It’s not email that sucks; it’s the way we experience it. Microsoft’s mobile app offers a chance to rethink the process.
EMAIL’S DEAD, THEY said. Ruthlessly murdered at the hands of Slack, HipChat, Basecamp, and Trello. But the reality is that email isn’t going anywhere. We sent 183 billion emails in 2013, and that number is predicted to hit 207 billion in 2017. Consulting firm McKinsey estimates that we spend more than a quarter of our work life managing email. There’s nothing more universal, nothing more essential to our always-on workflows.
So it’s a shame there’s hardly anyone dedicated to making email awesome. Except for Microsoft. Its Outlook app for iOS and Android is the best mobile email app, no matter what phone you’re using. It’s better than Mail, better than Gmail. It’s the biggest email innovation since spam filtering.
You can work sans mouse, keyboard, hard drive, desk, pants. All you really need is your phone.
I know—just hearing the word Outlook gives you hives. But that’s the cluttered desktop dinosaur you’re thinking of. The mobile app is totally different, an exemplar of smart design. How did it get there? Back in 2014, Javier Soltero, CEO of email app startup Acompli, wrote a blog post predicting that when Microsoft released Outlook for mobile, it would suck. Microsoft responded by buying Soltero’s company and sending him off to prove himself wrong. At first he just took Acompli and slapped a new name on it: Outlook. But over the past year and change, the app has truly pushed tired old email into the present. The Outlook app is perfectly tuned for the smaller screen. You can combine all your work and personal accounts into one inbox and quickly filter so you only see unread or important messages. You can clean up your inbox just by swiping rejects to the left and keepers to the right.
Outlook also has enough features to be a central hub of your work life. Your calendar is one tap away, and even within an email you can dip into your schedule to find available meeting times. Your contacts are right there too, next to the running list of recent files pulled from all your cloud services. It isn’t just about email, because email isn’t just about email; email is about everything you do at work.
And everything we do at work is happening on our phones. Like it or not, work is increasingly always and everywhere. You can work sans mouse, keyboard, hard drive, desk, pants. All you really need is your phone.
What comes next is that email will get smarter. Event invites will go automatically into your calendar, and thanks to machine learning and AI so will the emails from Phil in which he asks, “dinner at 7 on weds?” The boarding passes, confirmations, and receipts that come into your inbox will be sorted and filed and brought back to your attention when it’s time to file expenses. Using your location, your history, your contacts, and your calendar, your phone will figure out what’s most important right now. Outlook already works wonders, but there’s more to come. Eventually you won’t need to tell Outlook what to do—it will tell you what to do. Then email won’t be dead. Email will be awesome.