Monday, December 22, 2008

Corporate ActiveSync Exchange E-mail S60 Compared to Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone

The Nokia E71 is designed for corporate communication with ActiveSync support and Office document viewing/editing
A cornerstone of any phone is its ability to connect with people. A key part of that for business smart phones is the ability to synchronize with corporate e-mail, calendar, and contacts. Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberries have been accomplishing this for years with their proprietary Blackberry protocol. With the introduction of ActiveSync with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, all ActiveSync enabled phones are capable of receiving push messaging when your company is using Exchange. Since the introduction of the Eseries, Nokia has offered Mail for Exchange for free to Nokia S60 users to get ActiveSync on their phones.

ActiveSync isn't the only way to synchronize corporate e-mail. An older method is using IMAP but it loses out on many functions present in ActiveSync such as contact and calendar synchronization. Just to make it easier to see a comparison, here's a chart of the differences:

E-mailPushYesYes^ (most clients only support pull)
HTML FormattingYes*Yes
Attachment downloadYesYes
CalendarSync (main calendar only)YesNo
Accept/Decline meeting requestsYesNo
ContactsSync (not subfolders)YesNo
Global Address List LookupYesNo
Out of OfficeSettingsYes*No
SecurityEnforce policies on deviceYesNo

* Some features require Exchange 2007
^ Microsoft Exchange does not support push IMAP

I found an interesting article about how you can accomplish most things in ActiveSync in some other way. But security is one that IMAP can't enforce and most IT companies want to enforce as much as they can.

As most people, I'm usually dictated by what's a go by the IT team. From the few companies I've been to, ActiveSync has been the preferred (usually only) way of getting your e-mail to your device as it supports a number of security policies such as remote device wiping. End users get the benefit of ActiveSync's support for push e-mail.

I'm not one to trust storing my passwords with a third party so this article will not be reviewing any solutions that require storing your corporate login and password by a third party or using desktop software to synchronize your corporate e-mail like Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) or emoze.

I was wondering if other solutions offered better corporate e-mail synchronization compared to what a S60 user has to deal with. S60 offers two compelling software to synchronize with Exchange: Nokia's Mail for Exchange and DataViz's RoadSync so I've included both in my comparison chart as each support different features. To find out whether the grass is greener on the otherside I put together a comparison chart for reference after the jump.

Latest versions as of this writing: Mail for Exchange 2.7, RoadSync for S60 4.0, Blackberry (BES 4.1.5), Windows Mobile 6.1, and iPhone 2.0.2.

S60, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, iPhone Corporate Exchange Support Comparison Chart:

FeatureNokia Mail for ExchangeRoadSync for S60Blackberry (BES)Windows MobileiPhone
PriceFree$49.99 USDIncludedIncludedIncluded (firmware 2.0+)
E-mailPushYesYesYesYesYes (reply/forward status not updated on server)
HTML FormattingYes (as attachment)Yes (version 4+)Yes (only Bold and Storm)Yes (version 6+)Yes (supported on both Exchange 2003/2007)
Attachment downloadYesYesYesYesYes
Server SearchNoYes (version 3+)YesYesNo
SubfolderNoYesYes (only server side)YesYes (only server side)
FlaggingYes (version 2.5+)Yes (version 4+)NoYesNo
CalendarSync (main calendar only)YesYesYesYesYes (supports multiple)
Accept/Decline meeting requestsYes (cannot invite attendees, cannot provide reason, decline not sent)Yes (cannot invite attendees, cannot provide reason)YesYes (version 6+ for inviting attendees)Yes (cannot invite attendees, cannot provide reason for decline, cannot delete single occurance or reccuring)
ContactsSync (not subfolders)YesYesYesYesYes (supports subfolders)
Global Address List LookupYesYesYesYesYes
TasksSyncYesYes (version 4+)YesYesNo
Out of OfficeSettingsYes (version 2.5+)YesYesYesNo
SecurityEnforce policies on deviceE-devices onlyYesYesYesYes
SynchronizationAbility to turn offYesYesNoYesYes
Scheduling by Peak/Non-PeakYesYesNoYesNo
Multiple AccountsNoNoNoNoNo
Additional NotesCreates its own folder in the native S60 Messaging application for synchronizing e-mail.Creates its own folder in the native S60 Messaging application for synchronizing e-mail.Requires the use of Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) by your company. Since the device's IMEI must be registered to BES, a user cannot easily switch between devices without notifying the BES system administrator. The Blackberry's "always on" nature with no way to turn off e-mail sync'ing will cause huge roaming costs when its roaming.Support for memory card encryption and remote wipe via Exchange 2007No PIN enforcement

It looks like Nokia Mail for Exchange users covers most of the features that other solutions offer in the market support. You can always opt to pay for RoadSync and get some much needed features like inline HTML e-mail, subfolder browsing, and server side search. For a screenshot comparison of Mail for Exchange to RoadSync visit Mobile Industry Review. The article is a bit old since both Mail for Exchange and RoadSync have received significant upgrades within the last few months but the screenshots are generally still accurate.

The grass isn't so much greener on the other side of the fence. Corporate S60 users have all the reason to be happy with their phones knowing they're getting almost all the features offered by Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.

One, possibly significant for a small number of users, benefit for S60 users by having two different ActiveSync solutions that maintain their own e-mail folders is the ability to synchronize mail from two different Exchange accounts. Do not enable calendar, task, and contact synchronization on both accounts or you may wipe out all your calendar, tasks, and contacts.

I personally use Nokia Mail for Exchange on my E71 for my business e-mail and I haven't had any synchronization problems with it. Although most corporate users from North America use Blackberry, it doesn't offer much end user benefits as it once did when it was the only game in town.

Helpful resources:
  • S60 ActiveSync compared to Blackberry
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