I think it is safe to say that Microsoft just snapped up the wrong Android email app. Not only is Nine a more powerful email app than Acompli, but it is also much better adapted to Exchange and Office 365. Yes, Nine is THE Outlook app for Android.

Outlook for Android ^

For quite a while, I’ve been looking for a good email app for my Android phone. Microsoft’s purchase of Acompli inspired me to search again because their email app did not really convince me. I then tested MailWise, myMail, CloudMagic, and Blue Mail. Although some of them are better than Acompli, I wouldn’t like to use any of them. I was already close to giving up when I found Nine. There is no doubt that Nine is, by far, the best Android email app for Exchange and Office 365. I’d say it plays the same role in the mobile world that Outlook plays in the PC world.

Nine - Outlook for Android

Nine - Outlook for Android

Nine has an impressive number of features and is very intuitive to use. However, the best part of the app is that it doesn’t support Gmail (Google Apps with ActiveSync is supported). No, this is not just fan boy talk. During my tests, I began to wonder why all of the apps I tried lack even the most basic Outlook features, such as proper flagging. I came to the conclusion that the developers had to design the app around the lowest common denominator of the supported email servers. In contrast, Nine focuses on ActiveSync and Exchange, and it can therefore offer essential features that can only work with Exchange as a backend.

Nine supports Exchange Server 2003 SP2/SP3 and above, Office 365, and Outlook.com. Unlike with Acompli, adding my Office 365 accounts worked right away without any problems. Whereas I had to tap and slide quite a while until I really understood how Acompli works, Nine immediately felt like an app that I have been using for ages. I guess it has to do with the fact that I’ve been working with Outlook since its first version came out in 2007.

I can’t discuss all of Nine’s features in this review. Instead, I will talk a little about the features that are most important to me. Everyone has a different work style; thus, if your company is working with Exchange or Office 365 in the backend, you should have a look at this app to see if it is an alternative to your current mobile email app.

Calendar and contacts ^

Nine supports emails, tasks, notes, calendar, and contacts. However, the latter two are only synced with the native Android apps—that is, Nine does not offer a UI for those two data types. This doesn’t really hurt because the calendar and the contact app built into Android are quite powerful, and, thus far, I didn’t miss a feature here. The point about syncing calendar and contacts with Nine is that you only have to manage one Exchange account under Android. For instance, if you change your Exchange password, you only need to change it once in Android.

Notes ^

I think Nine is the first PIM for Android I tried that supports Exchange Notes. If you use OneNote or Evernote, you probably won’t find this feature exciting. However, many users still have notes in Outlook and, for making a simple note every now and then, Outlook Notes is sufficient. Nine allows you to search in your notes, add new ones, and edit old ones.

Notes

Notes

Tasks ^

The Task component is relatively simple; however, you feel that the developers know how tasks are used in Outlook. Hence, even though Nine Tasks does not have more features than S Planner (the native Android app on Samsung phones), it is definitely the best task app I used thus far under Android. The app has four tabs: All, Active, Overdue, and Completed. Except for the Overdue tab, each is categorized according to the due date of the task. The due date is clearly visible in front of the task, which I find quite helpful. Editing tasks is somehow easier than in S Planner, and you need fewer taps to configure the task. However, the best part of the Task app is that it shows not only Outlook tasks but also flagged emails.

Tasks

Tasks

This feature is well known from Outlook, and I outlined in my Acompli review why I think this is an absolute killer feature. If you tap the Active tab, you get a good overview of the things that have to be done today, including the emails that have to be answered. If you scroll down, you’ll see the tasks for tomorrow, next week, this month, and next month. Thus, Nine organizes tasks just as in Outlook’s To-Do list. Nine doesn’t show flagged contacts like Outlook does, and it also doesn’t display calendar entries like S Planner does. So, there is room for improvement in future versions.

Email flagging ^

However, the way emails can be flagged in Nine is exemplary. Actually, flagging works exactly like it does in Outlook. If you tap the flag symbol of an email, Nine will assign today’s date, and the email will then appear in today’s tasks in Nine’s Task app or in Outlook’s To-Do list/bar.

Flagged email

Flagged email

Just as in Outlook, a short note appears in the email with its follow-up date. Tapping this note opens a dialog window where you can set another due date. The options are Today, Tomorrow, This week, Next week, Someday (no due date), and Pick date (set a specific due date). In addition, you can set a reminder that will produce an alert on the configured date and time. And yes, you are right, it is all just like in Outlook.

