Less than two months after purchasing email startup Acompli, Microsoft has made the young company’s app its own. The new Outlook for mobile may be a simple re-skin of the existing Acompli app for the time being, but it’s no less of catch-all solution for everyone who’s ever loathed the experience of running Apple’s Mail client, Gmail, or the many other insufficiently-designed inboxes that have stuttered along the iPhone. Microsoft promises to update and expand the app over the coming weeks, but as it stands now, the new Outlook wonderfully facilitates common ground between warring platforms.
Here’s how it works. Installation allows you to choose from any number of account types to import into your Outlook reader. Since Gmail has been an especially difficult culprit to master on the iOS mobile platform, we took it for a test run. Once you key in your Gmail credentials, Outlook takes hold and imports all of your inbox items, delivering them onto your screen in a conveniently laid out manner.
Outlook then divides your screen into two columns. The left displays your inbox, which itself is sorted into one of two categories: Focused or Other. Focused email items are those the app deems to be of greater importance than the ones it tosses into the Other pile – so, non-spam messages from frequent contacts — though the app can be taught to identify which items deserve to go into what pile.
Just to the right of Focused and Other is a Quick Filter option, which lets you sort inbox items by those that are still unread, those that have been previously flagged, or those with attachments. If you have multiple accounts set up, Outlook also provides a handy combined inbox that displays all of your emails together under one clean and unified aesthetic.
Swiping and tapping through Outlook is easy and intuitive. You can either tap your way through messages by moving down your list of inbox items on the left , or swipe left to right from within the email messages on the right to move forward or backward through messages with ease.
Swiping left or right on an email from the inbox view itself gives you a couple of options: Archive and Schedule. Archive does what you’d expect; it moves chosen emails into a folder and lets you get back to them on your own time. Schedule, meanwhile, lets you pick a better time for a given message to be presented to you, whether it’s a custom date or default option like “in a few hours” or “tomorrow morning.” Other clients like Mailbox have done this kind of thing before, but it’s no less useful here.
Digging into the app’s settings, you’ll find you can assign specific duties to your swipes. Outlook sends all left-swiped items to Archive and all right-swiped items to Schedule by default, but you can choose from other options like Delete, Move, Flag, or Mark as Read/Unread.
Maybe the most significant added perk of Outlook for iOS is the fact that it not only provides a killer email platform, but also a well-implemented calendar that prevents you from having to hop between applications to manage your to-do lists. This is a big deal. None of the other big-name email apps on iOS have this kind of functionality, let alone allow you to create events (and invite others to them) within it. Switching from the fully-featured Outlook on desktop to an app like this is much smoother than most of what we’ve seen before.
Handling attachments in Outlook is also a bit of a dream. The app lets you access files from cloud lockers like Google Drive, Dropbox, and (of course) Microsoft OneDrive, and viewing or attaching said files is as easy as a couple of taps. Search is also highly functional, with an easily accessed search field that lets you search through your mailbox items by keyword. A nifty People tab gives you rapid access to some of your most frequent contacts as part of this.
Overall, Outlook for iOS may have a much more recognizable brand attached to it, but it still provides many functional improvements over Google’s and Apple’s more established competitors. The app — which works as well on an iPad as it does on an iPhone — is available now as a free download from iTunes. For Android users looking for a change, it’s available in preview form on Google Play.