A few months back, Microsoft announced the new and improved version of their Phone Client would be available with the Spring 2015 release. However, with releasing any app to the various app stores, they’re not released immediately.
However, recently the app did show up in the Apple app store and we were able to get our hands on it to take a look and compare it to the previous version. The previous version is still available in the app store, and has been rebranded “Dynamics CRM for phones express.” A couple years ago we blogged about it’s release and the functionality it provided back then. I linked to that post so you could compare and contrast the look and feel of the previous express version, to the new and improved version.
The new version, branded “Dynamics CRM for phones”, is now available in the Apple store, Windows store, and Android store. You can tell the difference in the apps based on the icon and name.
Microsoft is moving to a “configure once, deploy everywhere model.” What does that mean? That means the life of a configurator is going to be that much better. More specifically, the form customizations you make in the CRM web client, will now not only be what you see on the CRM Tablet client (as they have been since it’s release), but will also be what you see on the new CRM Phone client. Therefore instead of having to update the main forms AND the mobile express forms, you’ll just need to update the main form for any changes you make to be applied across the board.
Now to the details. What does the new Phone Client look like? Well if you’ve used the Tablet Client before, it’ll look very similar to that.
When you initially log in (requiring only your IFD URL to your organization, user id and password), you’ll see your home page. This home page is the Sales Dashboard. However, in the Web Client, you can create additional dashboards that can be selected when you’re on the home page on the Phone Client, and you can also make that dashboard your default dashboard.
As you can see, from here you’re able to view records that you’ve pinned to your home page. You can also resize tiles that are on your home page and this makes it super convenient for records with contact information like the Patrick Sands sample contact record above. You can easily email and call this contact now directly from your home page without having to click into his record.
You can also see at the top of the page the global menu bar which has the following commands from left to right:
- Back – takes you to previous pages
- Home – takes you to your home page
- Search – initiates a multi-entity search
- Site Map – displays the entities you can navigate to
Also on all pages at the bottom right is an ellipses. Clicking on this presents more options for the area you’re working in, as well as allows you to create a new record from anywhere you’re at within the application.
When you navigate to an entity from the site map, you can create a new record of that entity type by clicking the plus button at the top of the page.
When on a record, you can view the data about the record and related data very easily. The Phone Client now uses the same exact forms that the Tablet Client and Web Client use (configure once, deploy everywhere). If you’re going in to talk to a customer, you can navigate to their account and view any open cases or opportunities immediately from the Phone Client. You can click into an Opportunity to then see the process based form, and where you’re at within the sales process.
The phone app also allows you to easily create emails and make phone calls by clicking on email address and phone number fields. The email fields will automatically open your native email client, and the phone fields will automatically initiate your phone client. The good thing is after you hang up the call, you’re returned to CRM with a new phone form initiated so you can just punch in the details and click save.
The integration between the Phone Client and the native mobile phone doesn’t end there. Any address field on the application is clickable, and when doing so, you’ll open up the native map application.
The Phone Client also has a disconnected mode just like the Tablet Client. While the offline mode is better that previous versions, this is still lacking in that it’s not showing you all records that you have access to, but instead, recently accessed records. You can create new records while offline (called offline drafts), but unfortunately you cannot modify records while offline unless it was one that you just created while offline. You can view your offline draft records by navigating to them via the Site Map (you’ll see a new “Draft Records” entry with a count of drafts). Then when you’re back online, you can go into this list of drafts, and re-save them for them to save to the CRM database. Not ideal, but is much better than nothing, and I’m really looking forward to what Microsoft has in store for vNext.
It’s great to see Microsoft continue this “mobile first’ mode and add more products to it’s repertoire. Enhancing the Mobile Express app and making a true mobile phone app now rounds out their suite of products (web, tablet, phone) to all be first class. Next steps are to add more features to these apps so that functionality that’s available on the web, is also available on these apps (e.g., custom web resources). I’m also looking forward to seeing how they further improve on their offline story, and hopeful they provide a true offline solution where users can work with existing records while offline, and not only new records they create while offline.
However, as you can see, the application is pretty robust as it stands. And the best part is the cost: FREE! Go ahead and download your copy now and start playing around.