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The wait is finally over: Microsoft debuts Office Mobile for iPhone (hands-on)

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:41PM EST
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Just over a year ago, BGR exclusively reported that Microsoft was working on Office for both iOS and Android. The software was initially supposed to launch in November last year according to our sources, and a subsequent report confirmed the timing. Microsoft got a bit busy ahead of the holidays though, and the release was pushed back. Well the wait is finally over: Microsoft is ready to start bringing its class-leading Office software to new platforms, and it’s starting with Apple’s iPhone.

Beginning immediately, Office Mobile for iPhone is available for download in Apple’s iOS App Store. For the time being, the app is only available for the iPhone and there’s still no word on an Android version or iPad compatibility.

That’s the bad news, but there’s also some good news, depending on your perspective: Office Mobile for iPhone is available at no charge to Office 365 subscribers.

Microsoft’s subscription-based Office 365 service gives users access to Office apps in the cloud as well as 20GB of SkyDrive storage for $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. It also allows them to install the latest Office Suite for Windows and OS X on up to five different computers. Now, as an added value, subscribers get access to Office Mobile for iPhone.

The downside is that for the time being, Microsoft is not making Office Mobile for iPhone available for a one-time fee. This means if you’re not an Office 365 subscriber, you’re not using Office Mobile for iPhone. Microsoft confirmed to BGR that it currently has no plans to offer the new mobile software as a stand-alone product. Instead, the company views it as “an extension of Office 365.”

It should be noted that for those who want to try Office Mobile for iPhone at no charge, Microsoft offers a free one-month trial of Office 365.

The move certainly makes good business sense as it may prompt more users to pay for Office 365 service. But there will be plenty of upset customers who want to use Office on their iPhones but don’t want to subscribe. For those users, let’s take a look at what you’re missing.

Office Mobile for iPhone feature a gorgeous minimalistic interface and three Office apps are supported: Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Functionality is very basic for the time being, but Microsoft has some of the essentials covered in terms of viewing and light editing of documents. The app is tied to your SkyDrive though, and documents cannot be saved locally.

In Word, basic font formatting like colors, size and styling is supported, as are comments that can be left for collaborators. But that’s pretty much it.

The app doesn’t provide tools for paragraph formatting or any other functions for that matter. It also doesn’t allow you to insert images, though images already included in documents saved in your SkyDrive are visible. I also wasn’t able to use the iPhone’s native copy and paste functions, though they are supported according to Microsoft’s product guide.

Excel for the iPhone includes a bit more functionality. Font styling and cell colors are supported, as are formulas and searching. You can also format cells and create charts right from within the app. Spreadsheets with multiple pages are no problem and documents can be shared, though I got an error each time I attempted to share an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document.

Finally, Office Mobile for iPhone includes a PowerPoint app that really is only good for viewing slides, basic text editing without formatting, and adding presenter notes.

In the end, Office Mobile for iPhone really is a companion app. It’s great for viewing and very light editing, and the user interface is clean and slick. The feature set is beyond basic though, and it pales in comparison to third-party apps like DataViz’s Documents To Go, for example.

Microsoft’s Office Mobile for iPhone went live in the App Store at 5:00 a.m. EDT on Friday, and BGR’s hands-on photo gallery can be viewed here. For the time being, Office Mobile for iPhone is available only in the United States, though Microsoft confirmed to BGR that the app will begin rolling out in other countries in the coming days and it will ultimately be available across 136 markets in 29 different languages.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.