Review: Microsoft Office Mobile brings its $100 price tag to Android phones

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The long arm of Microsoft expanded its reach last month by bringing Office 365 to iOS devices. Now, it’s grasping further still, deep into enemy territory: phones and tablets running Google’s Android operating system. Microsoft Office Mobile is now available on Android and will likely be greeted with open arms by business people, students, and other Wordy people, who will appreciate the ability to edit Office documents on the go. However, the port over to Android also spreads the same problems that were there in the iOS app. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, this app will come in handy for you. You will be able to look at and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents from your Android phone. If not, get ready to pay up to join the exclusive party.

OfficeAndroid4The first thing you should know about Office Mobile for Android is that it is specifically for Office 365 subscribers. The app is free to download and you can log in with a Office 365 account. If you aren’t currently a part of the paid subscription service, you can still download the app for free, you’ll just get zero use out of it until you pony up the cash for an annual subscription. Access to this app – and all of the other bells and whistles of Office 365 like 20GB of SkyDrive storage – starts at $100 a year.

The other unfortunate part about Office Mobile is that the subscription still doesn’t give you all the functionality you would hope for because, like the iOS version, the Android version is not optimized for tablets – just phones. If you’re hoping to type out Word documents or make changes to a spreadsheet, you’ll really wish for a big-screen tablet version. But, in a move that we would have to assume is intentional, Microsoft has opted to not bring Office to any screen larger than a phone unless it’s a Windows Phone. Windows 8 tablets have fully functioning versions of Office available, giving them a slight edge for those who need the services that Office provides.

Once you pay for your Office 365 subscription and come to terms with the fact that you’ll only be working with your various documents on a small screen, the app isn’t too bad. The experience on Android is almost identical to iOS, which adds much needed cohesiveness across multiple platforms. This means the formatting stays intact on your documents, which is a huge time saver. Any changes you make are saved to Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage and can be accessed on a desktop PC or any other mobile device that has SkyDrive and Office compatibility. You can even edit documents offline and upload the changes once you have a wireless connection – a freedom some competitors don’t offer.

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If you’re hoping to create documents on your phone, don’t count on PowerPoint. You can only create Word and Excel files. Both are stripped down from what you’d expect in the desktop application, but are still functional. If you need to type up a document that doesn’t require fancy formatting and graphics, or a spreadsheet with some basic calculations, you’ll have plenty of power to get the job done with Office Mobile. We’re unsure why PowerPoint documents are relegated to just editable files, though. Why can’t you create them? It seems like it would be possible, if Microsoft limited your background choices for slides, gave you a few transition options, and included basic text editing. But it’s not here.

For subscribers to Microsoft’s Office 365 service, there’s no reason not to download this app. It’s a functioning text, spreadsheet, and slideshow editor that will give you the ability to look over and make changes to documents on your Android phone, and create some simple documents on the fly. It also adds some continuity across platforms that is welcome for people that work from multiple devices. If you’re not an Office 365 user, though, it’s hard to see this app tipping the scales for you. The service is pricey, so if you’re not sure you need it, you may want to steer clear. Document editing on your phone is handy, but very limited. This Android app is a nice perk for existing customers, but little more.

You can download Office Mobile for free for Android from the Google Play Store.

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