Making Outlook the Default Mail App for iOS

Easy Switch Away from Apple’s Mail App

In June, we reported that Apple would allow Outlook to be the default mail app for iOS14. This prospect proved popular for the many Outlook for IOS users who have no interest in using Apple’s Mail App. Because of the limitations of the Exchange ActiveSync protocol, Outlook for iOS is more functional when connected to Exchange Online than the Mail app is. The only place where the Mail app has an advantage is its ability to connect to accounts in Office 365 tenants across multiple datacenter regions, something that Outlook can’t do.

Now that iOS14 is generally available, it was time to download and apply the update and then check that Outlook can indeed take the place of Apple’s Mail app. The good news is that switching Outlook in is simple. Use the Select Default Email App link in Outlook settings (or go direct) to go to iOS settings, Now select Outlook and scroll down to the Default Mail App setting (Figure 1).

 Outlook settings in iOS14
Figure 1: Outlook settings in iOS14

Mail means that the Apple Mail app is currently selected. Click the link to view the set of available options. You’ll need a recent version of Outlook for it to show up here. I used version 4.56.0 from the Testflight program, but any version from 4.55.1 will work. Select Outlook to make it the default mail app for iOS (Figure 2).

Making Outlook the default mail app for iOS
Figure 2: Making Outlook the default mail app for iOS

Rebooting iOS14 will reset the choice of apps back to the Apple apps. I experimented by rebooting iOS a couple of times and each time iOS made the Mail app the default. The problem is fixed in iOS 14.0.1, published on September 24.

Glitches like this are certainly something to be expected with a new version of an operating system and is one reason why people recommend waiting before upgrading. Microsoft is also aware of two other bugs:

  1. Mailto: links in Safari will be opened in Apple’s Mail app instead of the chosen default app (Outlook in this case).
  2. If you have a profile configured with the Mail app, certain compose sheet actions trigger Apple’s Mail app instead of the chosen default app. For example, apps that use MFMailComposeViewController.

Bugs like this might not affect you, especially if you choose to replace Safari with Microsoft Edge as the default browser.

Pin Outlook to the Home Screen

Another useful thing to do is to include Outlook and other apps which you commonly use into the set of four pinned apps at the bottom of the home screen. Apparently this is possible in iOS13 too, but I guess I missed that news. The set of default apps includes Mail, so if you’ve replaced it with Outlook, there’s no reason to keep it pinned. Click and hold on the Outlook icon until the Edit Home screen option appears. Then drag and drop it into the pinned set to replace Mail. As you can see in Figure 3, I also replaced the Music app with Teams.

Pinning Outlook to the iOS Home Screen
Figure 3: Pinning Outlook to the iOS Home Screen

Another way of doing the same job is to search for the app, press on the icon, and select Add to Home Screen.

Even though it takes some muscle memory adjustment to look for Outlook in the pinned set, I can’t tell you how useful it is to be able to access Outlook at one click no matter where you are in iOS.

Outlook No Longer Supports iOS12

Now that Apple has released iOS14, Microsoft’s support policy means that Outlook on iOS12 is no longer a supported platform: these devices will no longer receive Outlook updates and will eventually cease to connect to the service. You should look for devices running Outlook on iOS12 and ask their users to upgrade. Fortunately, a little PowerShell (see this article) will quickly identify the iOS12 devices by checking their connection status. After that, it’s a matter of communication and persuasion to get those devices up to the necessary level. Maybe they’ll upgrade to iOS14 to take advantage of Outlook’s new potential status as the default mail app.

Sometimes we share things that make our working lives better that never end up in the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook, but it’s good to know how things work, which is why we write about them.

6 Replies to “Making Outlook the Default Mail App for iOS”

  1. Glad to finally see this too! But pinning Outlook to the Home Screen was possible in iOS 13 too (and not sure how long before that). The one missing piece (unless I didn’t look carefully enough) looks to be calendar appointments, I was using a 3rd party app, hit the share button and it popped up Calendar instead of outlook.

  2. Outlook IOS can add different accounts from different tenants, but only where those tenants are in the same region. I currently have 3 different account in 3 different tenants as mailboxes in Outlook IOS

    1. True. My point (badly expressed) is that it’s not as flexible at adding accounts from multiple tenants.

  3. This is good news. Further, Edge browser can now be the default browser in IOS14 as well. Bring on the freedom of choice!

  4. This is good news. Freedom of choice is important. Further, Edge can now be the default browser in IOS14 as well. Giddy up.

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