Microsoft Office for Android Falls Short

“Can Microsoft Do Anything Right Anymore?”

This is pretty much the first question that comes to mind considering the latest Microsoft Office apps for Android tablets.

Over the last year or so Microsoft has been considering many options to enter the Android ecosystem. From its Nokia X hybrid concept phone to the Bing lockscreen app, Microsoft works its way into the world’s most popular mobile operating system.

Through the new lineup of Office programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) Microsoft hopes to compete with solutions like Google’s suite of mobile productivity apps.

However, the mobile suite falls short of expectations.

The Office Mobile app which was released in 2013 features very limited editing and formatting support. Until recently (December 2014) the application required a Office 365 subscription to edit files. Furthermore, the app is restricted to mobile phones only and cannot be used on a tablet.

Now in January 2015 Microsoft introduces a more full-featured attempt at mobile Office. The newest applications include Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as completely separate components. The individual apps allow for more advanced editing features, much like those on the desktop version.

Unfortunately, there are two major points where Microsoft seems to drop the ball with this.

A major point being the system requirements for Android.

An ARM based chipset is needed. Those with other architectures such as MIPS or x86 devices are excluded from support. This actually seems reasonable considering most Android devices are ARM based with the exception of some lower end tablets such as the Allwinner brand or other rare devices.

Also, the CPU speed must be at least 1 GHz. This is also a good requirement as most devices introduced within the last two years surpass this requirement easily.

The Office website claims the recommended amount of RAM is one gigabyte (1 GB). While most of the more recently introduced tablets and phones have more RAM, this seems like an excessive requirement just for an office program on a mobile platform.

At this time the new apps can only be installed on tablets, Microsoft has not released versions for phones.

The more unrealistic requirement is the operating system version. Microsoft only included support for Android 4.4 KitKat. This is very unreasonable considering the majority of Android devices are currently running the many versions of Jelly Bean (4.1 through 4.3). Microsoft should have stuck to the usual requirement of 4.0 or higher. This meaning those on older tablets which aren’t expecting an update to 4.4 won’t be able to run the the mobile Office apps.

As someone with a Jelly Bean tablet that will definitely not receive any new updates, I will be sticking to Google Docs for now.

The other downside is that while basic editing features are available to all users with a screen size between 7 and 10.1 inches, the “premium” features require an active Office 365 subscription. A listing of those features can be found here.

Microsoft’s office apps do not include a file browser meaning it is not possible to save files to the device’s internal storage or SD card. Although, It is possible to open downloaded documents using a third party file browser app. The only option for saving and loading files is through cloud storage with either OneDrive or Dropbox services.

In conclusion Microsoft’s latest attempt at mobile office falls short of most users expectations. Other than the advanced premium editing features, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps are a much better option for Android users. Between the high end system requirements and the premium subscription cost which starts at $69.99 for Office 365 Personal, I would recommend just avoiding Microsoft Office in general.

  • Omar