Mission accompli

Hands on with Microsoft’s new Outlook for iOS

Microsoft quietly released Outlook for Mobile this week. It was a little weird as there were no leaks or even a hint at last week’s Window’s event. While I haven’t been overly happy with Outlook on my Mac, I like it on Windows. Exchange and Outlook are so deeply rooted in enterprise IT it’s almost impossible to segregate yourself from that platform. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this product.

So far, I’m very happy with it and it has become my mail client of choice. Since it’s available for both iOS and Android, for the sake of simplicity I’m going to call it Outlook for Mobile in this article to differentiate from Outlook for a desktop OS.

The problems with Mail.app

The default Mail app on iOS does the bare minimum in terms of email handling. Sure, I can send and receive emails, but Mail.app has always been more of triage tool and a quick way to reply to emails as opposed to a good way to process them. For starters, how it handles attachments is abysmal. It shocks me to think of how far we’ve come in some ways with iOS with new features like extensions, but how far we still have to go. Mail.app still won’t allow you to attach a file from a cloud storage service to an email.

This next complaint isn’t really directed at the Mail app, but an entire career that’s revolved around Outlook has trained me that when I’m looking through my work email, that the email client is also where I’ll get information about my calendar. There have been countless times I’ve been in Mail.app answering work emails and looked for a calendar icon to check my schedule. Again, this is more muscle memory, but it’s something I’ve missed.

Outlook to the rescue

There are many things I love about the new Microsoft. Even the freemium versions of Office have been great. With basic editing free, I no longer feel like Microsoft is beating me up for my lunch money. This trend continues with Outlook as it doesn’t even seem to care if you have an Office 365 account.

Outlook for Mobile will connect to most major email providers. Currently, it will not connect to a custom IMAP provider. This is not a big deal for me as all my personal domain email is on Google Apps anyway. I’m also forwarding all of them to one Gmail address anyway – it was just easier to have one set place to check all my mail. Outlook for Mobile also has a Focused Inbox. This is similar to the Primary view in Gmail. It cuts out a lot of garbage I get in my email, especially the stuff that ends up in Social and Promotions. Generally speaking, the emails in the Focused Inbox are emails I want to read.

A huge part of the email experience is sending attachments. I’ll often get an email from someone requesting a file. With Mail.app, I’d have to go dig out the file and try to an email it from the service’s app. If I’m on my desktop, it’s not a problem. Outlook for Mobile will let you simply reply to the email and select an attachment from either Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive. You can also save attachments to these services, too.

This is such a huge game changer on iOS. I can’t believe Apple still doesn’t support email attachments very well. I can only hope iOS 9 will include this very basic feature.


Outlook for Mobile’s Calendering

There is also a button to view your calendar within Outlook for Mobile. As you’d expect this brings up the calendars for all connected accounts. While you can create accounts, I noticed connected to my work email account it could not bring up the Free\Busy status for attendees. I think this is intentional since there is an option to email people to see when they are available. This is a feature I’d like to see added.

The calendar views are also limited. I can view a list of upcoming appointments, a day’s worth, or if I rotate my phone the next three days. On the iPad, I can see a full week, but it’s a full week in advance; not the current week. For example if I look at it on a Friday it will show appointments until the next Friday. On either device, I cannot get a month view.


Final thoughts

Outlook for Mobile looks fantastic. The fonts are nice and clean and look amazing. I love I can finally reply to a message and attach a file without needing to jump between apps. My complaints so far are limited to the calendar, but that’s not the end of the world. It’s not like there aren’t other ways to view my calendar on my devices.

Overall, this is an extremely impressive initial release from Microsoft.

27 Responses to “Hands on with Microsoft’s new Outlook for iOS”

  1. Peter S.

    It doesn’t work. I tried to send an email from a particular account (that still syncs fine on my android using its email app) and Outlook said the email was sent. No one ever saw it. A copy never appeared in the sent mail. Not even rudimentary intelligence to make a backup copy of my email on drafts, just in case. I lost a huge important message. I tried a few more test emails and they never arrived to one of my other email accounts. Simply put, I cannot send email from a particular hotmail address on Outlook, but I can send email from this address with every other client I have, including Windows Live 2011. Simply put: unacceptable. abysmal.

