Office 365 – OWA & Outlook Apps Revisited and Flaws Found

I wrote a post a few months back about the new(ish) Outlook app vs the older OWA app.  At the time I stated that I was sticking with OWA on my Android.

I’ve had a chance to revisit the apps recently and I did end up using the Outlook for Android app for a few weeks after its official “removed from preview” status.  I actually got to like it and the way it handled and classified email and I also liked how snappy it was on my Note 4.  But I discovered an issue that has made me revert back to OWA, at least for now, and it is something you should be aware of if you are contemplating using the Outlook app on your Android device.

For whatever reason that I cannot fathom, the Outlook app does NOT pass through contact information from your Exchange (Outlook) contacts in Office 365 through to the native apps on the Android device.  When I first switched over to the Outlook app on my Note 4 it was at the same time as a major Android update was pushed out to my phone.  All of my contacts “vanished” and I thought it was something to do with the update.  Wrong!  It was the passthrough that was missing!  Once I re-installed OWA all of the contacts magically re-appeared on my phone.  A secondary issue with contacts is the fact that you cannot edit contacts in the Outlook app.  And I have had confirmation form other Android users of these issues.

These two omissions are a serious design flaw to my way of thinking and a major stumbling block to anyone wishing to permanently switch to the Outlook app from either OWA or the native Android apps.  The Android device should be able to “see” all the contacts in Office 365.  It’s a pity, really, as the Outlook app was otherwise really growing on me and that is something that I was surprised by given my initial dislike of the app.  I hope Microsoft rectifies this soon as it’s a quick way to sour people on the usefulness of the app.  I’m sure they will as there were other egregious bugs in the Outlook Preview for Android (calendar was useless!) which have since been squashed.  But, really, if you are promoting an app as a single, combined interface into email, contact management and calendaring then the app should do ALL of those things out of the box.  And it should also play nice with the other apps on the phone or tablet.

So, once again, I’m sticking with OWA for now.  I’ll revisit Outlook in another 3 months or so and see if it is finally ready for primetime.  As of today (May 18, 2015) it’s not.