This past July, Microsoft released a new mail app for iOS devices, called OWA for iPhone, and OWA for iPad. It uses Microsoft’s attractive, but sometimes hard-to-understand, Metro user interface – the same used in Windows 8 and Windows Phone products.
Before this app was released iPad and iPhone users with Office 365 mailboxes would only be able access them using the Outlook Web Access web page interface in Safari.
After installing OWA from the Apple App store, click on the OWA icon now on your home screen.
When you open the app for the first time, you’ll be prompted for your Office 365 credentials.
Once signed in, the app will sync with your Office 365 mailbox, Contacts and Calendar. To switch between them, tap the icon in the lower left corner.
If you press and hold the icon, you can use voice commands to execute certain commands, like “New email to Susan Smith” or “Open Calendar.”
When the app is closed, and you receive new mail, a red badge appears on the app.
A simple tap on a given message opens it in a Reading pane.
On the iPad, the Messages pane and Reading pane are side by side. Selecting a message from the list on the left displays the contents in the Reading pane on the right.
In the Messages list, a swipe on a message reveals a number of actions that can be applied to the message: delete, flag, move, mark as read/unread.
To create a new email, click on the + icon (on the bottom of the screen on the iPhone, top of screen on the iPad).
OWA for iPhone/iPad allows offline use. If you don’t have Internet access, you can still read, reply, delete message; create new messages; and edit your calendar and contacts information. You then sync the next time you have connectivity.
The Calendar can be see in day, month and agenda views on the iPhone. On the iPad, it can be displayed day, week, work week, and month views.
Tapping on any calendar item displays a preview of the event details.
Create new calendar events by tapping the + icon. You have the option of using the Scheduling Assistant to create a list of attendees and see when they are available. This only works for attendees also using Office 365.
You can access multiple and shared calendars. Executive administrators and assistants can be given full delegate access to others’ calendars.
The OWA app syncs its contact with your iPhone contacts, so any changes in one are updated in the other.
The app is useful when quickly checking for new mail, or to look up information on old emails.
There are a couple of limitations that prevent me from whole-heartedly recommending it as your primary iOS mail app:
• It currently only works with Office 365 accounts, not Exchange, POP or IMAP mail accounts.
• You can open attachments in email messages from others, but you cannot add attachments to your outgoing emails. You have to open the web application in order to add attachments. I expect Microsoft to correct this limitation soon.