Microsoft delivers the best Android email experience to date

In your Face Gmail, Outlook for Android is awesome

Historically Android has shipped a native email app which the various manufacturers have tweaked or not. On many occasions the app has rendered responsive but it has not been consistent across devices.

This is has not been the most popular email app on Android though, the Gmail app tends to be used by more people. This does not render responsive emails and instead tends to simply zoom out the desktop version to fit it into the screen width, unless some very clever coding is used.

Gmail recently released their ‘Inbox’ app which is a new email app with a focus on consumers who receive far more emails than they send. It is a very different experience from the Gmail app and now the novelty has run out from its original invitation only release, its popularity is fading.

This app has the same rendering engine as the Gmail app, so is also not responsive.

Google has since announced that future Android versions will not carry a native app and everyone will get the Gmail app, which will allow any email supplier to be used rather than just Gmail.

Microsoft have pipped Google to the prize of responsiveness on Android and may well be the “most progressive inbox provider” of the moment.

The Gmail app might be the most popular choice but it is by no means ‘loved’. The lack of responsive rendering, coupled with the auto tabbing and the fact that the menu is top left but the compose email button is bottom right, means some people have to swap hand to compose an email on large phones.

Whilst Gmail has confirmed that responsive rendering is ‘high on the list’ for the email products we have only seen automatically enlarged text in Gmail for the iPhone … check out the Email Design Podcast for more info.

Consequently it seemed that Android would be robbed of all responsive email potential.. until now.

After Microsoft acquired Acompli in December last year they joined the ranks of buying email apps rather than making it themselves.

The new Outlook app has been released only a few months later. We could easily speculate that work on this started before the acquisition.

On the Android, this app ticks all of the boxes.

  • There are only two tabs: ‘focused’ and ‘other’
    where focussed looks for conversations and emails from people and the other tab is more marketing and notifications etc.
    This is nice and simple.
  • More importantly and a big winner is the easy filter to show only unread emails.
    This is very handy seeing as many people use their inbox as a todo list and emails requiring actions are the unread ones.
  • You can schedule sending emails.
  • You can swipe emails.
    There is only two swipes – left or right, compared to Mailbox which two options either way. However, I only need ‘mark as read’ and ‘schedule’ because I live in the unread filter.
  • The other big winner is that it will render responsive emails.
    So now users of Android phones are no longer forced to use two hands to pinch zoom and scroll around a desktop email on a small screen.

For a full list of capabilities Alex at DisplayBlock has gone “under the hood

The app feels more focussed on business users, as expected, has the usual built in calendar and has some clever integrations with online storage providers too to help with sharing files.

Apple’s native email app on mobile devices is very popular due to that fact it renders everything like a browser, which separates it from almost all other inboxes in the desktop browser, desktop app or mobile devices. So Outlook with have a harder sale to convert people how are already set-up. However, with it’s integrated calendar and obvious interface, people are used to Outlook at work and those which do try it may well stick with it.