Email — thoughts on the 7 email programs currently installed on my iPhone

Today, the Verge posted a review of AOL’s new “surprisingly good” email client: Alto. I considered downloading it as I looked at my folder of email clients on my iPhone. Yes, I have a folder and it contains 7 email clients. They are:

Feature Prioritization

Here is what I care about in email in order of importance:

  1. Obvious basics — read, send, archive, delete, simple formatting
  2. Snooze — I’m dedicated to Inbox Zero
  3. iPhone, iPad and Mac clients — I use all three and want a consistent experience
  4. The iPad client must have External Keyboard functionality
  5. Unified inbox for multiple accounts
  6. Some ability to manage non-personal email. I don’t want all of my mail to be dumped into my inbox. I also don’t want to create rules to move every subscription to a label or folder.
  7. Speed — I want to burn through my email quickly.
  8. Design — Pretty is a plus
  9. Send Later — when you need it, it’s great
  10. Email tracking — nice to have
  11. Intelligence features (package tracking, etc) — These can be cool. I’ve gotten used to forwarding emails to Kayak for my trip tracking and don’t order enough things to need continual package tracking. As these feature mature, I can see them become more important to me.

Rating

How do these Email clients and features align? Obviously, this is subjective.

Apple Mail — It looks nice. Having to long press the Archive button to delete slows it down. It renders threads great. It composes nicely. It has some nice features like marking up an image. It’s the only email app that Apple allows to refresh in the background which gives it an unfair bump and ensures it will stay on my device. It has its advantages but the lack of Snooze kills me. Also, why can’t I configure it to swipe left to delete?

Gmail — I keep it installed for its ability to search only. Other email clients have gotten pretty good at search but if I can’t find something, I fall back to Gmail. Issues: snooze, unified inbox, swipe only gives one action

Inbox — I’ve wanted to like this for years. I like the concept of bundling emails and not showing them to me until a certain time. I like the smart snooze that will snooze tickets until the day of the show. I hate that Google refuses to add external keyboard functionality to any of their iPad apps. Also, they still don’t have a unified inbox.

Airmail — It’s great in so many ways and awful in others. Keyboard shortcuts consistently match Gmail across their apps. They have snooze but the snooze menu is painfully slow on IOS. They have email Tracking and Send Later but their compose windows are painfully bad. Focusing on the Mac client, bullets and numbers are terrible because they break the basic bullet functionality used in Word Processors for 20 years. Let’s say you have a row of text that you want bulleted. In Airmail, I will go up to the bullet menu which is just a dot. When it drops down, I’ll select the middle dot (not the first identical dot) and instead of my text being bulleted, I’ll have a new row bulleted row. Take a look at this blog post, I have a deep appreciation for bullet functionality. Here’s an illustration:

Easily Do Mail — I really enjoyed it when it came out. I liked that packages would be tracked automatically and it was a beautiful, fast app. They didn’t have external iPad keyboard functionality but I thought I’d be able to work around that by using Airmail on iPad. Then my snoozed emails stopped waking up. I’d snooze an email and 3 days later, I’d realize it was still sitting in the Snooze folder. I emailed support and was told it was a known issue. I’ve never heard anything more from them and haven’t seen it fixed yet.

Spark — With the release of their Mac client, this has become my new primary email client. Their Mac client has Gmail’s keyboard shortcuts as an option but their iPad client doesn’t. That slows me down a little but I expect it’ll be fixed soon enough. Really, that’s my one complaint. Besides that it is a beautiful and fast email client. What shines for me is the grouping of Newsletters and Notifications in the inbox. Which of those groupings your email is filed into doesn’t matter. They are just there to group them in a big broad category. Google Inbox would leave me questioning whether something was a Forum or a Social when I tried to organize things. Spark tries to put emails into either of its groups and when it fails it is easy to make the change for the future grouping. Both of those groupings only show you a few of the total rolled up with the option to expand if desired.

Unroll Me — Unrollme is a service that asks for access to Gmail and then takes your subscriptions and moves them into a folder. Once a day they send you a digest of your mail that is quick to scan and slow to open the individual emails. They give you tools to easily Unsubscribe, Keep in Inbox or Roll Up future emails. I used Unrollme for almost a year. Privacy concerns have continued to bother me throughout that time but I just didn’t want all the email going to my inbox. Spark has provided a sufficient ability to group things together that I’ve been able to turn off Unrollme. It isn’t entirely accurate to include it in this list because it isn’t an email client in the compose/reply sense but it does help organize your email.

Conclusion

With all of this said, maybe it’s time to delete Easily Do, Inbox and Unrollme from my phone as they seem to have the least use to me. That brings me down to 4 email clients. I’m not sure if I’m willing to go to 3 but there will always be at least 2 and for that, I blame Apple for not making a better email client.

I started talking about AOL’s Alto and no, I won’t be downloading it. I think I’m good.


Originally published at www.nicholaskinloch.net on December 15, 2016.

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