Microsoft's Outlook.com Webmail service recently passed the 25 million active user mark, a milestone the company celebrated by releasing an Android app for Outlook.com. The supposedly new Android app is part of the software giant's plan to take on Gmail, Google's critically acclaimed Webmail service, which has about 425 million active users.
Microsoft recently hired a research firm to recruit an unspecified number of Gmail users to see how Outlook.com measured up to Gmail. Microsoft claims that 4 out of 5 study participants said they would switch to Outlook.com because of its clean user design, improved spam blocking capabilities compared to Gmail, and Outlook.com's photo and document sharing capabilities.
To turn up the heat on Gmail, Microsoft also plans to release many new features in the coming weeks including one-click message archiving, extended keyboard shortcuts, and further inbox customization.
But while Microsoft is steaming ahead with new Outlook.com features, early adopters who have downloaded the new Outlook.com Android app are crying foul. The app currently has a two-star rating on Google Play based on 485 reviews. Most reviews complain that the new Outlook app lacks Microsoft's "Metro" user interface, similar to Outlook.com on the Web, and the app appears to be nothing more than a repackaged version of the Hotmail for Android app.
"I thought Microsoft would be using this application as an opportunity to show us Android users how good the Metro UI is. Obviously not," said Matthew Wilson who left one of the many negative reviews for the Outlook.com app on Google Play. "The Gmail app is still the king on Android."
Is the Gmail app better than Outlook on Android? Let's take a look comparing the Gmail app to Outlook on a Nexus One running a modified version of Android 2.3, Gingerbread.
First, let's get one nagging question out of the way: Yes, the new Outlook for Android app is nothing more than the old Hotmail app with a rebranded name, as far as I could tell. If you know what the Hotmail app is like, then you already know about the "new" Outlook.com app.
At the top of the screen are four tabs by default: Home, All Emails, an individual account tab, and Search. The "Home" tab lists all your accounts currently connected to the Outlook.com app. From this tab you can add or remove multiple accounts and specify which account should be the default for replies and new messages. The "All Emails" tab is a unified inbox that is really only helpful if you are using multiple accounts with the app. The individual account tab lists all your current messages for a specific account and can retain up to 30 days' worth of incoming messages. If you need to view another folder such as your sent or junk folder, it will show up in this tab. If you have more than one account connected to Outlook, you will have a tab for each individual account. Finally, to the far right is the search tab for locating people in your Outlook.com contacts.
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