Email and Calendars on Android
YOU’VE GOT ANDROID MAIL.
WRITTEN COMMUNICATION IS constant on Android smartphones and tablets. Much of it goes through SMS, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Messenger, and more, but when written communication gets serious email still reigns.
Almost every week someone who uses their phone for work-related emails asks us what the best system is, or how to set up email and calendars on Android. This is especially important to self-employed people and small business owners.
So this article looks at the email options available on your Android device, and how to set them up for your particular needs. And, like most things on Android, a whole lot of the options are free.
Let’s start with what comes bundled with Android:
If your phone is logged into your Google account, as most Android smartphones are, and you have a Gmail account, you will probably receive email notifications on your home screen. But that’s not the same as email on your phone – you need an app for that.
The Gmail app is already installed on your Android device, and works pretty well. You will find it in the Google apps folder. If you use Gmail the basic principles will be familiar to you, with Gmail automatically separating messages into Primary, Social, Promotions and Updates categories. Tap on the hamburger menu at top left to view the different inboxes and options.
Note that the Gmail app supports multiple email accounts. Just scroll to the bottom of the options menu and tap on “Settings” then “add account”.
You will have a list of email account types to choose from. If it’s your own email eg: [email protected] yourdomain.com choose “Other” and enter the account login details. You might need to refer to your Internet Service Provider’s guide to setting up their email accounts.
INBOX BY GMAIL
You might hear about Inbox, which was introduced as an experiment by Google to “reinvent email”. Inbox has a range of innovative features, including seamlessly integrating Google reminders and emails, but sadly it is being closed – possibly by the time you read this. But if you want to try it, ever so briefly, search on the Play Store for “Inbox by Gmail” to see if it is still available.
The good news is that some Inbox features have been incorporated into Gmail, and we are hoping that more of them will be.
While Gmail on Android is a solid app and the default choice, there is an alternative that is winning many users over. The latest Outlook for Android is a pleasant surprise. It’s free and has a clean interface that is easy to navigate – including simple swipe navigation. Setting up is similar to Gmail, it’s very intuitive, and the app responds instantly.
Outlook for Android supports multiple email accounts, and has a “Focused” option that displays your most important items, or choose “Other” to view the rest. As with Gmail, tap on the hamburger menu at top left to open a slider with the options. For settings go to the cog icon at the bottom left of the screen.
If you have multiple email accounts connected you can choose to view all emails in a combined inbox, or select one account at a time. We added a Gmail account, and it worked well. In fact, some may prefer the look and feel of Gmail on Outlook – it is certainly a viable alternative.
If you are looking for a free email app for Android that is a little more substantial than Gmail or Outlook, one of our favourites is
BlueMail. It does the same job, but gives you a huge range of customisation options in a very attractive interface. There is a very handy Snooze function that lets you send emails away to pop up again when action is required.
Setting up BlueMail is similar to the Gmail and Outlook apps, but with more options to play with. It has an integrated calendar that can sync with external Exchange servers such as Google and Outlook.com. It is an app that you need to spend a bit of time understanding and setting up the options you want. It’s not as quick, easy or intuitive at Outlook, but is more customisable.
ANDROID CALENDARS IN THE CLOUD
As mentioned earlier, many users, especially self-employed people and small business owners, need integrated calendars as well as email. Both Gmail and Outlook have calendars in their apps that sync with their cloud based version. That means if you use the calendar at Google.com or Outlook.com on all your devices/computers, they will always have the same information in their calendars.
The Gmail calendar is excellent and very effective at auto-filling based on booking confirmation emails and the like. However, the calendar function in Outlook is particularly easy to use, requiring just one touch on the home screen to view. It can also be displayed as an itinerary, a day, three days, and the full month, and switching between the views is a breeze.
If you set up an email account on outlook. com and log in to it, your Android and web Outlook calendars will synchronise in both directions. Reminders from calendar items will also appear in your email inbox at the appropriate time.
SYNCING YOUR ANDROID AND CLOUD CALENDAR WITH WINDOWS OUTLOOK.
Unfortunately there seems to be no official way to synchronise these calendars with Outlook on a Windows computer, which seems strange; possibly it’s a deliberate limitation to protect Office 365 revenue. There are some third party apps that claim to provide synchronisation for a fee, but they all seem to have their issues and mixed reviews.
We are testing some alternatives ways of achieving full synchronisation, which is the Holy Grail for independent contractors and small businesses, and there will be an article on that if it works!
PAY YOUR WAY
As usual, we have been focussing on the free options, which are often the best way to go with Android. But if you are prepared to shell out on a subscription plan, Google Apps gives you access to a complete suite of cloud based applications that you can use on any device, anywhere with internet access.
Likewise, Microsoft Office 365 bundles the main Microsoft software into an integrated cloud offering that is well set up for small businesses, and the entry level single user account is just $10 per month.
SO WHAT’S THE BEST OPTION?
Overall, we feel that Outlook for Android is currently the best of the free apps. Of course, it mainly comes down to personal preference, plus what works best on your phone and service provider.
Gmail for Android main menu.
Setting up additional email accounts on Gmail for Android is easy.
No shortage of free Microsoft apps for Android.
The Outlook calendar in Month View – auto populated from Outlook.com.
The Gmail calendar only displays in list form, but does a great job of populating the list from the contents of your emails.
BlueMail gives you plenty of options.
The Outlook main menu is clear and easy to navigate.
BlueMail is popular!
BlueMail settings menu in the dark theme.