Choosing a due date for an email

Choosing a due date for an email

Conversations ^

Nine also supports conversations. If you tap a conversation, you’ll get a threaded overview with an excerpt of each email. This allows you to quickly find the email you are looking for. Another tap on an email in the thread will open the complete message. As in Outlook, you can sort emails according to date, from field, subject, priority, start date, and due date.

Conversations

Conversations

Attachments ^

Another feature that demonstrates that Nine is well integrated into Android is the way you attach files to emails. You can load files from a variety of Android apps that have an integrated file browser, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, and Gallery. Of course, the apps you use to attach files have to be installed on your Android device. If you attach a file from a cloud drive, Nine doesn’t just add a link to the file (like Acompli does) but attaches the complete file. This is certainly the preferable way to send attachments.

Attachments

Attachments

Folder sync ^

Nice also offers a variety of features that are important in mobile device use. A feature I miss in most email apps for Android is the ability to sync individual email folders. Some of my folders contain emails that I want to be accessible when my phone is offline. Email apps usually only sync email at certain time intervals. If you want to access older emails, you have to be online and use the search feature.

Folder sync options

Folder sync options

In Nine, you can configure, for each folder separately, whether its messages are synced and the age of the emails to be synced. You can also sync all emails of a specific folder. A nice-to-have feature is the ability to define favorite folders, so an old important message can be reached quickly—yup, all as in Outlook.

Widgets ^

Heavy email users will like the various widgets Nine offers. One widget displays the number of unread emails in all your inboxes, another widget displays specific inboxes, and another displays flagged emails. You can also start composing a new email with just one tap.

Widgets

Widgets

Sync scheduling ^

A feature that Outlook lacks that is essential for any mobile app is sync scheduling. Nine allows you to set peak times and days on which emails are synced with Exchange. This can be configured for each of your accounts separately. So, you can ensure that you won’t be bothered with alerts from your office account after work time, but you can still get notified when private emails arrive. You can also define sync frequencies and disable syncing when roaming. This will help to treat your data plan with care.

Conclusion ^

As mentioned above, I didn’t discuss all of Nine’s features. If your organization works with Outlook/Exchange and you need to equip your users’ mobile devices with Outlook, you definitely should have a look at Nine. Your users will feel at home right away and won’t bother IT too often with questions.

Of course, Outlook is several magnitudes more powerful than Nine, but this won’t surprise you because no mobile device matches the PC when it comes to productivity. Nevertheless, Nine is at least one or two magnitudes more powerful than any other email app for Android I know. Of course, you can’t expect such an app to be free (but you can try it for free). I am unsure if Nine would have been worth $200 million for Microsoft (Acompli certainly wasn’t), but $9.99 is a price that I would gladly pay for such a well-thought-out app. 9folders, the maker of Nine, also offers volume discounts.

What’s your favorite mobile email app?

32 Comments
  1. Prejay 8 years ago

    Nitrodesk’s Touchdown. Gives me more control over the email side of things than any of the other apps I tried. I can easily choose what folders to sync and flick between an all folders view and individual folders.
    The big downside is that it seems like the app is no longer being developed.

    • Rick 5 years ago

      I had touchdown and dropped it like a dead bird when i found Nine.

  2. Prejay, I have been using Touchdown for a quite while and it is a nice email client. However, its UI is now about outdated and a major downside of the app is that is quite cumbersome to work with multiple mailboxes.

  3. Milan 8 years ago

    Michael,
    Does this app displays the number of unread messages in subfolders that are chosen for sync, or you have to tap into each folder to see if there are any new messages?
    Thanks

  4. Walt 8 years ago

    I am too a Touch Down user, I wouldn’t say fan though. It is full of features, but the UI is dated and cumbersome. The main feature I needed after I switched from Blackberry was a way to play a special email alert (that will wake me up) for when I have to watch after hours pages from a certianl email address. This way I don’t get woken up from spam. I do like to have VPss and my bosses on a special email alerts too, however its not the waking type. Touchdown makes this happen.

    With Touchdown I could enable a steady reminder to keep playing an email alert until I acknowledge it. Great if I go outside for a minute without my phone. Touchdown calls this “Nagging”. I only enable this nagging when I am on pager rotation.

    As Sysops many of us need this feature. Did you see this type of paging / nagging feature in any of the new mail clients you reviewed? I could use an upgrade. Thanks

  5. This app has access to much more available email connectors than this one, by my defacto Android (or even iOS) client to access Office 365 Exchange is Microsoft OWA (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.exchange.mowa) which presents exactly the same as id does with Windows Phone.

    The people and calendar items are a nice touch on this app as well.

