Mobile Exchange support has been improving over the past several years, but there are various subtle differences that are worth considering to guide your corporate purchase plans.
There are four major mobile phone product families that offer Exchange clients: Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone, Research in Motion BlackBerry, and various Google Android suppliers.
In the past year, Android phones have been taking market share away from Blackberry. And numerous suppliers, including Google, have introduced models. However, not every phone within a particular family works the same way with Exchange.
(See section later in this article on getting to the bottom of cell phone data plans.)
If all you are looking for is synchronizing your emails, contacts and calendars between desktop and phone, just about all devices will provide this. The trouble comes when your users demand more, such as being able to search all their server-based messages, lookup addresses in the server address list, make appointments that are kept private, and reply to meeting requests on your phone. This is where things start to get a bit dicey among the various phones.
Microsoft calls the feature that supports mobile Exchange clients Active Sync. Its a piece of software that has to be licensed for a particular phone operating system and works in conjunction with the Exchange server to keep your emails, contacts, and appointments up to date on your mobile device.
One of the newer features that have been implemented by Exchange 2010 is called Direct Push, which enables Exchange to push messages out to the phone on a selected schedule.
The downside is that they are subpar phones, and carriers have a limited selection of them too. The combination of smaller screen real estate and nested menus within menus makes their use for voice calls cumbersome.
On the plus side, there are a number of iPhone apps that enhance the built-in features, such as from RerlSoft , which allows you more access to Exchange data such as notes and tasks.
If you purchase the Verizon-based Droid Incredible, it has ActiveSync built in. Otherwise, the other Android phones are for the most part missing any Exchange client. You'll have to purchase some additional software to make it work properly.
You have lots of choices, including:
Touchdown is the most full-featured and offers nearly all the features found in the Windows mobile clients, with the exception of task searching. But they are continually improving their app and making it as feature-rich as possible.
If you go the Android route, make sure your phones work with your particular version of Exchange server and carrier. Some have been slow to support Exchange 2010. Some carriers, such as AT&T, don't allow third-party app downloads from Google's Android App Marketplace.