Since Apple started allowing third party clients for email management on the App Store we’ve seen a flood of arrivals. Early on Sparrow took the world by storm, but since then there’s been a few more notable clients which in some ways out perform everyone’s favorite client. And that’s forgetting Google and Yahoo! both released iOS apps for their email services too. Sadly, I had to narrow the list down to a handful, and decided that these 5 represented the best variety in options out there.
1. Triage – $1.99/£1.49
Triage is possibly one of the coolest email clients around. Instead of your usual list of emails and threads, it gives you stack of “cards”. You sort through them quickly and simply by either flicking them up and off the screen to “archive” or downwards to “keep” them in your inbox. It’s compatible with multiple email services including Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud and others. If you’re inbox regularly gets spammed by promotional emails, there isn’t an app anywhere near as efficient as Triage at sorting through them. Reply to emails using the reply arrow on the top right of the top “card”. Or, read the email in full by simply selecting it.
One thing I will say, Triage isn’t as much a full email client as it is an email organizing tool. Once you’ve thrown your emails to “keep” or “archive” it displays a “no more messages” logo which is strangely satisfying, but gives you no method of viewing any of the messages that have been sorted. Personally, I found it worked well when I was out and about and just wanted to make sure I had the emails I need to pay attention to in my inbox when I got home to my computer. In fact, it did make email management a heck of a lot easier. If I could sum it up in one sentence, it’s an email app for people who hate email.
- Multiple IMAP email provider account support
- Very quick and easy organization
- Simple, attractive design
- Intuitive controls
- No push email
- No unified inbox
- No access to “sorted” email
- No iPad support
At time of testing, I was using version 1.0.1. It’s available in the App Store for $1.99/£1.49.
2. Mail Pilot – $14.99/£10.49
Let’s get the most obvious thing out the way first: The price. It’s huge. Having launched as an alternative and in-depth email management app on KickStarter a little while back, it took its time finally getting to the App Store, but when it got here, it sure looked good.
It’s a universal app, compatible with any iDevice running iOS 6.1 later, and it can do a lot. Not only does it enable you to respond to and manage email the way you’re used to, it also lets you create reminders and task lists based on your wants and needs. Couple that with intuitive gestures and beautiful design and you have an email app that’s incredibly hard to ignore.
In terms of compatibility, it’ll work with any IMAP email including Exchange accounts, and will auto-detect server settings even for custom accounts. I think one of the most comforting things about Mail Pilot is that you get the sense that the developers aren’t resting on the job and are constantly seeking to improve the service in any way they can.
The one thing I’m never convinced on is the idea of turning your email in to a to-do list, which many of these apps tend to do. Many a time, my conversations are just that: communication. But at the same time, I get flooded with PR requests for app reviews, and tons of spam mail. I’ve never been more organized than when I used Mail Pilot, and it’s now my default iPad email client. And if it wasn’t for the initial outlay of $15, I’d recommend it to everyone. Sadly, I feel it could put many people off, which is a shame.
- Multiple IMAP account support
- Beautiful UI
- Intuitive Controls
- Fully-fledged email app
- Unified Inbox
- Universal app for iPhone and iPad
- It costs how much?!
- No push email (yet)
I was using version 1.1 at time of testing. It’s available on the App Store now for $14.99/£10.49
3. Mailbox – Free
Mailbox, where to start. With the crazy virtual long lines that everyone had to wait in to get access to the app? Or that it got snapped up by Dropbox very quickly after launch? Clearly the cloud storage company saw a lot of potential in the popular email client, and I can see why. It’s fantastic. With simple sliding gestures to the right or left you can archive, delete, set reminders or add to lists (preset and custom). And, it’s the only one on this list that has push email, making it infinitely more instant.
It’s not without its downsides though. Currently, it only supports Googlemail accounts and is only available for iPhone and iPod touch. Those two right there are the only things stopping me from using it as my daily email driver across all accounts. The user interface is really minimal, it’s easy to understand and mastering it only takes a few minutes. If – unlike me – you only have Google email accounts, I’d find it hard to not recommend it.
