Exchange Mail on the Droid X

Application Numero Uno

I spend a lot of time reading emails on my phone. I also move them into folders, reply, and forward all the time. Windows Mobile 6.1 was, naturally, well adapted to working with Microsoft’s Exchange server. One of my check-off requirements was a version of Android that could sync mail, calendar, and contacts in real time. With the release of version 2.2 (Froyo), it appeared that the time had come. Well, not so fast.

Stock vs. Proprietary Email Clients

On the Droid X, Motorola has replaced the stock Android email client with its own client designed to better meet the requirements of Exchange users. It has a lot to recommend it, including effortless connectivity, a fairly attractive display, and integrating Exchange calendar appointments with Gmail calendar appointments. But there are a few features missing: EML-format attachments (messages forwarded as an attachment by Outlook or Windows Mobile) cannot be viewed, there is no way to copy from received messages, and there is no way to store and insert frequently used fragments of text. There also seem to be some issues with email “push” falling behind at times.


Now up to version 6.2, TouchDown was one of the first applications connecting Android users to their work email. People usually thinks of phone apps as costing about a dollar, but TouchDown costs $20, so I have high expectations. The push functionality worked flawlessly during the work week, but seems to have stopped this weekend. The settings look correct, so I’m baffled as to why that should be. Further research will be required. TouchDown opens EML attachments, but PDF attachments embedded in those attachments are not decoded correctly. The most accurate way to copy from received message is to start a reply or forward, and then tap the Edit Inline button. This provides the same flexible selection tools available when editing your own text. By pressing and holding on a received message, “browser style” text selection and copying becomes available. This requires a high degree of accuracy with finger swiping, and often several tries to get everything you want (plus an inevitable little bit extra). When sending a reply or forward from TouchDown, the action is recorded on the server and appears on the message icon in Outlook.

K-9 Mail

The open source app K-9 Mail supports Exchange with WebDAV rather than ActiveSync. The major difference appears to be that push is not an option; instead, the program polls for mail at scheduled intervals. Configuring the software involved a lot of guesswork, but once it was set up and restarted, it seems to poll reliably. K-9 converts EML attachments to inline forwards, which makes them easier to read quickly but may affect their fidelity. PDF attachments embedded in the EML are decoded correctly. K-9 Mail has essentially the same text selection and copying features as TouchDown. Marking a message read in K-9 does not seem to copy back to the mailbox, and in fact may be reset during a later sync. When sending forwards and replies, the icon in Outlook is not updated. Perhaps it is due to its “beta” status that message times sometimes are displayed in UTC rather than local time.

I have become accustomed to having my email ready and waiting without having to press sync. (I also am used to having to restart Windows Mobile every now and then to make that work, but trying to get beyond that!) Hopefully push will work better during the work week, but being down for the weekend is very discouraging.

Update: Motorola’s Corporate Sync and K-9 Mail appear to interfere with one another. Removing K-9 allowed a message stuck in the Corporate Sync outbox to (finally) go out.

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