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Microsoft’s SkyDrive is a surprisingly obscure service compared to other cloud tools considering the corporate name behind it. But all the pre-Windows 8 buzz has really focused Microsoft’s strategy around the cloud, warranting a SkyDrive update and mobile roll out. SkyDrive for Android was released several months after the iOS version, and it also faces plenty of competition in the consumer cloud space. So the first question to ask is, does this latecomer offer anything different for Android users?
7GB is a nice start
Seven GB of free storage is probably the biggest incentive to sign-up for SkyDrive, which is considerably more than most its competitors (you can use an existing Microsoft account to sign-in as well). That’s a great starter amount for storing documents, PowerPoint presentations and photos in the cloud, accessible on a range of devices for access anytime.
But that’s where the differentiating perks end for SkyDrive’s Android app. The rest of SkyDrive is pretty basic, with options for viewing, sharing and organizing your files. Sharing can be done via email or hyperlink, which may or may not be an obstacle for new SkyDrive user acquisition – sending a file via Dropbox, for example, is more familiar in the consumer space. The home screen has a drop-down menu to access your folders, as well as recent and shared files as well.
Different file types are treated differently depending on the mobile device and OS version you’re using. For instance, a smartphone running Android 2.3 will open up image files just fine, but will likely require a separate reader app for opening documents. This is limiting and a little sad, considering SkyDrive is part of Microsoft’s online version of the Office Suite.
In fact, SkyDrive is one of many apps Office has been broken into for mobile purposes. Another Microsoft app you’ll definitely want to download alongside SkyDrive is OneNote, primarily for syncing and inter-app access.
More auto-sync, please
Syncing is the true power behind any cloud service, ensuring your uploaded files are accessible from any device, anytime. But what I’d love to see from SkyDrive is more options around auto-syncing files saved on my device, such as my Android tablet’s photo gallery. Rivals like SugarSync offer great for auto-sync capabilities, adding another layer of security and peace of mind. In fact, SugarSync, Dropbox and others offer more file-management options with their mobile apps compared to SkyDrive’s Android app, including editing options.
On the upside, SkyDrive’s web and iPad versions are far superior to the new Android app, which hopefully means Microsoft will continue to add features to the Android version. The home page in particular could use some sprucing up, with more visual cues as to what items are saved in a folder, and more management options for moving and deleting files.