Two months ago, Microsoft acquired Acompli, a developer of email apps for iOS and Android. Last week, Microsoft launched a new Acompli — rebranded as Outlook for Mobile. The new Outlook app is a significant improvement over Microsoft's OWA app.
When I wrote about the Acompli acquisition, I listed three possible benefits that Acompli could bring to the Outlook experience. Microsoft delivered on all three, plus a couple of bonus benefits. Here are five reasons you should start using the new Outlook for Mobile app.
1. Multiple email accounts
Finally! I really wanted to love the OWA for iOS app, but it had a severe limitation. It only worked with one email account. My primary email account is an Exchange / Outlook account through Office 365, but I have a variety of email accounts I use, and a few of them are Gmail. With the new Outlook for Mobile apps, you can add email accounts from Exchange, Outlook.com, Yahoo, Google, or iCloud.
The best part is that all of them appear in a unified inbox. That's a trick that even the full Outlook desktop application can't do (and desperately needs).
2. Focused inbox
Most email services and clients have some sort of spam filtering capability. A lot of email falls into a gray area, though. It's not spam, per se, but it's also not important — and you don't need it distracting you or cluttering your inbox right this minute. The Focused inbox of the Outlook for Mobile apps solves that problem.
The app sifts messages into one of two categories: Focused or Other. The Focused messages should be the ones that are more important, while the Other messages can wait until later. One way to think about it is that the Focused messages are the ones that deserve your attention when you're checking email on your mobile device, and the Other messages can wait until you get back to your desk.
You can move messages manually into or out of the Focused inbox and the app. The app learns over time which messages you think are important and which are not, so it will improve its ability to sort Focused from Other.
3. File attachments and cloud integration
Handling file attachments for mobile email just got a lot easier. When you tap the Files icon at the bottom of the app, it will display recent file attachments in your email — separated by email account. You can tap the file to send it as an attachment in a new message, save it to your mobile device, or share it with others.
Outlook for Mobile allows you to integrate OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and other cloud storage accounts with the app for quick access to all of your files. You can easily share or attach files from any of your cloud storage accounts.
The OWA app for iOS already included the associated Outlook calendar, but this is a vast improvement. The calendar is easier to access and work with, and it's integrated directly into the mobile email experience.
There's also a new Quick RSVP feature that lets you respond to meeting invites directly from the inbox without even opening the actual message. When sending an email, you can tap the calendar icon to create a meeting invite for a specific date and time. What's even cooler, though, is that you can tap "Send Availability" and highlight various dates and times that work for you and let the recipient choose a time that works.
5. Swipe to schedule
You can swipe left or right on messages in the app to perform different functions, which you can customize in Settings. You can choose to archive, delete, schedule, move, mark as read / unread, or flag a message simply by swiping left or swiping right.
I have mine set up to delete the message if I swipe left. It's very useful for quickly cleaning up the inbox.
For the right swipe, I configured it to schedule. The schedule tool help me triage my email inbox without letting important messages fall through the cracks. I often read a message and think, "I'm busy now, but I'll act or respond to this later this afternoon," and then I forget.
Schedule lets me swipe to the right and choose in a few hours, this evening, tomorrow morning, or pick a custom time. When the chosen timeframe arrives, the app will bring that message back to my attention so I don't forget it.
The new app is brilliant. It's a much better tool for my needs than either the default iOS Mail app or the Microsoft OWA for iPhone app. Now, I'm just counting the days until Microsoft figures out how to bring the unified inbox, which shows all accounts together in one place, to the Outlook desktop software. Maybe Outlook 2016?
What are your thoughts about the new Outlook for iOS and Android apps? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.