Microsoft today began offering a pre-release version of the OWA for Android app it first announced at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in March. This app works a bit like Outlook on Windows, providing access to the email, contacts and calendar services in the business versions of Office 365. But in its current pre-release form, it only works on select devices.

Note that OWA for Android (pre-release) does not work with Outlook.com, the consumer versions of Office 365 (Personal, Home) or on-prem versions of Exchange. It is for the business versions of Office 365 (Small Business and up).

An OWA app has been available for iPhone and iPad since last year. I'm not sure what's up with the name, as OWA of course stands for Outlook Web App. But if forced to guess, I would speculate that users would expect an app called Outlook Mobile to work with other account types.

Speaking of questions, why even offer a dedicated app? After all, Android (and iOS) support EAS fully, and you can easily access your Office 365-based email, contacts and calendar through the native apps provided on each platform. According to Microsoft, each platform supports EAS differently, so by providing a native OWA experience, they can be sure that Office 365 customers always have a first rate experience on the devices they use. (For example, I don't think that iOS supports selective wipe, but this works with the OWA app.)

In any event, Microsoft lists the following benefits to the app:

  • Get work done faster with email
  • Organize your email quickly with Conversation View, Mark as Junk, Flag, and Categories
  • Quickly search or browse email in all folders including Outlook Favorites
  • Inline apps provide shipment tracking, Bing maps for addresses, and other great features
  • Manage your schedule with ease
  • Organize your email quickly with Conversation View, Mark as Junk, Flag, and Categories
  • View shared calendars including delegate support
  • Use your voice to look up a contact or bring up your schedule (hold down the switcher button on the bottom-left)
  • Your mailbox's contacts go with you
  • No need to use ActiveSync to see your mailbox's contacts on your phone. OWA for Android will sync your contacts to your phone.
  • Update your contact's information from your phone's address book and the changes are sync'd back to your mailbox.
  • Keep business data secure
  • No need to have a PIN on your device (unless your admin requires encryption)! Just skip the device administrator setup and we'll setup a PIN for you within the app.
  • Remote wipe erases only your corporate date in OWA for Android and leaves your personal data on the device alone.

In its current pre-release form, OWA for Android only supports certain devices, none of which are tablets. You must have an Android device running version 4.4 Kit Kat or higher, and the screen size must be "normal" or "small." I assume this will change as the final version of the app becomes available, but looking over my own devices, it says it will work with my Google Nexus 5 and Samsung Galaxy S5, but not my Nexus 7 tablet.

You can download OWA for Android (pre-release) from the Google Play Store.