Exchange 2007 | mail for exchange moves on

This is a review I have written, which will be published soon, as a follow up to: Group Review: Nokia’s Mail for Exchange v Dataviz’s Roadsync

Introduction

Microsoft Exchange Activesync is great but not until Blackberry was launched had portable emailing really been in the spotlight or really taken off and been an effective means of communicating out of the office. However there are a number of alternatives to Blackberry and one of the ones I have been using for the last couple of years is Roadsync by Dataviz.

Back in the day

I first discovered this software when I got a Sony Ericsson P990 back in 2005 which came with the Roadsync software bundled with it. It worked well for what I needed at the time, which was the ability to simply read any new emails and perform quick replies.

As I began to use this phone more and more for emailing I decided that it was time to get a faster phone and something more email friendly, so I upgraded to a Sony Ericsson P1i – with its great dual button keys for quick typing and a faster processor it was just the ticket. Roadsync, again, was bundled with it and I was right at home with using it being able to now read attachments with ease on the better display and memory.

Two years on and it was time to upgrade to a new phone, as we all do. I was still relatively happy with the free Roadsync application albeit the main issues I have are that it crashes when the reply text is too many characters long, the poor push email scheduler and that sometimes a sync would hang and take far too long even with a strong 3G reception – but something I managed to live with.

Now that can’t be right, can it?

I opted for a new Nokia N95 8GB as it ticked all my boxes: Exchange email support (Roadsync compatible), good camera, good screen real estate, support for reading office documents and good processing speed and memory.

Having now used this phone for just under a month it is without doubt the best, most responsive phone I have had with some great software available (remindme – http://www.mobifunsoft.com/RemindMe.html – is a free application that I find really useful – if you miss a message alert it will continue alerting you every x mins by sound of by lights).

The N95 comes with Mail for Exchange equivalent for Exchange emailing which you can download from the Nokia business site for free but initially I didn’t bother installing this as I knew exactly what I wanted, oh yes, Roadsync. So I decided I would buy the application without even trialling it. I was so confident that a fully developed version that wasn’t bundled free with a phone would have more features and be much more stable than previous, but I was wrong.

To my amazement the $50 Roadsync app lacked some of the core functionality that I had taken for granted for the last couple of years:

  • When you receive a new email there is no standby screen popup or message icon as you would get with an SMS message – you just need to guess or have managed to hear the new email alert sound.
  • HTML, email links and phone numbers within a message now are no longer active to click on.
  • You can’t initiate a sync from the inbox you have to go into the main application from which you don’t really get any detailed information about what it’s doing.
  • Still no decent push scheduling – My requirement is Mon-Fri 08:00 to 12:00 I want push email and then after that I want it to sync on the hour.
  • It also in the short time I used it managed to crash twice, without me realising and so never managed to do a sync , had to restart the phone – I think this was a memory issue as I noticed it did use an awful lot and would slow the phone down slightly when it was synchronising regularly.

We need a hero

Having been extremely disappointed with Roadsync I turned to Mail for Exchange as a saviour. I had only come across this once in our office with the German staff that frequently travelling to and from Germany and were equipped with E61is – and used them without any complaints.

I was initially under the impression that the shortcomings of Roadsync was the fault of the phone and not the software but soon realised this wasn’t the case when all the above points weren’t a problem for Mail for Exchange – and again I was surprised that a free application was so feature rich.

After installing the software the setup was faultless, quick and as soon as I had done a full sync I realised that I was actually going to get notified now of new emails via a popup and small @ icon top right by the SMS message envelope.

Some of the bells and whistles that I had read about with the new version of Roadsync, with anticipation, had also been included in the latest version of Mail for Exchange (2.5.5), those being:

  • Flagging emails
  • Marking emails unread
  • Online mailbox search
  • GAL (Global Address List)
  • Remote wipe
  • Meeting accept/decline
  • Device Security (IT policy – Exchange 2007)

The only major thing that Roadsync has over Mail for Exchange is that it can handle subfolders so unless you can work from your inbox you are going to be out of luck.

I have subsequently contacted Dataviz for a refund and they informed me that I should send my comments on the lack of functionality to their developer’s feedback – which surprised me for such obvious requirements in the software they should already have them in the pipelines – in fact they should of been above some of the other developments they done.

I can’t say whether the Nokia E-series version of Roadsync is any better but since Mail for Exchange has so much going for it on the N95 I don’t quite see if you have a Nokia why you would look at anything else.

The Future

At Red Chilli Structured Finance (www.redchilli.com), where I work as Head of Development and IT, we have been looking into a new company wide mobile email solution and after considering Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile phones and Nokia we are going to opt this year for the Nokia E71 all round and we will be using Mail for Exchange as our email client. Blackberries’ new Bold came a close second but still the need for an additional server, a lesser GPS applications and battery issues on release put this below the E71.

There are a number of free enterprise suites that Nokia supply for managing the devices so they seem to have covered every angle.

Conclusion

Click below for a table of comparisons:

*update Oct 08 – Mail for Exchange 2.7 has now been released with a number of new functions; including auto discover and better character support.