Before we even get started I’m going to give a link to the Play Store page for the new Outlook Android app from Microsoft.
Back now? Great. Did you get a chance to look at the reviews section at the bottom of the page? If so, you might have noticed that the 1 star ratings have a fairly commanding lead at this point. In fact, if this was a horse race they likely would have taken the other horses off the track and shot them under the impression that they were not in fact competing any longer. That may be a bit harsh, but the point is that this app is obviously not living up the lauded expectations set forth by the Microsoft PR machine.
In order to keep things completely up-front and honest, I did have to make an Outlook account before giving this app a try, as I’ve been a loyal GMail user for years. According to the official Microsoft announcement page, GMail converts will love the new Outlook because;
- They prefer Outlook.com’s clean user design
- Outlook.com does a better job of blocking spam and it outperforms Gmail when it comes to helping manage unwanted messages like newsletters and daily deals
- Outlook.com makes it easier to share photos and Office documents
That’s referring specifically to the website, not the new Android App, but I get the feeling that I’m supposed to be fairly impressed with my overall experience. As they explain, “4 out of 5 GMail users said they would switch to Outlook.com.”
So, on my first attempt to sign into my new account on the Android app I’m presented with a ‘Sign in incorrect box’, despite the fact that I literally just made the account and had it show me the characters to be certain I typed it in correctly. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and assume I messed up, and then the second attempt results in the same error. The third attempt is successful, who knows that the issue was before.
After going through the usual prompts about how I want the account to act, including turning on the Push option and choosing from how far back I want to see messages, we’re finally into the main staging area. A few test e-mails, both sent and received, show me that the app is responsive and smooth. Honestly, the whole process was easy and the only thing that might make things a bit easier would be the addition of a ‘Next’ and ‘Previous’ button to move between text fields, but it’s not a huge issue.
So how does it look? Well, not good. When you run a side-by-side between the official GMail Android app and the new Outlook app, it becomes pretty clear which company has invested time in making a product that’s nice to look at as well as use. What would have been nice to see is some implementation of the Metro UI, especially since virtually every other product is formatting to that universal look for Microsoft. The other issue is that apparently this is literally a carbon copy of the Hotmail app, just rebranded with the Outlook moniker.
You want to hear about the other problems? You got it. There’s no option to edit or add contacts within the app, there’s no embedded calendar integration, and it’s a battery killer. Leaving the app open for just a few hours resulted in significant battery drain on an otherwise unused HTC One X. It’s also missing enterprise functionality and lacks OWA support.
Overall this was a lackluster product that was apparently pushed out by Microsoft will little concern for end-user experience. Although the basic functions that you really need, sending and receiving, are there and functional, this was an opportunity for Microsoft to truly push their new Outlook platform. It’s true that Outlook is gaining a large number of new customers with its new Outlook design and branding, but with a mobile performance like this, can we expect users to stay?