For the last few months, I keep switching Email apps on my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and MacBook. I don’t know why, I just do. Partially it’s due to the fact that I live and breathe email, on the server and at work. It’s also because I just tinker, constantly. I don’t know if I ever really settle on anything on any device/computer.
Anyway, here’s my quick review:
Mail.App: Of course, it’s the default, and it’s actually rather good. Most of everything you would want it to do, but it lacks some true customization, and I don’t always agree with it’s layout and process. Note that on an iPhone and iPad, you must keep this application, even if you use others, because you can’t (yet) change the default if the system tries to email something out.
AirMail 3: This has been really good for me overall, but is a bit more clunky. It’s customization is out of this world, and it has a flawless iCloud account info sharing that makes moving between devices really easy. It’s biggest issue is that the interface is really a bit too utilitarian, not quite the ‘zing’ factor I expect in an iOS/MacOS app, I guess. Once again, I don’t always agree with it’s process/workflow decisions, but that’s because I just do things differently than most. Still, the customization and rules configuration are amazing. It can easily be the best choice for any power user. I think the learning curve to really ENJOY using it would be steep for a normal person, but if you love to nerd out over the details, this is far and away the app for you. It is available for Mac, iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. The Apple Watch configuration is pretty basic.
Spark: The new kid on the block, at least for MacOS. This one you either ‘get’ or you don’t. In my case, I get it. I love it’s workflow. The Smart Inbox, the way it filters and moves mail work almost perfectly for how I work. My philosophy on email is that if it’s in your inbox, it needs to be dealt with, period. I see people with thousands of emails in their inbox, and they have no idea what is where, or spend their time running searches. I keep it clean. If a message comes in and I don’t need or want to deal with it right away, I ‘snooze’ it. If it’s a point of reference, I move it into the appropriate folder. Spark allows for Quick Replies: preset responses to emails a click away, so that I can respond ‘done’ to something simple without having to think. It breaks email out between types of email, including ‘seen’ and ‘unseen’ so that I can track what I’m doing. My biggest complaint about Spark so far is that I don’t have any way to edit server settings once their input. Because I deal with a lot of server testing, etc. that can be very difficult for me. They do manage sharing settings between Mac, iPhone and iPad nicely with their iCloud integration, which helps a lot, since I am on it all the time, all over the place. One thing that Spark lacks that the other two manage well is rules. I happen to use Sieve rules on the server-side, so it doesn’t matter to me, but if you want client rules, you’ll have to look elsewhere for now.
Don’t ask me about Outlook, or some of the more ‘fringe’ collections of applications. The three above fit my most important requirement: that they all have Mac and iOS versions that share settings and configurations between devices. They keep the interface familiar, without getting weird with screen size limitations and such. Every one of them have their own great value.
Right now, my choice is very easily Spark. I used AirMail for months before the Mac version of Spark was released, and really liked it, but Spark easily is the most ‘fun’ email application I’ve ever used.
My point of reference for this information: I am a server developer, focused primarily on mail hosting with anti-virus and anti-spam solutions for Linux (Postfix) mail servers. I have at current count SIX email accounts that I actively use, two that are vital. I receive several hundred emails a day and process them as they arrive. An email ignored to me is a customer ignored, and that can’t happen.