Adopting Android as your smart phone platform doesn’t mean you need to leave Microsoft behind. So this new series will step through the process of getting up and running with your Microsoft-based data and apps on Android.
Note: This article will focus on what I feel are the top things you can do to convert your Google-centric smart phone into a more comfortable Microsoft-based user experience. I’ll expand on these tips in future articles in this series.
Get your Microsoft apps
I’ve written before about Microsoft’s wide range of Android apps inMicrosoft + Android, though that article is now several months old. Since then, Microsoft has released a handy app for Android, simply named Microsoft Apps, which provides a handy way to find all of the apps Microsoft makes for Android. So you should get that first. Or, you can simply check out the Google Play page for Microsoft, which also lists all of Microsoft’s Android apps.
And what a collection of apps it is. Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the major Microsoft apps are available on Android, including Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote), OneDrive, Groove, Bing, Skype, Skype for Business, Office Lens, Microsoft Health (for Microsoft Band), Remote Desktop, MSN News, MSN Money, MSN Weather, MSN Sports, Xbox One SmartGlass, and more.
Microsoft employees and small teams also develop a great collection of Microsoft Garage apps. (I’ll be writing more about Microsoft Garage, and specific Garage apps for Android, soon. Plus there’s another tip below that goes into a bit more detail about two of these apps.)
Note, too, that Microsoft supports Google’s Android Wear wearables platform, so if you’re all-in on Android, you can go Microsoft on your wrist too. (I’ll also be writing more about Microsoft and Android Wear soon.)
Sync your photos with OneDrive
While I do use and recommend Google Photos on Android for a variety of reasons—including cloud photo backup—there is no reason you can’t use two (or more) cloud services for photo backup. And if you’ve been using OneDrive to backup a previous Windows phone or other handset, continuing to do so on Android makes plenty of sense.
OneDrive for Android will prompt you to backup your photos after you’ve installed the app and signed in with your Microsoft account. But make sure you visit Settings to configure a few options: You may only want to backup over Wi-Fi, for example, or when your phone is charging.
Use your phone for two-factor authentication
While this will rankle Windows phone fans, Microsoft’s best two-factor authentication app, called Microsoft Account, is only available on Android. Unlike the Microsoft (and Google) Authenticator apps you may use on other smart phones, Microsoft Account doesn’t sit there and generate unique codes ever 60 seconds. Instead, you use the app to configure the Microsoft account(s) for which you have two-factor authentication set up. And when you need to use your phone to verify your identity elsewhere, the app generates a notification on the phone so you can press an “Approve” or “Deny” button. It’s the simplest two-factor authentication app anywhere.
Microsoft Account does have one downside, sadly: It only works with Microsoft accounts. So if you have two-factor authentication set up for your other (Dropbox, Google, whatever) accounts, you will still need a separate, old-school, authenticator app. I recommend Google Authenticator.
Consider going with a full-blown Microsoft user experience
Thanks to two intriguing Microsoft Garage apps—which, not coincidentally, were made by the same team—you can transform your Android handset into more of a full-blown Microsoft user experience that even offers some advantages over Windows phones.
The first, called Next Lock Screen, provides a number of advantages over the stock Android lock screen, including direct access to apps and useful tools (camera, flashlight, etc.), weather, calendar events, the Bing Wallpaper of the day, and more.
The second, called Arrow Launcher, is even more aggressive. This app replaces your Android home screens with a new app launcher than automatically organizes your home screen with the apps you use most and provides separate, swipable UIs for the people you interact with most, reminders, and recent items (photos, file downloads, app installs, and dropped calls). It’s pretty impressive.
Note, too, that you can also replace Google Now with Cortana, though that app is currently a work in progress.
I’ll be writing more tips for using Android with Microsoft apps and services in the near future. If there’s anything you want to know, I can prioritize based on demand. –Paul