The Outlook Web App (OWA) for Android, first announced during the Microsoft Exchange Conference in March, is now just making its way to select smartphones powered by Google’s market-leading mobile operating system.
As noted by Greg Baribault, principal group program manager of the company’s Exchange Engineering Team, during a session at MEC, the new app “kind of completes the portfolio,” joining the iOS versions Microsoft released for the iPhone and iPad on July 16, 2013.
Now the app is available to Android smartphones in the Google Play app store. Only certain types of devices need apply, however.
The OWA app requires a device to run Android 4.4 (“KitKat”) or higher and be classified as “small” or “normal” by the Android OS screen size guide. On the back end, a user’s mailbox must fall under an Office 365 business subscription. Mailboxes served up by Outlook.com, Hotmail’s successor, and Office 365 Personal and Home are not supported.
Those prerequisites aside, the app delivers the same iOS experience to Android. “Everything you can do on OWA for iPhone, you can do on OWA for Android,” said Microsoft’s Steve Chew, a senior product marketing manager, and Tony Hernandez, a program manager on the Exchange team, in a statement.
Once launched, the app mimics the blocky, touch-friendly interface that has become a hallmark of Windows 8, Windows Phone and several of the software maker’s apps. OWA for Android presents users with a navigation screen with Outlook, People and Calendar tiles.
The Outlook tile opens the inbox, complete with message previews and the ability to quickly switch to popular filtered views (unread, flagged, etc.). Tapping on individual messages opens the reading pane, “which includes support for other new features announced at MEC such as inline URL previews,” announced Chew and Hernandez.
As its name suggests, the feature allows users to view a snapshot of the Web content of an in-message URL address without navigating to the actual Website. OWA app’s People, the contact management component, and Calendar have similarly “been optimized for the Android phone,” they claimed.
Despite the similarities between the OWA apps for iOS and Android, there is one capability that is unique to the Android flavor.
If contact syncing between OWA and the device is enabled, “you can update those contacts directly from the device’s address book and OWA will make sure the changes get changed in your Office 365 mailbox,” explained Chew and Hernandez. In practical terms, it means that updates and additions made to contacts outside of the app will be synced to OWA.
For now, OWA for Android is considered prerelease code by Microsoft. The company will “be gathering feedback, fixing bugs and making sure the app is ready for prime time,” said the company officials. Microsoft also plans to expand the range of supported devices, they announced.