on top of everything mentioned;

    1. Poor scrolling experience - no accelerators on the edge to jump through the Letters quickly. All you have is Scroll or Search. Nine isn't that much better but at least has a Filter as well and each entry uses less screen real estate (LOTs of wasted white space in Outlook People list) so you scroll less.
    • os2baba

      In reply to AnthonyB:

      The worst thing about the Outlook Calendar is that it doesn't sync with the local calendar on Android. So I can't have a single calendar widget that shows all my appointments for the day.

      Yup. Nine is simply yards better. Microsoft should just buy them and rename it Outlook for Android.

      • venuvedam

        In reply to os2baba

        I work for them. And I use Nine instead of Outlook on my Pixel XL. My reasons are slightly different though. Outlook insists that I enable encryption on the phone completely and disables the Smart Lock functionality that lets you keep your device unlocked if it is paired with known bluetooth devices. Since I use my phone as my primary navigator in my car (via Android Auto), Outlook's insistence of disabling Smart Lock meant I had to unlock the phone every time I wanted to do something. Nine removed that problem completely and yes, integration with local calendar is god-send.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to AnthonyB:

      Interesting, thanks for this. I will check out Nine.

  7. Dan

    Use Nine instead, such a better app for email and contact management.

  8. Narg

    The one thing that keeps me away from Outlook on Android or iOS is the battery usage.  It seems to eat battery.  I couldn't find any way to change the mail reception from push to timed, which would save a ton of battery.

    That and the items Paul mentioned are pretty much show stoppers for me too.  OEM e-mail has usually worked best for me on mobile.  On desktop, I'll stick to web mail.  Far less failures with web mail.

  9. scd147

    I tried alerting them to a bug, and got a run-around so I've uninstalled it once again and will try again in a few months when I see a new release or forget how they burned me last time. This problem is a bit of a rabbit hole but I'll try and summarize. I needed an attached receipt from an email, but it was from a few weeks before I set up Outlook on the phone so the email never downloaded. I did a search which (found out later) includes results from the server as well as whatever is sitting on the phone. However, results from the server don't seem to list attachments, and there is no symbol to say "download message and get your attachment" or anything like that. Now, using the built in Gmail app, I was able to find the message with its attachment doing the same search, no problem. So the attachment was/is still there. At this point I opened a ticket with them and said to the effect "I can't find my attachments, but I know it's there". I got a response back telling me to look for the paperclip... UGH..., won't get upset, won't get upset.

    Anyway, Finally I decided instead of searching for this email in the app, to scroll down down down. You get a button that says "Download Older" or something, and it pulls a batch of emails by date down to phone as you scroll back in time. When I finally scrolled down far enough to find this message, now the attachment was there. Okay... so then I tried searching again, now that the message is definitely downloaded. I Found the attachment again. Definitely the problem is there is no way to tell that the message from a search may not be downloaded to the phone, and a simple fix is a button or indicator that tells you there is more to this message than you have.

    I explained this to them, and as you can see above, I can't summarize, I know this about me, but I did try to explain it to them. They said, good glad its resolved. Then they closed the ticket. So I opened it again and said, "No... This issue is not resolved, I found my attachment but from the way this works, you have a defect. Please bear in mind I did not have to do any of this investigating to find my message and attachment in the Gmail app." And they suggested I submit a feature request. By that point I was exhausted and just uninstalled the app. The more I try it and interact with that support team the more bewildering it is that Microsoft would by them and put their much more valuable product name on it. Should have left them alone, not for their sake, but for everybody elses.

  10. Allen

    Once established, should you decide to use it, 'Schedule' cannot be turned off, moved, renamed or changed. (At least I haven't found a way to do so and those at MS who have tried to help say it can't be done).

  11. TechnologyTemperance

    One big plus to Outlook on Android (and I believe iOS):  You can set your Out of Office message on an exchange/365 server.  That is unbelievably handy!

  12. Nicolas De Roo

    I really like Outlook Mobile, I just don't get why on Android I have to be connected to the internet to turn of an appointment reminder. If I'm not connected, I get a reminder sound every minute... Very annoying in places without 4G or wifi connection.

  13. fedrick

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  14. belgaard

    Based on your suggestion I used Outlook for a couple of months on my new Android phone (when I moved from WIndows Phone). It worked nicely until one day it did not. It had successfully synched calendar and contacts from my windows account ( until it started repeatedly ask for credentials. If correct credentials were entered, it asked again. If incorrect credentials were entered it told me so).

    I googled the problem and found that it has often been a problem for Outlook users (all kinds of versions on different OSes), but none of the work-arounds worked for me.

    I guess I need to move to Google Calendar. Maybe with the Outlook for Android app as a front-end?

  15. ChicagoGuy

    Hi Paul,

    Been listening to you on TWIT for a couple of years; thanks!! I have a question. I installed the Outlook app on my Samsung Galaxy S7 with Android v7.0 (Nougat) installed. It seems to work smoothly except for one problem. I cannot find the scrollbar in the contacts section. So I'm unable to scroll through my contacts. Is there a way to turn this on and make it appear?

  16. James Wilson

    Woah - hang on a sec... Microsoft apps on android have been touted as the holy grail - the place to go over and above the 'dead' OS that is Windows 10 Mobile. Are we now saying Outlook on Android is good but not as 'complete' as Outlook on Windows 10 Mobile?

  17. ben55124

    Consider a comparison article on using the native Android GMail and Calendar apps with microsoft accounts. That's my preference.

