How well does your smartphone support your Exchange server?

How well does your smartphone support your Exchange server?

Summary: Now that the iPhone 3G S is out and available half of the premium smartphones coming to us this Summer are ready for people to purchase and try out. The T-Mobile myTouch 3G is coming next month, the HTC Touch Pro2 devices should be coming in July too, and the BlackBerry Storm 2 will be coming at some unknown date. We do have the Palm Pre, iPhone 3G S, and Nokia N97 and I personally purchased all three of these devices with one being returned so far. One of my evaluation criteria for a smartphone is its ability to work with my Exchange account. Windows Mobile sets the bar for Exchange support since Exchange is a Microsoft client and this is one area where Windows Mobile does things right. A bit surprisingly, the new iPhone 3.0 OS found on the iPhone 3G S offers the second best Exchange experience with only one thing left to add for me to be truly happy and no longer reliant on a Windows Mobile phone.

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Now that the iPhone 3G S is out and available half of the premium smartphones coming to us this Summer are ready for people to purchase and try out. The T-Mobile myTouch 3G is coming next month, the HTC Touch Pro2 devices should be coming in July too, and the BlackBerry Storm 2 will be coming at some unknown date. We do have the Palm Pre, iPhone 3G S, and Nokia N97 and I personally purchased all three of these devices with one being returned so far. One of my evaluation criteria for a smartphone is its ability to work with my Exchange account. Windows Mobile sets the bar for Exchange support since Exchange is a Microsoft client and this is one area where Windows Mobile does things right. A bit surprisingly, the new iPhone 3.0 OS found on the iPhone 3G S offers the second best Exchange experience with only one thing left to add for me to be truly happy and no longer reliant on a Windows Mobile phone.

Most every phone with an Exchange client can give you email, calendar, and contacts, and task syncing, along with push email support. I need my smartphone to go beyond the basics in a few areas and I evaluate the mobile clients based on the following functionality:

  • Global Address Lookup (GAL) support
  • Search the server for email
  • Create private appointments
  • Create meetings where server contacts can be added
  • Respond and reply to meeting requests

Let me explain why a few of these are important to me. I do not sync up all of my contacts in my personal contacts list and find using GAL to be necessary to contact my coworkers from time-to-time. I also sync my email back a week on my devices, but need to often find email that is much older than what is synced to my device. We share our calendars at work so that appointments can be made and people know who is in or out, which is vital to the team approach we take to our various projects. Thus, I need to create private appointments so that everyone doesn't see my podcast recording, family birthday plans, etc. on the company calendar. I also meet with my project teams and like to setup meetings when out of the office. Since we don't have Outlook access outside the office, except through VPN or OWA, I like when my phone can be used to schedule these appointments.

So how do all the current mobile operating systems stack up for supporting these functions:

  • Windows Mobile supports all of these functions and more.
  • The iPhone 3.0 OS update added some great support for the enterprise user and now supports all of these functions, except for private appointment creation. I looked everywhere and did not see this capability on my iPhone 3G S, but as soon as it is added then I won't need to have a Windows Mobile phone to get all the Exchange functionality I need. The iPhone also presents this functionality in a nicer, more user friendly fashion. The iPhone also does not support Task synchronization.
  • Mail For Exchange on the Nokia N97 supports GAL, private meeting creation, and respond/reply to meeting requests. You cannot search the server (DataViz RoadSync does support this though) or create meetings with attendees. MFE also supports Task syncing, within the Calendar application.
  • With the excellent Touchdown application on my T-Mobile G1 I can actually perform a few of these advanced functions, with private appointments and server search missing. The latest version of Touchdown supports Task synchronization too.
  • The Palm Pre, like the iPhone, has native support for Exchange. However, Exchange support is slightly more limited on the Pre with no support for private appointments and no meeting creation where you can add attendees. Interestingly though, the Palm Pre is the only device I have ever seen with multiple Exchange account support. I didn't have more than one Exchange account to test this out though so I am not sure how well it works or integrates, but imagine with the Palm Pre color-coded calendars it works just fine.

So, the bottom line is that the no device other than Windows Mobile currently supports all of these functions. The iPhone 3G S just needs to add private appointment support and I will be good to go. The N97/S60 platform (with RoadSync) just needs to add the ability to invite attendees. The T-Mobile G1 (with Touchdown) needs to add private appointments (being worked on) and server search for email. I understand that native Exchange support may be in future Android devices so will keep my eye on that platform for this update. The Palm Pre needs to add the ability to invite attendees and create private appointments.

Support for Microsoft Exchange servers has come a long ways in mobile operating systems and there are just one or two functions (from my particular list) missing from all of them, except for Windows Mobile. I think these issues can be fairly easily addressed by all of these mobile platforms and hope to soon see Exchange functionality not being a deciding factor between choosing a smartphone.

What other functions/capabilities do you need to see from your smartphone when it comes to Exchange server support?

Topics: Operating Systems, Wi-Fi, Software, Smartphones, Servers, Collaboration, Mobility, Mobile OS, iPhone, Hardware, Windows

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23 comments
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  • Thanks Matthew, extremely helpful article

    I too am heavily reliant on Exchange and was shocked to hear that you can't create private appointments, search the GAL, or search for old email on the iPhone. I constantly use private appointments and I regularly search for contacts (in our company's GAL) and old email. This functionality is extremely intuitive and easy to use on my WM phone.

