In just eight years, Gmail went from being nothing, to being the most-used email service in the entire world. As of 2012, it had over 425 million active users, and as of 2014, it became the first Google Play Store app to smash through the one-billion-installations record.
In other words, everyone knows about Gmail. But what about all of the other free email services out there? Gmail might be the most popular and the most well-known, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. Plus, you can’t keep using it, if you want to abandon Google.
So what else is out there? I’m glad you asked.
Outlook.com (formerly known as Hotmail) was one of the first independent email services to be offered for free and without discrimination. In fact, until it was dethroned by Gmail in 2012, it was the most popular email service in the world.
The service has gone through numerous rebrandings over the years, and its current iteration is one of the best in terms of appearance and user-friendliness. It looks and feels very similar to the other web apps in Office Online, so if you use them, you’ll feel at home here.
It has a lot of advanced features, unlimited storage, integrates with OneDrive, and can handle custom domain names. If you decide to switch permanently, it’s easy enough to forward all your emails. Outlook.com is ad-supported, but Ad-Free Outlook.com is available for $20 per year.
For those who don’t know, Yandex is a Russian company that’s involved in all kinds of Internet ventures, including Web search, where it currently ranks as the largest search engine in Russia. Other services include Yandex Browser, Yandex Launcher, and Yandex Disk for cloud storage.
As far as reliability is concerned, you don’t have much to worry about with Yandex.Mail, which currently processes over 12 million non-spam emails every day. You’ll start with a 10 GB capacity, but as soon as you dip below 200 MB, you get a 1 GB boost. That’s effectively unlimited.
The interface is pretty nice, too. Not only is it clean and intuitive, but it has most of the features you’d need for an easy time: labels, categories, reminders, message templates, and configurable hotkeys. Definitely worth a try.
3. Zoho Mail
The Zoho Corporation is best known for its Zoho Office Suite, which is actually a pretty good free alternative to Microsoft Office, but its free email service isn’t all that shabby either. And best of all, it’s really free — no advertisements!
Zoho Mail is aimed at professionals. It’s packed full of useful features like multi-level folders, complex rules and filters, tabbed and threaded views, advanced search, message templates, and an interface that seems designed for power users. All in all, it’s very solid.
After signing up for Zoho Mail, you’ll get 5 GB for email storage and a separate 5 GB for document storage, which you can access using the Zoho Online Office Apps. If you need more space, you’ll have to shell out for a premium subscription.
4. Yahoo! Mail
Yahoo! Mail was one of the big three email services back in the day, and while it’s still in use by a lot of people, it has certainly fallen by the wayside in recent years. Interestingly enough, its current interface design is as close as you’ll get to Gmail’s classic interface.
Personally, I really like Yahoo! Mail. It’s simple and straightforward, but not so minimal that it feels outdated or lacking. Its feature set is admittedly a bit basic, but for a Web-based email service, it’s not bad at all.
And with a 1 TB storage capacity, Yahoo! Mail is basically offering unlimited storage. Attachments are limited to 25 MB in size, which means that even the wildest email user would have trouble filling up that much space in one lifetime.
If security and privacy are the things you care about most in an email service, then ProtonMail is the one for you. Created by a CERN researcher and his research team of Harvard and MIT students, ProtonMail is the most private email service that you can get for free.
ProtonMail is protected by Swiss privacy laws and a two-password form of inbox encryption. Emails are also encrypted before being stored and no metadata is kept (not even your IP address). You can even send self-destructing messages if you’re so inclined.
Free users get 500 MB of storage and 1,000 messages per month. Unfortunately, ProtonMail has been so popular that they can’t keep up with demand. You can join the waiting list and they’ll send you an invite as their server capacity allows. (Yep, they’re working on getting more servers, too.)
6. GMX Mail
GMX Mail has been around since 1997, yet surprisingly few people have ever heard of it. It’s been popular enough that it was able to acquire Mail.com and its users back in 2010, bringing it up to 11 million active users in 2015. As far as perseverence goes, GMX Mail deserves a lot of credit.
With GMX Mail, you’ll get unlimited email storage, 50 MB attachment file size limit, 2 GB of file storage, and up to 2 levels of nested folders. However, if you’re in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland, you’ll be redirected to GMX.net, which offers 1 GB email storage, 20 MB attachment file size limit, 1 GB of file storage, and 3 levels of nested folders.
Indeed, GMX Mail comes with cloud file storage, which is pretty awesome. The Web client also has a contacts manager and a calendar organizer, both of which are actually quite useful.
7. AOL Mail
I bet you didn’t know that AOL (formerly known as America Online) is still alive and kicking. In fact, it currently maintains a lot of products, including an RSS reader that’s quite good, as well as a free email service that’s sometimes wrongly referred to as AIM Mail.
AOL Mail offers unlimited email storage with a 25 MB limit on attachment file sizes. It’s also fully integrated with AOL Instant Messenger, if you still use that, and you can completely unsend emails that are sent to other AOL inboxes.
Other than the basic features you’d expect from a free email provider, AOL Mail doesn’t provide much more. The interface is a bit unpolished and it’s supported by ads. Overall, it’s neither great nor terrible. It is what it is.
Which Email Service(s) Do You Use?
At the end of the day, Gmail is perfectly fine, unless you have a specific complaint about one of its features, don’t trust it to value your privacy, or want to avoid using Google as much as you can. In that case, you’ll want to give these a try.
Personally, I’ve been using Gmail since it debuted and it has never caused me any issues. However, that doesn’t mean Gmail is the best, so I urge you to try out alternatives whenever you can. You never know if you’ll find an alternative that you absolutely love.
Do you use Gmail? Why or why not? If you don’t, which free email service would you recommend in its place? Are there any I missed? Let us know in the comments below!