Office for Android

Office apps, of a sort, come to Android phones.

Hot on the heels of Office for iPhone comes Microsoft’s version of Office for Android phones.

The Android release is very similar to Office for iPhone, which effectively means both are quite limited in features and availability.

Office for Android (officially called “Office Mobile for Office 365”) is a ‘free’ app in name only. You need an Office 365 subscription (paid or limited time trial) to do anything with the ‘free’ app. In other words, pay over US$100 a year to get Office for Android as well as other flavors of Office software.

What can IT do?

  • Make Word or Excel documents (docx or xlsx)
  • Edit Word, Excel or Powerpoint documents (docx, xlsx or pptx)
  • Make comments and collaborate on shared documents.
  • Open and Save documents to the Skydrive account linked to your Office 365 subscription, Office 365 or Sharepoint
  • Open documents saved in other platforms like Dropbox, email attachment, folders on the device etc.
  • Select individual Skydrive documents for downloading and use offline.
  • Install on any Android phone with v4.0 or higher (which would be most sold in the last few years).

What CAN’T it do?

  • Save to anywhere except your Skydrive account, Office 365 or Sharepoint.
  • Save documents to the device folders.
  • Open password protected documents
  • Easily select multiple documents or folders to be synced for offline use.
  • Edit ‘old format’ documents (doc, xls or ppt). They have to be ‘Save As’ to the new (‘docx’ etc) formats
  • Install Office for Android on any Android tablet including ‘mini’ tablets like the Nexus 7.

    • Unlike Office for iPhone which can be installed on an iPad or iPad mini

  • Buy an Office 365 subscription directly in the app (you can on Office for iPhone).


An Office 365 subscription, which includes Office software rental, can also use Office Mobile for iPhone or Android. There’s a limit of 5 devices at a time (2 devices for the University rentals).

With Office for iPhone we noted Microsoft’s misleading wording about who can use Office Mobile apps. See Office for iPhone – not for all subscribers where Microsoft redefined the word ‘all’ and otherwise mislead people. This time Microsoft is being a little more careful. At least they aren’t talking about ‘all Office 365 subscribers’ this time. However there’s too much use of the simple but quite wrong phrase ‘Office 365 subscribers’ when many Office 365 subscribers don’t qualify for the Office Mobile apps.


At present only US, English language customers can get Office for Android but we’re promised that it will spread to other languages and locations ‘gradually’. ‘Gradually’ should means weeks or a few months – not years.


The features and menus are pretty much the same as Office for iPhone. articles like Office Mobile, SkyDrive and saving documents apply to Office for Android as well.

You can open and edit documents from other sources like Dropbox, email attachment etc but can only save to SkyDrive, Office 365 or SharePoint.

The editing options are, as you’d expect, basic.  They are fine for simple edits to existing documents or making notes for a document to be formatted more fully later.

Our explanation about Why Office for iPhone will never be any good applies just as much to Office for Android.  These apps for non-Windows platforms are designed to protect Microsoft’s vast income stream from Office, useable features for customers are secondary.

What about tablets?

Microsoft has blocked Office for Android from Android tablets devices. That’s something Google lets developers do, unlike Apple. Office for iPhone can be installed on iPad’s, though with mixed results.

Microsoft’s recommendation is Office Web Apps on tablet devices. That recommendation has more to do with Microsoft’s corporate strategies and preferences than a practical suggestion for tablet owners. Office Web Apps is fairly good but no replacement for an installed app, particularly when offline.

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