A first look at Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync on the iOS

HotmailEarlier today, reports are coming in that users are getting Hotmail’s Exchange ActiveSync working again. I went in and tried it on my iPod touch, and to my surprise it actually worked perfectly – it synced all my mails, contacts, and calendars from Windows Live! Here’s a couple of screenshots of Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync working on my iOS:

Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Settings Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Mailboxes Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Inbox

As you can see, your inbox, sent items, deleted items, drafts, junk folder, as well as all of the folders you created can be synced over. In fact, I’ve found the synchronisation to be very instant, having received new e-mails on my iOS and the desktop at the same time. Even the read/unread marks are getting synchronised across instantaneously. Of course, I’m testing this over Wi-Fi, so your experience may vary depending on your data connection.

Contrary to what I’ve read in the comments, it seems like all of your calendars on Windows Live Calendar can be synced – this includes the calendars you own, the calendars you subscribed to, the calendars shared with you, and the calendars that are part of Windows Live Groups. This actually sounds better than Windows Phone 7’s implementation, which limits syncing to your main calendar only. Here’s a few screenshots of my Windows Live calendars on the iOS:

Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Calendars Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Day view

In addition to mail and calendar sync, all of my Windows Live Contacts are being synced across too – this of course includes all of my Facebook contacts (de-duplicated too!) since I’ve connected the Facebook service to my Windows Live account. One slight problem though – if you’ve “liked” any pages or groups on Facebook, those are considered as contacts too, so you might see a contact named “Avatar” on your contact list. Do take caution that if you’re trying to sync your Windows Live contacts to your iPhone, it might pollute your existing phonebook, so this might be a good chance to clean up your Windows Live contact list if you haven’t done so.

Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync - Contacts

Based on the comments we’ve seen, we speculate that only those users who had attempted first to get Hotmail Exchange ActiveSync back in June would get it working this time around (it pays to read LiveSide! Winking smile). Those who hadn’t will receive an e-mail instead, similar to below:

Hello <Your Name Here>,

To get Hotmail on-the-go, you recently tried to set up a service called ActiveSync from your mobile device.

We are really glad that you’re interested, but we had so many sign-ups that we had to temporarily stop accepting new ones.

We’re making constant improvements and we should be accepting new requests fairly soon. Please check the following website in about two weeks to see what’s happening: http://www.hotmail.com.

Thanks again for using Hotmail–we’re really sorry about this delay.

Sincerely,
The Hotmail Team

So it seems like the Exchange ActiveSync rollout may begin as early as two week’s time from now. Do you have it working yet? If so, which devices do you have it working on? Let us know by leaving a comment below!