TouchDown for iOS: A feature-rich Exchange client for iPhone and iPad

TouchDown for iOS: A feature-rich Exchange client for iPhone and iPad

Summary: Enterprise users looking for ways to connect their iOS devices to Exchange servers have more choices than ever. Apple's Mail, Contacts, and Calendar apps aren't the only options any more.

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Not long ago there were few options for accessing a Microsoft Exchange server from an iPhone or iPad. While the iOS Mail, Contacts and Calendar apps have the ability to connect to Exchange (via ActiveSync), many features aren't available in the first-party Apple apps. Things were so bad for a while that I had to carry an Android phone in addition to my iPhone so that I could run Touchdown for Android to check people's availability for meetings and reserve meeting rooms in Exchange.

If you live and die by the Exchange server at the office, you should check out TouchDown for iOS ($19.99, App Store) from NitroDesk. TouchDown had been a personal favorite Exchange client of mine for a couple of years because it offered features not available on the iPhone. All that changed in late 2012 when NitroDesk released Touchdown for iOS.

touchdown-ios-screenshots-ogrady
(Screenshots: NitroDesk)

TouchDown is a full-featured Exchange client (offering support for Email, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, and Notes) but probably the most important feature of a discrete client is that it keeps your corporate data separate from your personal data. If your iOS device is misplaced, you can choose to wipe only the corporate data and not everything on your device. Another plus is that your personal mail, contacts, and calendars in the Apple apps aren't backed up to the corporate Exchange server (depending on your configuration). 

Using Apple's Mail, Contacts, and Calendar apps you can't separate church and state. 

Here are a few things that TouchDown does that the native Apple apps don't:

  • Create Task/Calendar event from an email
  • Server search (Not on 2003)
  • Customization settings for S/MIME
  • Tasks, Calendar, Notes, Contacts, and Mail in one secure container
  • Custom Rules
  • Speak notifications
  • App level PIN
  • Secure container, meaning server policies affect App only
  • Sync different time periods
  • Filters
  • Category support, including ability to create new categories and customize existing category colors
  • HTML signature support
  • Optional copy to phone
  • Week/Agenda view in calendar
  • Complex Sort/Filter on tasks
  • Docufence secure repository allows for attachments to be saved and retrieved
  • Ability to trust all certs
  • Themes
  • Customize outbound email style
  • Extensive inbox options, as well as many calendar customization options
  • Ability to disable/enable GAL search

TouchDown also has a number of great security features:

  • Data at Rest encryption 
  • Remote wipe/kill
  • AES-256 encryption
  • S/MIME
  • IRM support with Exchange 2010(SP2)
  • PIN Policy at application level (Not device level, meaning only PIN is in front of Touchdown.)
  • Enterprise Configuration Extensions
  • Separation of personal data and corporate data (meaning a remote wipe will only wipe Touchdown, not your personal stuff.)

All in all, TouchDown works as a great all-in-one secure container for your corporate data. It not only protects your enterprise data, but keeps it separate from your personal information, making it an excellent BYOD solution for users who want to access their enterprise data on their personal device without affecting their private information.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Enterprise Software, iOS, iPhone, iPad

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8 comments
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  • Touchdown

    Curious or not, Touchdown was an early Exchange project name back in the pre-release days if I remember correctly. It was almost a touchdown but was called back...
    greywolf7
  • Didn't like it

    We tested TouchDown for our Android BYOB devices when we were piloting our MDM solution as a way to make all Android OS versions work the same as far as interacting with the MDM hooks. I have to say that I hated TouchDown. Just did not like its UI and it was quirky.
    Rann Xeroxx
  • Push?

    If it doesn't push mail, it's dead in the water.
    TroyMcClure
  • What are you talking about?

    "Things were so bad for a while that I had to carry an Android phone in addition to my iPhone " I've never experience problems with iOS and Exchange. Once Apple added Exchange Active Sync to the iPhone mail client everything worked and synced seamlessly. Mail, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, they all sync. Why in the world would anyone spend $20 for an App to do the same thing. Sure it may have a couple of features you like, but seriously $20 for a mail client?

    I guess when you're not spending your own cash, and using ZDNet money it doesn't matter, but for the rest of us it does.
    Masari.Jones
    • Missing the point

      Touchdown fills in a lot of the missing Enterprise functionality missing in the VERY BASIC activesync functionality for iOS. In it's basic form, it's not uncommon for iOS users to not be able to FWD calendar invites, recipients to often get some double emails of the same message, or searching the exchange server to be problematic or data heavy.

      Most Android users use it as google implementation of emai/contacts/calendar is best used with gmail. With exchange, it's just too immature for the enterprise.

      Leave it to Microsoft to have some of the best implementations with Exchange, but thats to be expected.

      $20 per user is a bit high, if you have thousands if not 10's of thousands of users. I wonder if there are enterprise pricing plans? But if it gives you some advanced functionality or better enterprise features, especially around MDM, it's priceless.
      unredeemed
      • What Point is That?

        I don't know of any "enterprise" features lacking in the iOS suite of Apps. We have an Exchange 2010 server and everything functions and syncs properly.

        Maybe you can provide examples?
        Masari.Jones
        • Enterprise features

          Masari is obviously not well verse in the enterprise world.

          When people mention enterprise features for email, I would think security and advanced email management/interaction. Another major feature is to have as much functionality as Microsoft Outlook as possible. The iPhone is easily hacked and jailbroken by a bunch of kids so how secure can your iPhone be?

          If your usage of email is mainly sending and receiving emails and nothing else, you will be satisfied with any smartphone's default email app. But if you are concerned about security and mainly on your mobile and want options to manage information rights (calendar/mailbox/contacts access to your colleagues otherwise known as delegation) Touchdown is for you.

          Another advantage of Touchdown vs your smartphone's default email app is the customization options available which I believe the likes of you will find irrelevant. Go search for Nitrodesk website or search for other reviews if you are really interested to know more. Sure US$20 is a lot to ask but nobody ever said every Tom, Dick and Harry must have it. US$20 is not much for the enterprise and besides, it's a 1 time charge compared to other enterprise cloud solutions which cost US$65 and above per user per month.
          T3CHN0M4NC3R
    • Tasks

      One of the big problems for me with using the native iOS apps is Reminders, which I find very annoying e.g. lack of ability to sort by date by list (rather than lumping all my tasks from all lists together in 'scheduled'. I'd also like access to my Exchange notes, manage out of office, signatures etc. I agree the price is a bit high. Anyone know if when purchase you get a license for Mac AND iOS, or do you have to purchase both?
      aremaitch