  6. Milan, yes Nine shows the number of unread emails for each folder. It also has an unread folder that shows unread emails from all folders.

    Walt, Nine doesn’t have the features you need and I don’t remember that I have seen this functionality in another Exchange client for Android (except TouchDown). I have a special Gmail address for this purpose to which I forward all these super important emails and I use Gmail Label Notifier for this kind of notifications, but I think this app is no longer available in Google Play. But there are others. Of course, you could just use TouchDown to get notified about these important emails and work with a modern app for normal emails.

    Haralambos, unfortunately I can’t try OWA for Android because it requires Android 4.4. I am still on 4.3 because Samsung removed an important feature from 4.4 (force 4G) which I need.

  7. Deanis 8 years ago

    I have used Nine since it first came out. The seemingly basic features you describe in your review cinched it for me, as I, too, had been searching high and low. While many other Exchange clients will only synch your local contacts, Nine’s GAL integration Just Works, without any additional configuration. Also surprising to me is that this is one of the few email clients that allows me to place an image in my email signature, which is a very common practice in the corporate email world.

    The only other close contender is Boxer, formerly Enhanced Email. I try it out every few versions. Even though it has some features that Nine doesn’t have, like configurable short and long wipe actions, I always go back to Nine after a day or so.

  8. Deanis 8 years ago

    Oh, and in your review you mentioned widgets but didn’t mention the message list widget. This one is just as good as Gmail’s message list widget, and saves me the time of flipping over to Nine to see what those two new email messages are. Extremely handy.

  9. Deanis, you are right, Nine has quite a few nice features that I didn’t cover. I just tried the message list widget. It’s great because you can configure the folders that it displays. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Deanis 8 years ago

    No problem Michael. Another thing I wanted to reinforce from your review is that Nine does not have a separate calendar app. And it doesn’t need it. The synching works great and things are never different between Nine and my desktop Outlook. But integrating things into the system calendar means that I can easily see appointments from my different services (work = Exchange, personal = gmail) in a consolidated view. I can’t do that with apps that unnecessarily roll their own calendar view. The developers of Nine have have concentrated only on the synch portion for calendar, giving them more time to concentrate on the meat and potatoes: email.

  11. Yes, a calendar app would make sense, although I don’t have many complaints about the one that came with my Samsung phone. The only thing I am really missing are appointments in Nine’s Active Task list.

  12. Guy 8 years ago

    Does NINE have an option to force me to enter my password each time instead of storing the PW and automatically logging in when the app is opened? I don’t have a lock on my phone. It’s to inconvenient to constantly log back in particularly when I’m driving and using the Bluetooth headset but I would like to PW protect my email from anybody snooping in my phone…… Thanks

  13. Nine has a passcode lock feature. You can set a timeout and you can configure Nine to erase all data after 10 failed passcode attempts. There is also a “simple passcod lock”, but I didn’t figure out yet how this works.

  14. Deanis 8 years ago

    The difference seems to be that Passcode allows entering characters via a keyboard, whereas Simple Passcode is only numeric.

  15. Oh yes, you are right. I didn’t notice the keyboard symbol. Strange that there are two different menu points.

  16. Walt, the latest release of Nine has VIP notification. Still no nagging, though.

  17. Jim 7 years ago

    Does Nine allow you to see shared calendars from our office?

  18. Nine, doesn’t have a calendar app. It just links to the built-in app.

  19. Athanasios Mamarelis 7 years ago

    I think is one of the best email applications I’ve ever used. The only problem that I have is that I cannot find how to access the GAL because whenever I press the contact icon, while I am using the application, it opens the android phone contacts app. If anybody knows how to solve this problem please let me know.

  20. Athanasios, you can sync the Android contacts app with Exchange. If you want to send an email to a Exchange contact, Nine opens the contacts app and will paste the email in the address field when you tap the contact.

  21. Megan 7 years ago

    Will this application be available for iOS devices or at least something just as good?

  22. Steve 7 years ago

    I use 9 on my android which works great in all manners. What would you recommend [other than outlook] as a companion email program on a desktop pc…currently using postbox.

  23. Steve, I gave up looking for Outlook alternatives many years ago. I am now using Outlook 2016 on a Mac and I am quite happy with it even though I miss one or two features of the Windows version.

  24. Map 7 years ago

    Ive been using Nine for a while now and like it. My only peeve is that there is not option to turn off the pin/password prompt on startup.. why is that not left to the user as a option.

  25. You don’t have to use PIN. You can turn this feature off in Settings > Security. (Tap the Menu icon at the top left and then tap the Settings symbol at the bottom.)

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