Hotmail - Microsoft Meets Android
Tested version: 126.96.36.199.4400
Latest version: 188.8.131.52.48.3454
Requires Android: from 2.1
It goes without saying that most Android users have a Gmail account. But that doesn't change the fact that there are still quite a few people out there using their Hotmail (aka Windows Live Mail) accounts for their emailing needs.
So before you declare Hotmail as good as dead, what does the official Hotmail app have to offer?
Features & Use
Microsoft vs. Google is a never-ending series of accusations, full of mud-slinging and foul language. For a lot of people, Microsoft is the sworn enemy of free software and the fact that several Android manufacturers have been forced to pay fees to Microsoft has only cemented this belief. But things are slowly changing, giving us a chance to take a more sober look at the situation. In a recent memo, a Microsoft manager said that the company no longer perceives Linux as an enemy. At the moment, Microsoft is actually managing several open-source projects and is one of the largest contributors to the Samba open-source project. To make a long story short: Microsoft isn't always the evil empire it is made out to be.
As you well know, Microsoft is doing all it can to promote its Windows Phone 7 OS despite the serious competition from Android and iOS. According to recent market studies, Android users are the least attached to their OS. Keeping that in mind, Microsoft is trying to attract users by exposing them to their services like Hotmail and Bing. So the only reason Microsoft is releasing Android apps is to eventually lure people into using their WP7 phones.
The app itself is, in any case, a model of simplicity. All you need to do is enter your Hotmail email address and password. But what's the point in using a separate Hotmail app when you can add your Hotmail account to your Gmail? Let me just got through some of the app's biggest advantages:
The biggest problem with getting your Hotmail or Windows Live emails forwarded to your Gmail account is that you end up receiving your emails with a noticeable delay. Although not a terribly important issue, it's nice to get your Hotmail emails on time.
What bothers me the most about the Android Gmail app is that it lacks push notifications. Instead, your inbox gets updated at regular intervals. Hotmail has learned a lesson from its competitors and comes fully equipped with smooth push notifications. You receive regular emails within seconds, and it takes just a bit longer for emails with attachments to land in your inbox. The main thing is that the whole process is much quicker than with Gmail (sorry, Google). Hotmail ends up saving your battery life while increasing efficiency.
Email display: Gmail scores pretty well in terms of displaying actual emails, but Hotmail is not far behind. You can zoom in and out of the text either with dedicated buttons or multi-touch, and the text is adjusted automatically to fit the screen. Unfortunately, Hotmail display all emails in plain text by default and you'll have to click a special button to switch to HTML. Jumping from plain text to HTML takes good 15 seconds, which is an unacceptably long time to wait.
Calendar entries and contacts can be synchronized.
But as with anything, there are several serious points of criticism:
- Emails older than 30 days cannot be viewed
- No customizable notification sound
- The menu options are confusing. From the All Emails screen, for example, you cannot access the individual mail folders. Go to the account name tab instead to do so.
- No emails were listed in my outgoing and sent mail folders for no apparent reason.
Hotmail for Android makes sense for those of you that are against opening a Gmail account or still actively use their Hotmail email address. The Hotmail app may offer some things the Gmail app lacks, but it still isn't worth the hassle of switching allegiances. Hotmail is pretty solid, but it ain't nothing special either.
Screen & Controls
In terms of design, Hotmail is basically the opposite of Gmail. Instead of being all white, the entire app is draped in a lot of black and unread emails are displayed in grey. Not exactly the most cheerful color choice there, Microsoft.
Otherwise, the app has gotten just about everything you expect from a modern email client. Individual email can be marked and moved around. Small profile pictures next to every email contact add a personal touch to your inbox. Attachments are also very easy to access and download.
Navigating through the app's menus, however, can be both confusing and totally counter-intuitive. Let me illustrate this with a specific example: I sent myself a short email with a PDF attachment as a test. When I open the email and select the "Show all" options, the app stalls for little while and then shows me the same exact message without any mention of the attachment. Strange. Also, the main menu tabs should be enlarged so that you can easily access any section of the app from any location.
Speed & Stability
Hotmail didn't expose any reliability issues. The app comes with good response times except for those times when you try to switch from plain text to HTML.
Hotmail is available for free from the Android Market and comes without any ads unlike its browser version.
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