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Office for Android phones released for Office 365 subscribers


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Microsoft has released Office for Android, though the app can only be used by Office 365 subscribers. Only Android smartphones are supported at the moment, with no tablet version available.

Android users who subscribe to Office 365 now have a smartphone application for the productivity suite, as Microsoft has released Office for Android, though only smartphones are supported at the moment.

The app, which is largely unchanged from the Office for iPhone app released by Microsoft in June, allows users to edit and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the go. Tablet support isn't yet available, and a blog post by Julia White, general manager of the Office Division, doesn't mention when, or if an Android tablet version will be released. The release brings Office to the three major smartphone operating systems, as now iOS, Android and Windows Phone all feature the software. Notably, however, the Windows Phone version doesn't require an Office 365 subscription like its counterparts.


Office for Android users can edit and view files, with most major editing features supported.

Most major features of the productivity suite are available in the app, including the ability to insert charts, animations, graphics and shapes. More intricate editing features remain unsupported, and font editing is primarily limited to adding bold, italics, font colors and highlighting, the same features available on the other Office smartphone apps.

As with the Windows Phone and iPhone versions, the Office for Android app syncs with SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro to store documents in the cloud. Additionally, sharing options are built into the app, allowing users to send documents through either SkyDrive or email.

The Office for Android app is currently available through the Google Play Store for free, though only U.S. users can download the app at the moment, and they will have to log into an Office 365 account to begin editing or viewing documents. More countries are scheduled to receive the app in the coming weeks.

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Two months ago, Microsoft released a version of Office for iPhone. While it was eagerly anticipated by many wishful Apple users, Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers was met with some dissatisfaction due to apparent limitations. Despite these shortcomings, many Android users were still saddened to be left out of the party. Today they can finally try it for themselves as Microsoft announces Office Mobile for Android phones.

While this is great news, the app has inevitable limitations. According to Microsoft, "...you will not be able to download and install Office Mobile for Android phones on an Android tablet from the Google Play store. If you have an Android tablet, we recommend using the Office Web Apps which provide the best Office experience on a tablet". In other words, Office for Android will not run on larger screen devices -- just like Office for iPhone is not available for iPad. However, unlike iOS, Android can side-load applications. If someone was to leak the .apk file, there is a good chance it could be made to run on a tablet.

Unfortunately, the same major complaint about Office for iPhone applies here -- an Office 365 subscription is required. While I personally like this business model to combat piracy, subscription-based software is not a popular subject in the technology community. This excludes many paying non-365 Office users from using the app that they so desperately desire.

Negatives aside, the app should be a good experience for Android users. According to Microsoft, "...this app shows that we're committed to keep providing additional value for Office 365 subscribers. Office 365 subscribers will now be able to access, view, and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with Windows Phone, iPhone and Android phones". While Android already has a plethora of third party office suites, having the ability to use an official Office app is a huge win for BYOD corporate users.

My colleague Joe Wilcox recently declared that Microsoft shouldn't do Office for Android. In his article, Joe says "combined iOS and Windows Phone will be mobile platform second to Android in coming years. Microsoft should foster a united front against a common enemy". Many would agree with Joe and say that Office for Android is Microsoft waiving the white flag and signaling Windows Phone's defeat. However, Microsoft is quick to point out that Office on Windows Phone 8 is superior to the Android version in the following ways:

  • Office Mobile comes preinstalled
  • Office Mobile is pre-activated, so it will function without an Office 365 subscription
  • Office 365 setup combines the setup of email, Office Mobile and Lync, with a single entry of credentials
  • Office documents received as attachments in email will open directly with the Office Mobile app, not with viewers that may not render the documents correctly
  • Office Mobile has support for saving documents locally on the phone
  • Office Mobile includes searching and filtering for documents
  • Office Mobile supports opening IRM-protected email and documents

Do you have an Office 365 subscription and Android phone? Tell me how you are liking the new app in the comments.

Office Mobile for Android is available to download from Google Play now.

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