How to send (but not receive) email on your iPhone, and why doing it doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person

As a Distraction-Free iPhone devotee, I don’t have email on my phone.

(To be specific, I don’t have any email accounts set up on my iPhone, and I have the Mail app stashed away in a folder called “Junk Drawer.” This sounds insane, but it’s actually awesome. Curious? Read more about it.)

When I started Distraction-Free iPhone, I was immediately taken with the lack of incoming email; the absence of sounds, buzzes, and badges; the quieting of that nagging voice that used to speak to me: “hey, you might have an email.”

But I did miss the ability to send email. Before you ask, no, I am not a sadistic lunatic who enjoys filling other people’s inboxes while blissfully ignoring mine. I actually have two good reasons for sending email from my phone:

  • Emailing myself. I think a lot, and I forget a lot. I like using email to remind my future self of my present self’s ideas. I’m sure there’s a slick todo-list app that lets me capture my ideas and process them later. But I like to keep it simple.
  • Sharing photos and docs with other people. AirDrop, iMessage, Dropbox, and Cluster are all great for this, but it’s hard to beat the works-everywhere reliability of just sending an email with some files attached.

What’s a would-be-email-sender to do? I needed a solution. After all, the point of Distraction-Free iPhone is to keep the awesome stuff (like sending email) while removing the distracting stuff (like receiving email).

I looked in the App Store and didn’t find a send-only email app. I asked on Twitter, and after weathering some ridicule, concluded that a send-only email solution doesn’t exist. So I turned to my friend Taylor Hughes for advice and came up with a workaround.

Here’s how to set up your iPhone to send, but not receive, email:

  1. Create an email account to be used for outgoing email only. You can set it up anywhere, but using one of the popular webmail services makes it easy to add to your iPhone. I use Google Apps on my personal domain (zeratsky.com), so I just created a new account there.
  2. Establish your “don’t email me here” protocol: auto-responder, Gmail filter-to-archive, etc. After all, if you’re sending email from this account, it’s only a matter of time until someone hits reply and writes back. (I’ve accidentally replied to my own messages in this way. It’s like I don’t even know myself.)
  3. Add the new account to your iPhone. Just enter the account details in your iPhone’s Settings app. By using iOS’s built-in email support, you can still send email from apps like Photos.
  4. BONUS STEP: Install Compose, a send-only app that uses your account from step 3. It’s awesomely simple. (Didn’t I just say there was no send-only email solution in the App Store? I did. And it was true back when I was trying to figure this out. But in late 2014, Taylor’s co-worker Riz built and launched Compose.)

As Cap Watkins pointed out during my Twitter razzing, send-only email is a powerful capability. Use it responsibly.