I recently wrote an article about smartphone addiction and how it can be detrimental if it’s interfering with your everyday life. One of the biggest contributing factors to smartphone addiction is the ability to receive notifications and check messages at a whim. This is especially true for emails, which fly into your inbox all throughout the day.
Assuming you aren’t addicted to your smartphone or you don’t care if you are, you may want to find the best Android email apps to manage your emails and control all of the hectic activity it brings. You could use the default Email app, but there are so many better options out there and they’re all free, so why not? If you check email on the go, you should really consider these apps.
Note: I do not include the default email app in this comparison because everyone can check that out on their own, plus different phones often come bundled with different versions of the default email app. If you want to try it out, just give it a whirl.
The Gmail app is the official Android app for interfacing with Gmail, which isn’t much of a surprise since the app is developed by Google themselves. A lot of Google’s design philosophy revolves around the idea of minimalism and whitespace, and the Gmail app brings a lot of that to the table. It’s very clean, easy to navigate, and pleasant to look at.
The feature set isn’t all too impressive, which also isn’t a surprise. After all, Google isn’t known for putting a lot of flashy features in their products. However, the app does have push notifications, multiple account management, searching through emails, composition, labels, and attachments, so it’s not as barebones as I’m making it out to be.
The actual interface for viewing an email chain is quite good. The app tracks conversations just like web-based Gmail does, and with a simple menu drop, you can navigate between messages within a conversation extremely easily. I love it and use it on a daily basis.
Yahoo! Mail used to be one of the leading free email services way back in the day, but that quickly fell by the wayside when Gmail proved to be the superior force. Nowadays, Yahoo! Mail is still alive and they’ve gone through a few revamps over the years, and I guess people are still using their Yahoo! accounts because they do keep their Android app updated.
Having given the app a test run, I was first struck by the difficulty I had in using it. Now, to be fair, the app wasn’t ugly or aesthetically abhorrent. In fact, I found the gray-and-purple scheme to be quite nice and calming. The theme is modern and clean and I would totally use it if it weren’t for the poorly designed layout.
Yahoo! Mail gets it right by having only a few buttons with recognizable icons, but they’re placed in weird spots that aren’t very intuitive. For example, I thought the “back arrow” button would return me to the previous screen but it replied instead. A “down arrow” in the top bar should’ve brought a new menu down, but it navigated to the next email. Small things like that made the experience a little hard to learn.
Now, email apps don’t have very high learning curves in general, so keep in mind that Yahoo! Mail isn’t difficult to use at all. But compared to other email apps, it’s enough of an inconvenience to lose a few points. Plus, I couldn’t find a way to browse a whole email conversation chain in one go.
Aqua Mail is the first app on this list to support multiple email services, including the main three: Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail. However, if you use your own email server, you can still use Aqua Mail since it supports any service using IMAP, POP3, and SMTP. If you use many different email accounts and want to sync them under one app, Aqua Mail does the job.
Account creation is very simple (I managed to do it in under 2 minutes) and the “Smart Inbox” feature is great. Basically, it aggregates all of your unread inbox messages into a single inbox so you can browse through them quickly and painlessly at your leisure. Other great features include widgets and lots of settings customization.
The downside to Aqua Mail is that the free version, while unlimited in length, limits you to 2 accounts and adds a promotional signature to all outbound emails. And on a more preferential note, the aesthetics aren’t the best. If you want to upgrade to Pro version, it’ll cost you $4.95 USD.
Like Aqua Mail, K-9 Mail is another multi-service email app that can track multiple accounts. On first glance, it looks too primitive to be useful, but after using it for a while, you can really begin to appreciate the way in which it approaches email. Account setup was really easy (it automatically detected my Gmail settings) and I got it up and running almost instantly.
The interface is designed to maximize the amount of information you can see on the screen without leaving you confused and lacking options. There are a TON of customizable settings and you can alert the way messages are displayed. Even though the inbox shows each email individually (not grouping them into conversations), you can easily go from one email to the next in the conversation with one button.
Perhaps the coolest aspect about K-9 Mail is that it’s a community-developed project. There’s a group of people dedicated to improving the app and they’re open to bug reports and feature suggestions, so if you’re into that sort of community feel, you could fit right in. For a more in-depth review, check out Saikat’s K-9 Mail article.
If you’re looking for an aesthetically minimal Android email app, I don’t know if it gets any more minimal than MailDroid. It utilizes a lot of whitespace – so much so that some may be tempted to think of it as unfinished or boring. Underneath that simplicity, however, there’s a good amount of power in features and performance.
MailDroid is a multi-service app that can handle multiple email accounts. Unfortunately, as much as I searched, I couldn’t find a way to unify the accounts under one unified inbox. On the other hand, it does support combining multiple emails into conversations, which makes it a lot easier to read through big chains.
It’s definitely a powerful app: you can do a lot in terms of signature control, full WYSIWYG editor, split screen support for tablets, and you can also create Quick Responses, which allow you to set up a number of template responses in case you make the same replies over and over again.
Again, don’t be turned off by the lack of pretty eye candy. This is a beast of an app and it’s only getting better over time. The only downside is that the free version is ad-supported and the Pro version costs a whopping $17.99 USD. A bit too heavy for my wallet, but I’m sure some people find it useful enough that the price is justified.
There you have it: five of the best email apps available on Google Play today. What are you looking for? Aesthetics? Features? Reliability? Speed? Each of these apps has their ups and downs and hopefully you now know just a little more of what you can expect from these apps. Ultimately, before you make a decision, you’ll need to try them out and see if they fit your needs.
Know of any other free email apps that deserve a mention? Feel free to share them in the comments. It never hurts to have more variety in the mix.
Image Credit: Smartphone Email Via Shutterstock