When will the mobile app be released?

For companies that heavily utilize Microsoft SharePoint, a mobile solution is on its way. The official SharePoint mobile apps will be released later this month for iOS, and later this year for Windows Mobile and Android.

I, myself, have not had the chance to play with any betas of the application and look forward to seeing its capabilities and limitations. It is interesting to see Microsoft focusing on the iOS version of the application, but given the BYOD environments I have seen, there does seem to be a preference for iOS, which is slowly moving more towards Android.

What are SharePoint’s current mobile capabilities?

Other than creating your own mobile app (MetroStar Systems had their own called SP2Go for a while, but it is now no longer supported), SharePoint does have the capability to create mobile views and pages. These have both been available since SharePoint 2010 (and 2007 to a lesser extent). Mobile views are just default views on lists and libraries for mobile devices that you can configure as a default for a mobile device. The same goes for publishing pages. If you want a specific version of a page for mobile you can use mobile redirect to go to that page. 2013 also added its own take on mobile sites by creating a somewhat usable mobile version of a site by itself. SharePoint 2016 (and SharePoint Online) further improves on this with touch enabled access as well as the ability to easily switch between mobile and desktop versions of a site.

The new SharePoint mobile app from Microsoft

As mentioned earlier the iOS, Android and windows Mobile versions will all be available this year and will work with on-premise 2013 and up as well as hybrid and online implementations.

Most of the information used to write this post can be seen on here. Be sure to watch the video on Channel 9 as it gives some more details and demos.

Authentication

According to Microsoft, the following authentication methods are supported:

  • Azure Active Directory
  • NTLM,
  • FBA
  • *Other
  • Microsoft Intune (MDM and Mobile Application Management)

*Other may mean a flavor of a claims provider, but we will see.

Site Management

SharePoint Mobile App Site

Frequently accessed sites (determined by SharePoint) are displayed first along with their support site logos, or you can create Acronyms from the site title. Site management also allows you to filter by sites you are “following”, which is hardly used on-premise, but is more common online. This should have an effect of pushing more people to use this feature, which can be useful, especially for newer SharePoint users.

Search Capabilities

SharePoint Search Capabilities

Search lets you find sites that may not be shown by default or any other piece of content on SharePoint. MetroStar has always tried to make a search focused experience when creating customer portals, and it is nice to see this featured prominently in the mobile application.

Searching in SharePoint Mobile App

While the app seems limited to the following scopes:

  • Sites
  • Files
  • People
  • Recommended

It does at least offer some ability to limit results. Don’t forget that you can make a search page mobile friendly with your own display templates and page layouts.

Navigating a Site

SharePoint Field Marketing Guide

By default, you will see the recent activity on a site, similar to the activity feeds that already exist in SharePoint and also seen in Development on SharePoint online.

SharePoint Field Marketing Guide Menu

The site menu contains all of the current options available for sites along with the navigation menu for navigating lists and libraries. The interfaces seem to be designed to behave similarly between the different mobile OS’s. This is an interesting approach because it does provide a similar user experience for all users, making training much simpler, but may not rely on common OS peculiarities in regards to menu management etc. When MetroStar created their own Mobile app we tried to keep the interface similar to the OS’s recommended visual and UI guidelines.

SharePoint Mobile App Portal View

Portal View

The site portal view which is a responsive portal site appears to be similar to the 2016 style of mobile rendering found in SharePoint. As discussed above other than creating your own mobile app (MetroStar Systems had their own called SP2Go for a while, but it is now no longer supported) you can create mobile views and mobile pages in SharePoint. These have both been available since SharePoint 2010 (and 2007 to a lesser extent). Mobile views are just default views on lists and libraries for mobile devices that you can configure as a default for a mobile device. The same goes for publishing pages. If you want a specific version of a page for mobile you can use mobile redirect to go to that page. 2013 also added its own take on mobile sites by creating a somewhat usable mobile version of a site by itself. SharePoint 2016 (and SharePoint Online) further improves on this with touch enabled access as well as the ability to easily switch between mobile and desktop versions of a site.

Links Menu

SharePoint Mobile App Links Menu

The second main option in the app is the Links menu. This is similar to the links that can be set in the drop-down menu of the SharePoint account menu or in the Office 365 homepage.

Office 365 Video

SharePoint Mobile App Office 365 video

O365 Video is also natively supported by the app. I haven’t seen this used to often with our customers, but it is starting to gain traction, particularly with our civilian agency clients.

People

SharePoint Mobile App Searching for People

Searching through people provides an image along with the name and title of the individual.

SharePoint Mobile App Profile

Picking a user displays their contact card along with some organizational hierarchy information and a very nice feature showing what they are working on (again similar to delve or even the “Authored Documents” in people search.

SharePoint Mobile App Profile loading Documents

We can see that things are being loaded asynchronously, which is a must for a mobile application.

SharePoint Mobile App Settings

SharePoint Mobile App Settings

Here on the settings page we can see some interesting options. In particular the “Add or Change Account” option.

SharePoint Mobile App Add or Change Account

With the mobile app you can add multiple accounts, useful for users with access to multiple farms or a separate Intranet/O365 account.

SharePoint Mobile App sign-in

The sign in page allows you to select between O365 and on-premise authentication methods.

SharePoint Mobile App send feedback

They also mention the “Shake for feedback” feature which can fortunately be turned off.

Final Thoughts

I am glad to see Microsoft creating native apps for SharePoint, ensuring that a hopefully fast version of access will be available to end users through their mobile device. I will be interested to see what they are doing in regards to caching data (for those with intermittent mobile data access) as well as securing that cached data (or if they rely on device encryption). Either way I am glad to see the ability to switch between the desktop and mobile versions of portal sites, especially for mobile devices with high-resolution displays. Of course, I would like to see updates to some of the core SharePoint functionality, including mobile versions of web parts and updates to things like forms (which is sorely needed and not addressed in 2016).

The current use cases for this app seem to mainly be for document management, quick searches, and finding people’s contact information. I hope that at the minimum, check in/out and approvals can be quickly managed through the app as well.