As we outsource more and more of our productivity and work time to our mobile devices, it has become increasingly important to make sure that the apps we use on those devices have the most useful feature set, and perform with the greatest efficiency. The problem is, as the app store has grown, so have the multifarious apps available to fill your needs.
One of the most important app types in this category is the email app. Most of us are doing a hefty chunk of our email communication via our phones and tablets now, and it’s important for your business and for your sanity that your email experience remains as consistent and seamless as possible across all your devices.
To help you, we’ve tested a number of the most popular email apps and are here to report on our findings. All of the apps we tested were on iOS, but every app we will talk about in this article have Android equivalents, so if you prefer the robot to the fruit, you’ll still be covered. Stay tuned, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of which email app will be best for you!
Why Do I Need a Third Party App?
Because the built in app, at least on iOS, isn’t quite up to the task, that’s why! Sure, Apple’s Mail app has been updated recently to add a few of the features, like swipe gestures, that helped build a following for some of the third party apps we are going to talk about later, but it’s not completely up to snuff, lacking support for Gmail aliases, snooze capability and more. Let me define the criteria by which I whittled down the available candidates.
- Should be available on as many platforms as possible. An email app is no good if you must switch to an entirely new ecosystem with each new device.
- Should have swipe gestures. Gone are the days of opening an email and then clicking the archive button. If the app’s inbox didn’t have swipe gestures, then it wasn’t considered.
- Should be able to handle aliases. Many people prefer to have their multiple email addresses filtered through a single one (I use Gmail for this). Gmail’s web app handles this elegantly, responding with the appropriate address and signature for the alias the email was sent to. Your email app needs to be able to do the same thing.
- Should support as many email providers as possible, including exchange. There are many, many email providers out there. Your app should support as many as possible.
- Should be free. There are capable paid email apps out there, but given that there are free ones that do almost everything (and occasionally more) than the paid ones, most of the apps on this list are free.
Ok! With that out of the way, let’s start looking at the two apps that fit.
Mailbox, an email app by the folks who make Dropbox, does so many things right. One of the first apps to introduce swipe gestures that allow you to archive, delete, snooze or file your emails from the inbox with a single swipe, Mailbox is streamlined in almost every aspect of it’s functionality and presentation. Focused on getting you to “inbox zero”, a productivity ethos built on keeping your email inbox empty, it does things like show you the total number of threads in your inbox on the app icon by default, rather than the number of new emails. It also shows you a regularly updated, beautiful and relaxing photo as a reward, if you manage to get all those pesky emails out of your inbox. Mailbox also has a snooze function, which let’s you remove emails from the inbox, but schedule them to reappear at the top at a designated time, and a list function, which let’s you create to-do lists from your emails directly within the app. Mailbox is available for phone, tablet, and even has a beautiful Mac desktop app (in beta), so you can use Mailbox wherever you are, no matter the device. Also, in testing, Mailbox performed the quickest, almost never hanging or crashing.
Mailbox’s one fault is that, at the moment, it only supports Gmail and iCloud email accounts, but the developers are working on adding more services soon.
Surprise! Bet you never would have guessed that Apple’s operating system rival would have one of the best email clients for iOS. While it doesn’t have the beautiful, minimal aesthetic of the Mailbox app, Microsoft’s newly released Outlook app makes up for it in an outstanding feature set. It support all major email providers, so you should be covered no matter what service you use. However, Outlook’s standout feature is it’s inclusion of a fully featured calendar, as well as quick, in-app access to all the major cloud file-sharing services. Outlook also features a “Focused Inbox” which uses an algorithm to separate out important email from the chafe, allowing you to dial in on what you need to look at the most. Finally, Outlook’s unified search allows you to look for emails and contacts, and also allows you to view emails by contact, showing all emails related to them, as well as any meetings and files you may have related to that contact.
Outlook’s one fault is that it is so feature rich, it may be overkill for someone looking for a simpler email experience, or who has other preferred apps to deal with their calendar and contacts.
There are a couple of other apps that didn’t quite cut it, but that deserve a quick mention. Boxer is a great app, with much of the functionality of Mailbox and more, but they hide a number of the features behind a paid pro version. CloudMagic has a really interesting feature which allows you to integrate your email client with a bunch of other services like Todoist and Evernote, but doesn’t support aliases and also hides features behind a paid version.
Of course, these apps are constantly being developed and improved, so we’ll check back in after enough time has passed to see if anything has changed for the better/worse. In the meantime, if you want to make sure you are using the best tools for the job, subscribe to our newsletter and you’ll receive the latest tips and advice right in the inbox of your fantastic new email app!