Fulfilling its promise to quickly update the Outlook for Android and iOS apps with new features, Microsoft this week delivered a major update to the apps that provides new security features and other changes.
Microsoft had previously pledged to update these apps every two weeks, so this is timely: The original release of Outlook for Android and iOS—which was based on an app called Accompli, which Microsoft previously acquired—shipped on January 29. The goal here is for Outlook for Android and iOS to pick up features in various other apps—like Outlook.com and OWA—so that those apps can be retired over time. This week’s update is a nice step in that direction, with some important IT controls that were previously missing in action.
Here’s what’s new.
PIN lock/password. Outlook for Android and iOS now enforces Exchange ActiveSync policy-based password requirements. So if your company requires the app to be PIN-locked, it will be. Microsoft notes that this control works a bit differently between the platforms because of differences between Android and iOS. On Android, you will be prompted to enter a password and won’t be able to access the app until you do, and Outlook will enforce screen lock rules. On iOS, Outlook only runs on iOS 8 or later, and once you set up a passcode, your data will be encrypted on the device automatically.
Quicker remote wipe. The ability to remotely wipe an entire device—or, better, just the corporate data on a device, leaving personal data intact—is a key IT control. Outlook for Android and iOS supports the latter capability—where the app data is wiped, but not the user’s personal data on the device—but now it happens much more quickly, and within seconds.
IMAP support. Responding to a key customer request, Outlook for Android and iOS now supports IMAP email providers such as AOL, Comcast and others. And it’s pretty sophisticated: If your IMAP email provider offers IDLE support, the app can provide PUSH-like email sync. Otherwise, it will sync email every few minutes.
Conversation view toggle (iOS only). Outlook for iOS now lets you disable the app’s default Conversation view, which groups all messages from the same thread together. If you don’t like this behavior, you can visit Settings, Organize Mail by Thread and turn it off. (This toggle is coming soon to Outlook for Android as well, of course.)
Swipe gesture customization (Android only). Outlook for Android now lets you customize what happens when you swipe left or right on an email message or other item. (By default, you swipe left to archive, for example.) To customize these gestures, visit Settings, Swipe Options.
Swipe gesture folder customization. This is a big one for email services—like Outlook.com—that don’t have a form Archive (or similar) folder: you can now customize where email goes when you swipe to archive or schedule. Just visit Settings, Choose an account, Advanced Settings, System Folders. Love this.
In addition to these changes, Microsoft has also documented some of the features it will add in the next few updates. These include adding support for Microsoft Intune mobile device management, moving Outlook’s cloud service from Amazon Web Service to Microsoft Azure (a relic of its Accompli beginnings), adding support for the local syncing of contacts, removing the ‘Preview’ label from Outlook for Android, and improving localization for all 30 supported languages. Furthermore, Microsoft says it will soon improve the documentation about the architecture, security, and administrative controls in Outlook for Android and iOS.
As expected, these apps are coming together quite nicely.