Microsoft apps have come a long way on Android.
Microsoft essentially shunned Android and iOS for several years, but with Satya Nadella taking the helm in 2014 and adopting a mobile-first stance, the company has turned its attention to bringing its apps and services to rival platforms. From heavy-hitters like Office to side projects developed by employees in their free time under the Microsoft Garage label, Microsoft has a lot to offer on Android.
Microsoft made the Android and iOS versions of Office free in 2014, opening up the floodgates for its adoption on these platforms.
Standalone apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint debuted in 2015, allowing users to quickly edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the go. Basic editing functionality is available for all users, but if you want advanced features — inserting section breaks, viewing file history, customizing headers and footers in Word — you’re going to have to subscribe to Office 365. If you’re just looking to create, edit, or save documents, then the free option should be more than adequate.
Word, Excel, and PowerPoint sync over OneDrive, allowing you to quickly view files stored on the cloud. The apps work even if you don’t have the cloud storage service set up, but you’ll be limited to working with files locally stored on your device. If you’re not a OneDrive user, you can also sync your files through Dropbox or Box.
OneNote has picked up several new features lately, turning it into one of the best note-taking apps currently available. One of the biggest additions in recent times is cross-platform availability, making it a viable contender to the likes of Evernote, even more so now that the latter service has gravitated to a paid structure.
By contrast, OneNote is completely free, and lets you easily type, draw, or hand-draw notes. The service lets you scan handwritten notes, and has a powerful search feature that lets you find what you’re looking for. You can organize your notes with labels, save web clippings, take voice notes, add photos and videos, and so much more.
OneNote also offers the ability to password protect your notes, version history for your files, Android Wear support, and a widget that lets you quickly jot down a note. The best feature is that you can access your notes even when you’re offline, which isn’t possible unless you’re on a paid plan on Evernote.
OneDrive is a feature-rich cloud storage service that rivals Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and others. OneDrive integrates with OneNote and Office apps to provide a seamless experience on Android. The app has automatic photo and video backup, and you can link it to your camera roll to automatically sync photos to your OneDrive account.
OneDrive lets you download files for offline use, share photo albums and collaborate on documents, and receive updates when someone makes changes to shared documents. The free tier comes with 5GB of storage, but if you’re subscribed to Office 365, you’ll get 1TB of cloud storage. If you’re not on Office 365, you can buy 100GB of storage for $1.99 a month or 200GB for $3.99.
Skype revamped its UI in 2015, offering a cleaner layout that gives you easy access to calls, chats, and contacts. Calls between Skype users are free, and the service also offers group video calls for up to 25 people. Skype retooled chats by rolling out emoticons and Mojis, which are essentially short clips from popular movies and TV shows. You’ll also be able to send photos, videos, and share your location from the IM interface.
Skype also offers the ability to call international numbers and landlines, with the service boasting some of the most affordable rates in this space. To incentivize adoption in emerging markets, Skype is letting customers from India call mobile numbers in the U.S. and Canada for absolutely free.
The Outlook app is one of the best email clients available on Android. Microsoft paid over $200 million for Acompli, a mobile email service with built-in calendar and file sharing, back in 2014, and has rebranded the service to Outlook. Since then, it has added several features, including the core functionality of Sunrise Calendar, another of Microsoft’s acquisitions.
Outlook lets you manage email from Gmail, Outlook.com, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, and others, providing a unified mailbox. You can archive or delete mails with a swipe left gesture, or peruse your mails at a later time using the schedule function.
The app hooks into the built-in calendar to add details from your emails automatically, and it offers a Focused Inbox that lets you prioritize important emails. You can also attach files easily from OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive. As with all Microsoft services on Android, Outlook is free. If you’re in need of a better email client, then you should definitely give Outlook a try.
Groove is what used to be known as Xbox Music and has come a long way since then. One of the leading benefits is platform ubiquity, with Android supported in addition to iOS and Microsoft’s Windows platforms covering mobile, web, PC and the Xbox console.
It’s not always been easy to recommend, but since rebranding to Groove Microsoft has put a lot of work into the service. Android has finally caught up to Windows, and the latest features such as Your Groove are now here.
The catalog is vast, too, backed up by a digital store for you to own the music as well as stream it. The Android app is also really nicely done, with recent makeovers injecting some style and sophistication. The only thing Groove really lacks is a family plan, but there’s always hope we’ll get one some day.
If you regularly sign into a Microsoft account, the company’s own two-factor authenticator comes in handy. Instead of the usual six-digit code to log you in, Microsoft Authenticator lets you authorize the sign in attempt with a simple tap, making the process much more convenient.
In addition to adding your Microsoft account, you can also add details for other services that are secured by two-factor authentication, including Google and Facebook. Haven’t secured your accounts yet? Here’s why you should set up two-factor authentication right away.
Office Lens is essentially a portable scanner that lets you easily scan whiteboards, documents, and receipts. I used Scanbot for several years, but Office Lens’ integration with Office apps gives it a distinct advnatage over other utilities in this space.
You can scan and upload your documents to OneNote, Word, or OneDrive, and Office Lens offers the ability to convert your images to Word documents, PDFs, and even PowerPoint files. The app uses optical character recognition to convert images into text, making them searchable.
Arrow Launcher offers an interesting take on launcher. Instead of letting you add apps to the home screen, the launcher automatically picks out your most-used apps, and arranges them based on your usage patterns. The launcher has a vertical app drawer, a dedicated home screen for widgets, as well as a lot of customization options, including support for custom icon packs and live wallpapers.
You can easily access your recent calls, messages, and documents, and the launcher has Wunderlist integration, allowing you to set up reminders quickly. The launcher also has notification badges that show the unread count for your emails and messages.
If you have an Xbox One, the Xbox app offers a ton of utility. The app acts as a virtual controller for the Xbox One, allowing you to control your console with your phone. You can also scroll through your activity feed, view achievements, messages, buy games from the store, and much more.
What Microsoft apps do you use on your Android phone or tablet? Let us know in the comments below.