- Push notifications!
- Simple to use
- Beautiful UI
- Only compatible with Gmail accounts
- No iPad support
At time of review I was using version 1.2.1, and Mailbox have promised to bring iPad support as well as update it to be compatible with other email providers. Once it brings those two, It’ll be almost perfect. Download it for free from the App Store (Requires iOS 6.0 or later).
4. Evomail for iPad – $2.99/£1.99
If you can’t justify spending $15 on Mail Pilot, the next best thing for iPad is Evomail, but it does have its limitations. Firstly, it’s only compatible with Gmail accounts and secondly, it’s lacking a lot of the organizational features within Mail Pilot.
It’s impossible to look at the app and not be impressed by its design, at least from an aesthetic standpoint. But, when it comes to intuitive gestures and controls, it’s lacking a little. You really have to pay attention to the tutorial to get what everything does, and what happens to your email when you press certain icons. Personally, after using Mail Pilot, Mailbox and Triage, in comparison, Evomail felt cumbersome and over-complicated in terms of organization. However, getting to various labels and replying to email is achieved by sliding left or right with your finger. It was the one part that did feel intuitive.
However, if you have a Gmail account, and you only care about having a good-looking email client, Evomail is the one for you. But be warned: it’s not the most care-free and simple experience, and it’s a little counter-intuitive.
- Beautiful Design
- Quick access to reply, delete and archive
- Push Notifications
- Counter Intuitive
- Only supports Gmail
- Not available for iPhone
I tested version 1.0.1 which is available to download now from the App Store.
Incredimail – Free
I have to be honest, Incredimail almost didn’t make it on to this list. Mostly because it really doesn’t suit the way that I do email. But, I came to my senses, gave it a whirl and realized that actually, for a lot of people it is the perfect email client. Instead of the traditional listed inbox view, it scatters your emails across your screen in organized rectangles of various sizes. It’s almost like the Flipboard of email clients. It’s an attractive view, and the ability to preview each email that comes in without committing to opening it is a convenient feature. Sorting email is easy too, as you can easily mark multiple emails to archive or delete.
Perhaps the feature that’ll capture the imagination of all creative types is the ability to choose custom backgrounds for your messages, making your email a lot more personal and colorful. While that doesn’t particularly float my boat, I can definitely see its attraction. It also allows use of most popular IMAP email providers including iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo!, Aol and many more. What’s particularly satisfying about it is being able two swipe through pages of emails in a casual “at my leisure” fashion. It has push notifications too, which I find better to switch off in this instance. If an email client wants to encourage a more casual and leisurely checking of messages, it shouldn’t need notifications to tell me when something needs my attention.
- Casual, magazine layout
- Customizable backgrounds
- Multiple provider support
- Push Notifications
- Easy to use
- Completely Free
- If the incoming email doesn’t have images, it’s a waste of space
- No Hotmail or POP3 support
- No iPhone version
I was testing version 1.2.0 and have to say there’s little not to like. It’s free, so you’ve got nothing to lose save a few minutes of your time. Download it from the App Store.
In all honesty, for my own personal use and convenience I’d love to have the same client on iPhone and iPad, mostly so that lists and labels don’t get over complicated and cluttered. But currently, I don’t see that as being possible with the available email clients that we have. On my iPhone – so that email organization and filtering is quick, instant and easy – I need an app that has push notifications and intuitive gesture control, which leaves me with Mailbox. But, it doesn’t have an iPad optimized version, leaving me needing to use something else. My own personal preference here is Mail Pilot. It’s the most feature rich, and best designed email app on the App Store. Ignoring how much it costs, it’s easily the best email client out there for the Apple tablet. Although its iPhone app looks great, its lack of push notifications and the fact that it’s not as easy to delete email as Mailbox means I don’t use it on my iPhone 5. I have a feeling that as soon as Mailbox updates to support more email providers and the iPad, I’ll never need to use anything else ever again. Unless Mail Pilot updates to included my needed features that is. Making deleting email a gesture-based slide off the screen would just about do it for me.