Android Exchange ActiveSync support


If you want to want to use Exchange Active on a stock Android device straight out of the box you are going to be disappointed. The latest Android Gingerbread 2.3, Honeycomb 3.2 and Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0 have built in support for Exchange mail however I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It will connect to your server, sync your contacts, calendar and mail folders. It will also use active sync security policies allowing administrators to force PINs and do remote handset wipes. Its all sounding good so far isn’t it? The main problem is the email itself. It will not receive updates to any Inbox subfolders without you manually going in to the folder and telling it to refresh. The 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich client does allow automatic folder syncing but then doesn’t notify you when those folders receive new mail. It will put the number of new emails next to the folder name but if you don’t go looking for them you won’t find them.

So what are the alternatives? There are quite a few out there but these are the ones I have tried
Improved Email
If you couldn’t guess from the title Improved Email is like the stock Android Email Application but improved. It adds in things like syncing of sub folders and various other features which should have really been present in the first place. It also has a good price, FREE! Unfortunately it does have a few problems. Firstly it would appear from what i understand the App is no longer being actively updated. The product itself can be quite clunky and isn’t very smooth. The widget is very basic and doesn’t look very polished. There is also a lovely bug if you try to uninstall it which makes the uninstallation fail.

K-9 Mail
A better free and open source option is K-9 Mail. This is actively supported and is generally an all round better product to use than “Improved Email”. Like most open source software it does suffer a bit from being a bit more geared towards a techy audience. Options tend to be abundant and flexible but as a result come across as complicated and unintuitive. A prime example of this is the option for “Expunge”. I love the word it doesn’t explain what it exactly its expunging. It also doesn’t support Exchange Push, it polls for changes every few minutes which will do the job but it isn’t “proper”.

Touchdown 
Despite its name this isn’t an app for American Football. Touchdown is more professional and has been on Android Market for several years now. Due to this the level of maturity the performance is a bit more refined. It does however have a cluttered, inconsistent and generally quite ugly UI. It does feel like its been slowly added to over time. It is however very capable of doing the job.

Moxier Mail

Moxier has also been around for a while and is generally very stable. It also has a refined UI that looks and behaves well. Widgets are also well covered with a dashboard that covers all of your recent email and upcoming events. As an administrator one thing i don’t like is that the forced PIN policy has been twisted so that it only applies to the Moxier application rather than phone as a whole. Despite this I would recommend Moxier Mail above the other Exchange clients I have tried. It is pleasant to use and doesn’t have many performance issues or force closes on my Nexus S and Transformer.

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4 comments

  1. Yochai Gal · March 12, 2012

    Thanks for this write-up… I’ve tried every exchange email app and I concure (esp. as a sysadmin) that Moxier is the way to go. Now if they only improved the built-in app, we’d be getting somewhere!

  2. nuronv · March 15, 2012

    Its quite odd, I’m guessing the problem is diplomatic rather than technical. I’m guessing there is some sort of licensing agreement to get the full functionality which they just don’t want to pay.

    • Yochai Gal · June 4, 2012

      Bigbrad,

      Thanks for the info – though I’ve been using Enhanced Email (based on the same source as the original email app) and it works “well enough” and supposedly an ICS version is coming.

      But this is good to know.

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