Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook Alternatives

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile, Office 365, Outlook.com with 25 Comments

Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook Alternatives

Yesterday’s post about Outlook for Android generated a lot of discussion about that app’s shortcomings. Here are some alternatives to consider.

To be clear, however, some readers misunderstand what I’m trying to do here, which is trying to adapt to Android. And I’m doing so from the perspective of a Windows user, which I am, so Outlook seems like it would be an obvious choice on this mobile platform. And I like Outlook for Android quite a bit, and the issues others have raised haven’t generally been a problem for me.

That said, I have known about some of Outlook’s missing features for a while now. And in reading your feedback, I’m reminded that all it takes—in any technology transition—is for one crucial feature to be missing to derail the whole thing. I have this issue when I try to use Mail and Edge on Windows 10, for example. I’d like to use these apps, but in testing, they’re always frustrating and I end up going back to what I was doing previously.

And this is the issue many are having with Outlook on Android. There’s no reason to discount these criticisms, as they’re very real and impact one’s ability to even use the app. I know from discussing the app with Microsoft that they are aware of the issues and are working to correct them. But that doesn’t help people on Android today. So let’s just be pragmatic about this and look at alternatives.

Here, specifically, what I’m concerned about are email and calendar apps that work with Microsoft and Office 365 accounts. Meaning Outlook.com (and its predecessors, like Hotmail) and Office 365 commercial. And within the confines of that requirement, two Outlook alternatives from the feedback. So let’s start there.

Nine

Several people recommended Nine for Android. This is very much an Outlook alternative in that it specifically—and only—supports all Exchange ActiveSync-compatible account types, including Outlook.com and Office 365. And like Outlook for Android, it is a true multifunction app that offers support for calendar and contacts, and tasks and notes, in addition to email.

Point being, if you’re a Microsoft guy, this is an app to check out. The issue for me is that my primary account is in fact Google-based (G Suite), and Nine only works with Microsoft accounts. (I do have several Microsoft-type accounts, but they are all funneled through Gmail on the back-end.) I hope to change that in 2017—am, in fact, plotting a company-wide move from Google to Office 365—but as of today, it’s a non-starter for me.

I did, however, recommend Nine to Mary Jo Foley, who has been using Outlook on Android and putting up with its weird problems for months. She described Nine as a revelation and has made the switch.

Gmail and Google Calendar

One of the weirder things I hear from Microsoft-leaning readers is that they’re not fans of Google, and that they will not use Google apps and services. I appreciate the whole taking a stand thing, but this is wrong-headed: On mobile and in the cloud, Google makes excellent products that are often best-in-class. And denying yourself their capabilities is self-defeating. I can’t imagine not using apps like Chrome, Google Maps, or Google Play Music, for example, and that’s true on both Android and iPhone.

Because my primary account is on Google, I’m in a Google ecosystem when it comes to email, contacts, and calendar. Generally speaking, this means Gmail (email/contacts) and Google Calendar. But I actually use Google Inbox, which is a simpler, next-generation Gmail client, on both mobile and on the PC (where I use the web client).

Google Calendar.

Google Inbox only supports Google accounts on Android. But Gmail and Google Calendar both also support Microsoft-type accounts (Outlook.com and Office 365). And if you can get over your the anti-Google bias and give these apps a chance, I think you will be surprised. Google Calendar, for example, is the best mobile calendar app, period.

And then there were two…

So there you go. I will connect Nine to my Office 365 commercial account for testing purposes, but I don’t really use it much in a real world sense, so this will just be an opportunity to look at the app. Until Microsoft fixes Outlook, I guess I’m back to Inbox and Google Calendar. Which, again, isn’t a huge problem as both are excellent. But I’d like to see Microsoft get its act together. They’re going to start losing people when the alternatives are as good or better than what they offer.

 

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