Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Android Report

To all my friends and anyone else who happens upon this blog posting, I have decided to document what I believe is the solution to the ongoing struggles I have experienced in the last 18 months trying to get Android to function in a consistent and reliable manner alongside my Outlook-led life.  I believe I have tamed the beast.  To all my Apple buddies, I am not sure Apple has a better approach to my situation according to many to whom I have consulted so save your breath.  iPhone is not in my future.

Here’s the situation and the final answer.  

I run Outlook as a stand-alone e-mail application.  I connect to 5 different mail servers, one of which is an Exchange server.  I do not use the Exchange as a primary mail server but as just another POP3 account.

The challenge is calendar and contact list synchronization.  E-mail from all 5 systems works great….other than native Android does not have any method for bulk deleting messages from the phone.  Yes, it does seem odd but Google is relying on the handset vendors to provide a true message delete function.  At least this is true for Gingerbread.

Anyway, calendar and contact sync’ing are a problem. 

Google wants everyone to sync to a Gmail account.  2 things wrong with that:  I don’t trust Google with the info and there is no elegant way to keep my Outlook info in sync with Google.  Android to Google sync is fine if you are willing to accept the field layout that Google enforces.  These layouts do not map well to Outlook thus a choice is forced on the user; accept the Outlook layout for calendar and contact info or accept the Google layout.  Google used to have an Outlook client to Gmail sync app but has discontinued the support of that app unless you are a paying Google apps user.  I did try the tool prior to it being discontinued and there were lots of issues with both contacts and calendar items so no real loss IMHO.  As I am reliant on Outlook, making Gmail the primary system is not possible or viable.

I also discovered that every Outlook Sync app that I could grab from the Google Play site, paid and free, had issues with Outlook 2010.  I suspect there was something in the MS upgrade from O2007 to O2010 that wasn’t kosher but the result is that I am not able to find a single synchronization app that works with a standalone Outlook 2010 install.  I suspect had I the option to start over with a brand new .PST file, things would have been different.  Not that I mind too much but I find it interesting that MS has modified the storage format and/or APIs to the .PST file to such a degree that what works with O2007 does not stand a chance with O2010. 

So here’s where I have ended up.  My Nexus S Android phone on Gingerbread is sync’ing with Outlook 2007 via MyPhoneExplorer (MPE).  I did send off money to the developer as a token of my appreciation.  MPE is configured to only sync from Outlook to the phone.  No 2-way sync.  No worries about some app enabling a sync to GMail and messing up my phone which then messes up my Outlook.  Yes, this has happened more than once.

The nice part about MPE is that although the push is 1 direction, I still get a pop-up that displays any differences between the phone and Outlook so that I can allow individual phone updates to be pushed into Outlook.  Painful?  Sometimes, but always better than scrambling the calendar or address book in Outlook.  Trust a bi-directional sync?  No way.  I have wasted way too many hours rebuilding Outlook to risk an issue.  I gladly screen the individual changes.

The bottom line is that I do like to tinker with computer gear and my Android phone allows me to do a lot of that.  If my tinkering helps 1 other Android user avoid the late night rebuild efforts I have undertaken, then that’s a good thing. 

The next step is to get a Key Lime Pie-based phone when they ship and do it all over again.