I didn't write at all yesterday, on Thanksgiving, which is actually pretty unusual. But I did spend much of the day testing a mobile app called Acompli on iPhone, iPad and Android. Microsoft has apparently purchased this company and its app, though that hasn't officially been announced yet. And I can see why they're interested: Acompli is nothing less than Outlook for Android and iOS, and an answer to the mess Microsoft has created on those platforms.
Given Microsoft's "mobile first, cloud first" push this year, I've spent much of 2014—too much, for some Windows fans—experimenting with Android, iPhone and iPad, and with the growing stable of mobile apps that Microsoft has created for these platforms. There has been a lot of griping about this stuff, but from my perspective, the complaints are misplaced, and what really needs to happen is for Microsoft's mobile solutions across all platforms—Android and iOS, of course, but also Windows/Windows Phone and even the web—to be made more consistent.
That they're not consistent is a big problem because the goal of Microsoft's efforts is to put its productivity solutions everywhere users will be. And for that crowd of people who use, say, Outlook.com or Office 365 email, the experience is quite different as they move from the web interfaces to desktop (PC, Mac) applications, to mobile apps across multiple platforms.
Assuming you at least accept Microsoft's strategy—and I think we should all actually embrace it—what many want, coming as they do from a PC-centric personal computing past, is the Microsoft Outlook experience. Everywhere.
We get this experience on traditional PCs with Microsoft Outlook, of course, and I'm told that the 2013 version is the best yet. I don't actually use that version of Outlook, for a variety of reasons, but that's OK because I'm using it on the web, via Outlook.com (which has email, contacts and calendar components), Office 365 for business (ditto), and even my work's web-based OWA (ditto, if a bit outdated).
As we move to mobile devices, however, things get a bit more complicated. On Windows and Phone, we see discrete Mail, Calendar and People apps—which Microsoft sometimes, inconsistently, refers to as "Outlook Mobile," which is a stretch at best. On Android, Microsoft provides an Outlook.com app, which is email-only, though it can populate the native Android Calendar and People apps with data, and an OWA app that, inconsistently, keeps all that stuff in that unique app. On iPhone, there are separate OWA apps for iPhone and iPad, but there's no Outlook.com app. And of course both platforms support Outlook.com and Office 365 email, contacts and calendar data through the native email, contacts and calendar solutions as well.
Acompli gives Microsoft that consistent Outlook Mobile-style experience across the two most popular mobile platforms, and if it's smart—assuming the firm does buy Acompli as rumored—then it will port this solution to Windows modern/Windows Phone too.
Here are the basic benefits of this app:
Acompli works with multiple services. It supports all the popular online accounts you need—Exchange (including Office 365 for business), Outlook.com , Google, and Yahoo!—but also storage accounts like OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox and Box. If you set up an Outlook.com account, your OneDrive storage is connected automatically, for example, making it easy to send attachments.
Acompli is not just email. You can also manage your schedule (calendar) and contacts from within this app. Like you do in Outlook on Windows. And files, of course, via those storage service accounts listed above.
Acompli works with multiple accounts at once. Yes, it has a linked inbox view so you can see all your mail from multiple accounts in a single place. And it supports single button archiving (and deleting) for each account type. Bliss.
Acompli separates real email from mailing lists. Before Gmail spat out Inbox as a separate thing, Acompli was already offering a wonderful filtering system where the default view is "email from actual human beings" and you can tap an Other heading to see mailing list emails (retailers, whatever). You can also filter by unread, flagged and files (those emails with attachments).
Acompli is free. So there's no risk trying it, and no worries if you get hooked. Which I think you will.
There's more, but here's a quick product tour. You can find more videos on the Acompli YouTube channel.
If Microsoft doesn't buy Acompli, whatever. You should still consider using this app on Android or iOS, as it's wonderful. But I really do hope that Microsoft buys this company and app. And then ports it everywhere. It's clearly something special. And it is no less than a "real" version of Outlook for Android and iOS, a single app that actually works with everything, and does so using a native user experience that looks right and works well on each platform.