Newbtorial: Getting the Most From Your HTC Exhange App

htc_exchangeIt may seem strange at first to write an article about the pre-installed HTC Exchange app; however, for a great deal of new MyTouch3G users, one selling point of the phone has been the integrated Exchange service.

Has HTC created what should be considered a flagship Exchange application? Certainly not. The UI is basic and clunky looking, and your only modifiable settings are the standard: font size, email size limitaion, sync frequency, message format, signatures, etc. For sure there are far more robust Exchange applications available in the Android Market such as Touchdown by NitroDesk Inc. or Roadsync by DataViz, Inc… so why bother talking about HTC’s version?

It’s simple, you just spent loads of money on your phone and the HTC app comes pre-installed for free. Touchdown will cost you $19.99, and Roadsync, though free in its beta form, can probably be expected to be right on par with the competition. Don’t get me wrong, both NitroDesk and DataViz have put together great apps, and you certainly get what you pay for in terms of extended features: a better UI and customer support.  There is another viewpoint to this though.  If you are like me, you judge applications by how well the functionality meets your needs.

In terms of syncing email, HTC’s app does it just as well as the other guys.  In addition, it allows for the creation and acceptance of appointments, the ability to save attachments, email sorting, and search functionality.  Lack of calendar support and contact syncing is where the application falls short of the 3rd party solutions.  Even though the application itself doesn’t support calendar syncing, that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. You simply need to jump on your PC and download Google sync.

Google Sync is another one of Google’s free services that is offered to anybody with a Google account and provides smooth two way syncing between Outlook and Google Calendar.  To find Google sync, open your Google calendar online and navigate to it via a link in the top right-hand portion of the screen where is says “Sync”.  The set-up process is quick and it provides step-by-step instruction that is easy for even the most fearful of technology to understand. (takes less than 5 minutes)

Now for two quick complaints.

  1. The Google Sync service doesn’t allow you to sync Outlook to any calendar other than your default Google calendar. What this meant for me is that I had to move all my personal events to a new calendar I created in Google in order keep my work and home life separate. This proved to be a small annoyance at first, but now that everything has been moved it works very nicely.
  2. From the phone side of things, when I create calendar events from my phone I don’t have the option of which calendar I want to assign the event to. This causes me to have to log in to Google Calendar via the web and make the distinction.  Hopefully this is an issue that Google will fix this in the future, when considering upgrades to Android and the included Google services. (OR IF SOME AWESOME DEVELOPER WANTS TO FIGURE IT OUT!!)

Overall the HTC Exchange app works very well at one thing–syncing emails–but lacks other features you get with 3rd party solutions from the market. On the plus side, it’s free and when paired with Google Sync it makes aggregating all your calendar events into one spot.  A very easy and cost effective solution.