  18. Freezal

    to add to what it cant do that Outlook on other platforms can do:

    1. Does not support custom linked inboxes like Windows Mobile Outlook.  Can only have 1 linked inbox with all accounts. 

    2. Does not adhere to linked contact records in the OS if you type the name of a person with more than one contact and they are linked in your contact list Outlook for Android will display all contact record in the autofill some times taking up most of the screen and causing a glitch.

    3. Has a reverse conversation reading order where the latest email message is at the bottom of the list requiring scrolling to find and read in long threads. with no ability to adjust in settings.

    basically if they would work to make Outlook for Android more like Outlook for Windows Mobile while also retaining some of the things they got right like focused inbox, unified services in one app (email, calendar, files), I think they would have a product that appeals to more users.

    • mmcpher

      In reply to Freezal:

      Your # 1 deficiency is my # 1 as well: "1. Does not support custom linked inboxes like Windows Mobile Outlook. Can only have 1 linked inbox with all accounts." 

      I run at least 4 and sometimes more separate email accounts on my W10M phones and the ability to have separate icons/folders pinned to the home screen (with unread messages in the live tile) was a fix that they brought to Outlook on W10M very early on. And I miss the hell out of it on an Android phone. So much so that I'm considering using a separate email app for each account. It would be a way to differentiate an compare and contrast.

  19. GeekWithKids

    I wouldn't call it a great Calendar. Getting better but I still have trouble with events I can't edit and there is no get a good month view.

    Still it's the best email app I've found for Android.

    • James Hancock

      In reply to GeekWithKids: Try Nine. It uses the built in contacts and calendar backend database so things just work in the phone app and apps that need the calendar and it syncs them both and allows you to edit contacts on the phone. (ya, novel I know)

      Absolutely destroys Outlook.

      • walterwood44

        In reply to James Hancock
        I also switched to 9 and can have multiple accounts viewed in the same inbox of in separate inboxes. And I can actually read the message.
        I got tired of Outlook opening messages with normal sized fount but before I could read them it would shrink them to where I needed a microscope to read them just because of a large photo or screen shot.
        Also when i questioned MS Experience about shrinking messages I was told to send a request to the developer asking for a new feature to fix this bug.
    • jbuccola

      In reply to GeekWithKids:

      This. How do you, for instance, show a full month or a full week or a work week? My only options are three days at a time or the agenda of how do you, for instance, show a full month or a full week or a work week? My only options are three days at a time or the agenda view. I've actually found at the calendar in default windows 10 is the absolute best. It consolidate multiple calendars until one of you (unlike desktop outlook) and chin show anytime. On one screen (unlike mobile Outlook). Ironically, only the iOS mail application allows you to move appointments between calendars on different systems. Neither of the mobile nor the desktop version of Outlook allow you to do this. You have to simply delete and re-set up the appointment. For someone who goes between personal and business rather quickly, this limitation can be absolutely maddening.

  20. nbplopes

    Integration with third party Cloud Storage providers is baked in for instance with iOS default Email client (yes Apple Email), since .... Just saying this because it has been considered "mediocre" email client from a so called "closed" company.

    Yes I would like the default Apple Mail client to be a little smarter regarding email organization. The "Focused" is nice, but what Inbox does with the email its a totally different ballgame.

    Just saying this to put the "so good" under perspective with none of the so called drawbacks. I suspect the these aren't really Android fault considering I can edit the local Contacts data in many apps and it gets synced to the whatever Clouds the system is bound to and have permission to sync contacts.

  21. James Hancock

    The worst of the Microsoft apps on Android (and same problems on iOS):

    1. Does not support syncing contacts with the OS bi-directionally so you're screwed if you want to update a phone number (it won't even push them back up to the server or let you edit them!)
    2. Does not support pushing calendars (let-alone sync bi-directionally!) so things like Waze that depend upon your calendar don't work.

    These two major omissions that still aren't addressed while they add stupid things makes this app mostly useless for anyone serious about email and calendars.

    Use Nine. Way better Outlook than Outlook on Android.

    • m.rubino

      In reply to James Hancock:

      I'll second that. I switched to Nine a couple of weeks ago for the same reasons. I've been very happy with it so far.

      I also love that it has a dark theme that can be scheduled.

      I used to also have my account set up as an Exchange account, which mitigated some of the contact and calendar issues, but it was still kind of a mess.

  22. Orin

    If I'm not mistaken, the official Outlook application still doesn't support tasks. I've switched to Nine for this reason, along with the lack of bi-directional contact syncing.

  23. wolters

    I still prefer the Outlook email app but here are some thoughts on it...

    * It has been rather slow lately. So so that I have salespersons in the field calling and griping to me that their inbox shows blank or when viewing an email, it takes 10-40 seconds to display.

    * I use Outlook as my Calendar app for my Google Calendar.

    * I sync my Google Contacts via the Outlook app and also my Exchange Contacts. I have my (personal) contacts sync off.

    I really want an all in one email/calendar/contacts solution for Android and if Microsoft is working on it, as Paul says, I'll remain patient.

  24. GetEdumated

    You can't change a contact's photo. In fact, you can't do this anywhere. Technically, the Windows 10 People app does but it almost never works.

  25. dstrauss

    Any idea when they may have a fix for the Android Contact issue? The Upcoming Galaxy Book 12 and Galaxy Note 8 give me hope to get out of the clutches of Apple and be able to use the same pen across both devices...note takes rejoice.

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