Microsoft is using dark patterns to pressure users into using the Outlook mobile apps

The Outlook app for iOS and Android are extremely popular, with more than 100 million users, and this is largely based on the merit of the apps, which are quite well rated.

It seems for Microsoft this is not enough, however, with the company seemingly determined that every user also be an Outlook app user on their phone, even though most mobile operating systems work better with their native email apps and include setting up email in their Out of Box Experience.

Microsoft is pressuring users into switching to the Outlook Mobile apps when they set up their email account for the first time on a device. This is when they send then this message below, which extolls the virtues of the Outlook app (which is fair enough, though I think most people are not massive fans of focussed inbox), but then also holds their email to ransom for several hours if they decide to stay with the native app.

The screenshot was provided by Ben Newcombe who called the move “crazy”.

Cashy’s blog, who covered the issue, notes that Google also offers limited functionality to 3rd party clients (e.g. no push email) and also sent a promotional email when you set it up, but then Google has not had multiple run-ins with regulators over dark patterns in the past.

While I am sure Microsoft hopes to monetize the Outlook app in the future and would prefer all users were using their vertical experience, the fact is that email has always been an open experience, and forcing users into a single vendor solution is not within the spirit of the service.

Hopefully, like the ads in the Outlook app on the desktop, Microsoft comes to their senses before this tarnishes their reputation again.