Why I don’t use Outlook on my Android phone

Based on my previous articles about my journey from Windows Phone to Outlook, you would think that I use every Microsoft app available on my Android device.

This assumption is largely correct as I use the Arrow app launcher, OneDrive for photo uploads, Yammer for social engagement, Skype for Business for conferences, and plenty of others.

But the one app I don’t use it Outlook. I did use it on my first Android phone and cursed something that I thought was an Android limitation – but it turns out it is an Outlook on Android limitation, and for me that is a showstopper:

The ability to create new and modify existing contacts!

Yep, that is a feature I simply cannot live without. At first it was infuriating as I was relatively new to Android, but as I was using the Gmail app for my personal email experience (which is also hosted on Office 365) I found that the issue was actually Outlook. It was quite frustrating to figure out – I would create or modify a contact on my phone in the Outlook app, only to find seconds later it wasn’t there!!!

As a person who is constantly meeting new people I need the ability to save contact details, and they come from a variety of sources: a business card handed to me, an email signature, told verbally, my incoming call log, etc. I don’t want to have to wait until I’m back in front of my Outlook client on my Surface Pro 4 to record their details, or have to use the Outlook on the web interface – I want to do it then and there. And I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In fact if you look at the UserVoice page you’ll see that this specific feature has over 20,000 votes and was been flagged as “Under Review” back in July 2015.

We are left to wonder why this hasn’t been fixed yet?

So what do I use instead of Outlook?

I did use the Gmail app for my personal Office 365 email and it was acceptable, but I had a few sync issues there so definitely wouldn’t use it for work purposes.

Instead, a friend of mine who worked with me at Paradyne, Ian Culliver, told me about an app that he uses instead of Outlook. He had switched from Windows Phone to Android years ago and so had a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. When griping about the Outlook contact experience he told me that he uses an app called Nine Mail. It is available for a 2 week trial, and after that costs US$9.99. This is fairly steep compared to the free Outlook app, but then again it’s the same cost as lunch.

Two things about this app caught my attention. The first was the ability to add & modify contacts!

The second was the ability to set VIPs, which allows me to disable all email notifications (something I love to do) and only receive them from important people such as my wife and specific business contacts. (What’s surprising is that the Microsoft Band v1 handled VIP email notifications over 2 years ago!)

These two are enough for me to stay on Nine Mail for a while.

I still have the Outlook app installed and synchronising in the background as the Skype for Business client requires it to get calendar information. All notifications are turned off however, and the Outlook app isn’t even on my main screen.

As you can see on the screenshot of my phone, the Nine app is in the bottom right corner with the Nine calendar widget featuring prominently.

The Outlook app is buried inside the “Microsoft Apps” folder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But what about the rest of the features? And what do I recommend to customers?

Good question – do I practice what I preach? Do I tell customers to use what I use?

Yes and no. I tell them what I use, but then I tell them to use the supported app being Outlook. I tell them to use the app that has the most features for the enterprise, including integration with features such as Office 365 Groups. Things like Focused Inbox are an important feature for those who work in organisations that still receive large volumes of emails each day.

Also, the Outlook app does introduce new features at an amazing rate – although I’m still surprised saving contacts is still not fixed.

On a personal level, I don’t use those features as I’m in a business of one and for me contact management is more important than group collaboration.

Will I go back to using Outlook? Probably yes, at least for my work persona. But not until this contact problem is fixed, and probably not until VIPs email notifications is introduced.

Google is slowly taking over my house

If you know me, then you’ll understand how much of a big deal this is.

Only 12 months ago my entire house was almost entirely Microsoft-powered, apart from an iPad Mini for the kids to play with. We had Lumia 640 and 950XL phones, a HP MicroServer acting as our media server, a Windows 10 PC acting as the Plex server, a Xbox One for gaming, a Surface Pro 2 for shared personal use, and 2 x Surface Pro 3’s for work use.

It started with my wife, she had gotten over her Windows Phone not having enough power or apps. She didn’t care whether she went down the path of iOS or Android, the deciding factor came down to the ability to add storage capacity – something Apple does not allow. So she opted for a Samsung Galaxy S7.

Then I wanted a second tablet to play videos on for long drives in the car (my daughters are at different ages, so one wants Wiggles while the other wants Toy Story). We’d tried using Windows tablets over the years but anything low-cost simply didn’t deliver the goods. I opted for a Samsung Galaxy Tab A, and immediately my viewpoint started to change. Where before I had written that the app gap on Windows Phone didn’t bother me – after having virtually every app available to me, my opinion changed quickly.

Since November I too have switched to an Android phone as my daily driver, and haven’t looked back. I started with a cheap-o Umi Super which had a number of hardware issues, and after tolerating it for two months I upgraded to a more stable Google Nexus 5X. And this is where the Google-isation of my house has begun.

I wanted to stream video to my TV, and while I watch content mainly from the Xbox One – sometimes I wanted to watch something off the tablet. I purchased a Chromecast and now use it exclusively for things such as watching NFL games using the GamePass app.

My wife often plays music for the girls so they can have a sing and dance, so she connects via Bluetooth to a portable speaker and moves it around the house. This becomes a bit annoying when the girls keep going back and forth between rooms, so I purchased a second speaker and two Chromecast Audio devices – so now we can play to one room or both at the same time. This gives me a poor-man’s Sonos experience, and for the most part works well.

 

If I lived in the US a big decision point for me would be Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Seeing as most of the house is Google it would make sense that we would purchase a Google Home, especially as they now support multiple users. You can bet as soon as the device is made available in Australia I’ll be getting one or few.

Unfortunately the past year has seen us break from the Microsoft consumer ecosystem in a big way. Firstly the mobile OS was not delivering a sufficient experience compared to other mobile platforms. Then the Microsoft Band was discontinued so my wife and I both opted for the Samsung Gear Fit2 wearables which work with Spotify, so bye-bye Groove.

People who have known me for long enough know that I was vehemently against giving personal data and information to Google because it would use it to target ads. So why did I change? What was it that finally got me to stop battling Google and finally embrace it?

Cortana

Yep, it was a Microsoft product that brought me closer to Google. With Windows 10 on both my desktop and mobile devices I was giving everything to Microsoft’s Cortana service so that it could in turn deliver me a better experience. And while this data won’t necessarily be used to target ads towards me – I realised that I had thrown out part of my argument against Google.

When realising this, and the fact that the Microsoft releases more apps and more functional variants for iOS and Android – what’s the point of staying with Windows Phone?

Upon finally freeing myself from this device and giving myself to Google, I find myself giving more and more because to be quite honest: the consumer experience is far superior. It doesn’t mean that Google technology is better than Microsoft, it means that in the consumer world more vendors integrate with Google and for good reason – Android has become the dominant smartphone platform.

The CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, made the company mantra “Cloud-first, mobile-first”. And that is the world I live in now – all my services are served up by the Microsoft cloud for both my professional persona as well as private (eg. I still use OneDrive for my photo uploads from my Google phone).

But my consumer experience: that is now largely Google-powered.

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