    However, I'm curious if you could use OWA on the iPhone to accomplish these tasks? Sure, it might not be as efficient or intuitive as what you get with WindowsMobile but wouldn't it at least be a passable solution?
    NonZealot
    • I think you misread my article

      I thought I was clear in my article regarding each
      device. The iPhone DOES support GAL and search the
      server capabilities. The ONLY thing it does not do
      that I need is creation of private appointments.

      I will have to give OWA a try as an interim fix
      for this issue, but think OWA has limits on
      capabilities as well.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • My apologies

        You are totally right, I did misread. Thanks Matthew! Let us know how OWA works out on the iPhone.
        NonZealot
      • Can you comment on task syncing?

        I've heard reports that iPhone will not synchronize tasks with Exchange. This conflicts with what you wrote in your blog. Can you confirm that iPhone's Task synchronization is on par with WM's Task synchronization?
        NonZealot
        • Sorry, corrected that spot of the post

          I typed it up too quickly and removed the task
          statement. I actually do not use tasks that often
          since it is not globally supported across all the
          devices I use and I have changed to using
          appointments for my tasks for the most part.
          palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
          • iPhone wishlist

            I'm an long time BB user who migrated to iPhone to save sky high carrier BES fees.

            Agree that iPhone's Exchange support is pretty good. If only OS 3.0 had added sync of Exchange Tasks and Notes, it would be a complete solution for me.
            capeleopard
    • I am not sure if this is a solution for you all

      but personally what I do is this:

      I sync everything from exchange, e-mail,
      business contacts, calendar and such. I us
      iMExchange for Exchange Task Management.

      At home using Outlook and iTunes, I sync my
      personal calendar, contacts, and my e-mail is
      setup on my ipod as imap so that is always
      current with the server. Also my contacts and
      calendar also sync from outlook to gmail as
      well.

      With iPhone OS 3.0 will support both sets of
      calendars, contact lists and GAL lookup.

      The calendar program will allow you to overlay
      the personal calendar with the exchange one, so
      that you can have a full view of what is going
      on in both places, and color codes the events.

      SO I have my upcoming 10 year HS reunion on my
      personal calendar, but not on my work calendar.
      And like wise I have this weeks department
      meeting on my work calendar, but not on my
      personal calendar.
      xXSpeedzXx
      • That sounds like a good setup

        Thanks for the information. I'll keep this post in case I switch. :)
        NonZealot
      • Slick solution, may just try this out

        This looks like a great way to manage work and
        personal data and I may just have to try this out
        and make a post of it, with your permission of
        course and a call out to you.
        palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Smart companies don't use Exchange

    We don't so I don't care one bit.

    Exchange is a POS - always has always will be.
    itguy08
    • Your post is spam and off topic

      If you truly didn't care, you wouldn't post your spam here. Your vandalism is not appreciated.
      NonZealot
      • Agree with NZ...

        The article was about smartphone support for Exchange. It wasn't a debate on the merits of Exchange.
        BillDem
    • Smart people do not believe itguy08

      so one wonders why he bothers to post such useless replies?

      But, then again, he also does not own a company, so you can see where he is comming from. ;)
      GuidingLight
  • RE: How well does your smartphone support your Exchange server?

    I'm missing some features with my iPhone connecting to Exchange 2007. First, I cannot sync tasks. Second, there is no way to flag an email o categorize it with colors. And third, when I reply an email in Outlook, the email gets an small arrow that help me identify which emails I already replied. When I reply an email from the iPhone, I have to go to the sent items folder to see which email I answered. Hope Apple fix these three issues soon. BTW, great article...
    dvm
    • I agree these are some much needed features.

      I have found a pretty nifty app that handles tasks
      through OWA iMExchange. Again color coding and
      progress reporting would be some nice features.
      xXSpeedzXx
  • WM for the win

    I can use email from my phone as if I'm at my own computer.
    Maarek
  • What about Raod Sync?

    I'm surprised you didn't mention Road Sync on here, especially since you mentioned Touchdown for Android. I use Road Sync on my Nokia devices though you may have mentioned that there is no support for the N97 yet? Is that right?
    Jose R. Ortiz
    • RoadSync was mentioned in my Nokia line

      I did mention RoadSync because it does allow you to search the server and the only thing missing in RoadSync seems to be the ability to create meetings and add attendees. It actually does work on the N97 and is available for only $10 for another few deays for the N97 (normally $50). Unfortunately, I reset my N97 and lost the ability to redownload the application (even though I paid for it) and still have no response from Nokia to resolve the issue :(
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Out of Office Assistant

    What about the Out-of-Office Assistant? Which ones can you change that from?

    I use task syncing a lot. I wish there was also Journal and Notes syncing with Exchange... and the ability to assign tasks to people like in Outlook.
    AdamzP
  • RE: How well does your smartphone support your Exchange server?

    I found that the Palm Pre's Exchange ActiveSync implementation was well done, except that it did not enforce Exchange security rules. We require that any device that access our corporate Exchange system have Screen Lock turned on and a PIN or password required to access the device. The iPhone does this very well. However, the Pre did not force me to create a screen lock PIN during the first ActiveSync operation like a Windows Mobile or iPhone does. The Pre never required the PIN and I had to enable it manually, a fairly major security hole, in my opinion
    zeevid