  2. Barry Friedman

    Does anyone know how to make the Outlook mobile app accept tel:// URIs? I have an HTML email with a button that launches a web conference and dials the phone number and PIN. It works with every other mobile mail client I have tried but not with the Outlook mail client for iOS

    • ßer† ωerdeη

      I have brought this to the attention of the support team. It is a major flaw in an otherwise great to use app. Sadly, if they don’t allow html Signatures to be pasted in as per Apple Mail and Gmail, it is useless for business people sending email from it!

  3. 3 Reasons I Removed this app:
    1. No Select All or Mark All as Read
    2. Inability to pinch/zoom on text in an email (some emails unreadable)
    3. Messages auto marked as read when read from another mail client typically didn’t work

    Number 3 worked once in a while but generally when reading mail from Outlook on Windows, email in the app would still show as unread. This is against an Office 365 account.

    Add in the security issues now well documented, the ‘People’ feature with no connectivity to contacts, and a host of other issues mentioned below and its hard to understand why MSFT is calling this Outlook. The crazy part is all the poor reviews probably based off of a days worth of use which don’t mention any of these issues. Read the comments to get the real feedback regarding this app.

  4. Adhirath Sethi

    I am experiencing a strange problem with this App. When I flag a message, it seems to automatically flag all the messages in the same conversation. This is particularly frustrating, as when I want to attend to the item on my computer and end up having multiple mails show up for follow up, when I was only intending to flag one message. Does anyone have a way around this?

  5. I too agree that adding attachments should be present in mail.app. Unfortunately, outlook doesn’t really help either as it just adds links to files in Dropbox, etc…

    Try Boxer for thr real deal.

  6. Sergey Orlik

    The name substitution by “Outlook” has not changed its fundamental problem of just rebranded consumer app which Accompli is by design. Transfer and save data on the mediation server somewhere in cloud, wide spectrum of potential security flows of sharing access with different consumer public file sync and share, etc. But classical desktop Outlook is in use by enterprises, not by consumers (they mostly prefer browser and standard mobile apps). And there are nothing in new “Outlook” for enterprises, except headache.

  7. MS Outlook for IOS has a fatal security flaw. Google drive on iOS has a password feature which you can optionally enable. MS Outlook bypasses this featur when you give it your Google address and password.

  8. I found the People from my iCloud contacts are not appearing, only Recent People that appears to be a scan of the mailbox. Also when adding attachment from Dropbox it only creates a link rather than actual file. These 2 key items make it a no go for me.

  9. Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android were developed with Acompli, an e-mail app developer recently acquired by Microsoft. The new app has several behaviors that negatively impact the security of a user’s mailbox and account. First, the app uploads a user’s account name and password to a third part company’s server environment. Second, that company’s server downloads and indexes the user’s mail, where it stays.

    Because of the above my company is blocking the use of this app.

  10. Well Microsoft simply rebranded the Acompli app, they haven’t yet added anything to it. I wish they added a proper contact manager too not just email addresses.
    But let’s see what the guys will come up with on the next version.

  11. My first impression was very positive, but when it didn’t pick up some folder changes I made using my desktop client, I decided to uninstall/reinstall the app. That’s when I noticed it mentioned “remote data”. Based on that alone, I decided to delete the app permanently. Turns out, according to the theregister.co.uk, the app is storing credentials on the developers servers.

  12. Carlton Bale

    I’m disappointed that the new Outlook doesn’t yet support OneDrive for Business.

    My IT department is disappointed that it can’t be set to require a PIN to open the app (as is possible with OWA.) I’d rather this functionality be tied to iOS unlock requirements, rather than any particular app. Hopefully if this is implemented, it will be tied to TouchID.

  13. Mark Struczewski

    I have already put my request in for HTML-enabled signatures as well as the ability for emails on the iPad to be opened in a full-window rather than in just the right hand pane. Sometimes, this is necessary. I’m hopeful because BOTH times, they responded to me, thanked me and let me know that they plan to update the app on a weekly basis. I love the iOS Mail app but Outlook is now my mail app (in my dock, even). I really like the Schedule and Focus features.

  14. Nice… but this client completely IGNORES the security settings present on many enterprise Exchange/O365 tenants. This “Outlook” is for consumers, but not ready for enterprises – even though it “quietly” functions there… “quietly” ignoring company security setting and policies.
    MS is angering many big customers by behaving this way.

    I do like the client, though… don’t like the way they call it “outlook” since that implies work email.