It’s a good time to say goodbye to the Apple Mail app, especially if you use a Google account. Mail.app, while a reliable client, doesn’t offer anything more than the traditional inbox experience.
In this day and age, where so much of your work, personal and travel life revolves around email, that’s just not enough.
The App Store is filled with intelligent email apps. These apps do some of the heavy lifting for you: special sections for newsletters, intelligent replies, previews for arriving packages, and automatic travel plan tracking. The one big intelligent feature that the Mail app doesn’t have a smart inbox.
Apps with smart inbox feature only show you the most important emails from contacts you care about and hide everything else. If you use email for everything and anything, this little feature is really helpful.
The apps listed below do all of that and much more. They’ll support your Google account and they’re all free to download.
Spark is currently the poster child for a rock solid intelligent email app. Between a customizable smart inbox, smart notifications, natural language search, Quick Replies and iCloud sync, it’s not difficult to see why: it’s available on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch; it behaves the same on all platforms; plus it’s free.
Spark starts you off with a smart inbox which contains sections for newsletters and notifications. Spark is all about the smarts. You can search email using natural language, and the Smart Notifications feature only notifies you about emails that it thinks you’ll care about.
Personalization is core to Spark. You can add and remove widgets like calendar, pins and more from the home screen. The four swipe gestures are customizable as well. It comes with a built-in calendar and the ability to pin messages. And as your settings and account sync between devices, you’ll have the same experience whether you’re using your iPhone or your Mac.
2. Google Inbox
If you have a Google account, Google Inbox is the email app you should be using (not the Gmail app). Google Inbox has a lot of tricks up its sleeve. Instead of a traditional reverse chronological feed of emails, you’ll find what Google calls bundles, which show up as and when they’re relevant.
You might see an upcoming calendar appointment at the top, emails with attachments, updates on purchased items or flight tickets you’ve booked. You can tap on a bundle like Updates to see all the emails in there.
Google’s Inbox app tries to help you every step of the way. When you tap the plus button, you’ll see three contacts you usually send emails to right there. When you get an email, you’ll find three smart replies at the bottom. They’re based on the email text and the app gets them right a surprising amount of time.
You can set reminders, pin important emails and browse through all bundles from the sidebar. And as this is Google we’re talking about, the Search function is smart as well. Even before you start typing, you’ll see a list of contacts and business. The search results show previews for links and attachments so you can jump directly to a Google Sheets document without even opening the email.
Weirdly enough, Mail by EasilyDo is the only app on the list that has a traditional “all email” Inbox view instead of a smart inbox. The app chooses to spread the smarts around within this familiar inbox view. So if you’re an avid Apple Mail user, you’ll feel right at home here. Plus, the app is blazing fast. Even searching through email based on contacts and text was fast — something not many apps get right (including Apple’s Mail).
Mail by EasilyDo feels like an amalgamation of every intelligent email app that came before it. The app’s main draw is its Assistant feature that automatically tracks travel plans, packages, bills and entertainment expenses.
But what’s more impressive about the awkwardly named app are the small delights: there’s an Undo Send feature, Touch ID support, and even the ability to block link trackers. The app has four swipe gestures and standard snooze features as well.
The Subscriptions tab lets you unsubscribe to any newsletter. The Packages section shows you real time tracking of your orders. The app does all of this in a visually pleasing manner.
Yes, Microsoft Outlook is one of the best email apps on iPhone. Microsoft acquired the email app Acompli, rebranded it as Outlook, and has since continued to make the app even better.
What makes Outlook so good is just how well it works with both Microsoft 365 and Google accounts. Outlook has four tabs at the bottom (which is unusual for an email app): Email, Calendar, Files, and People.
The Email tab defaults to “Focused” mode (Outlook’s version of smart inbox). The Calendar tab is reminiscent of the Sunrise app, which defaults to “Agenda” list view. The Files tab not only shows the latest attachments but also allows you to connect Dropbox, Box or OneDrive account to browse all your cloud folders inside the app. The People tab is just your regular contacts list.
If you want one central place to browse all your files, send them as attachments, manage your calendar, while getting the standard benefits of a smart inbox with smart notifications, Outlook is a beast.
Unibox takes a unique approach to email management. Instead of presenting an email inbox, you get a screen that looks more like a messaging app. Emails in Unibox are sorted by contacts. So you’ll see a simple list of contacts as the app’s home screen, with a visual cue telling you how many unread emails a contact has.
Tap on a contact and you’ll get an instant message-like interface where you’ll be able to see all the unread emails from the contact on one screen. Scroll through, and decide which email you want to reply to.
Other than that, Unibox is pretty light on features. If you’re the kind of person who prioritizes email based on people, Unibox will do the heavy lifting of sorting them for you. Open Unibox, deal with the email from your close friends, family or colleagues and get out of the app.
I wouldn’t recommend you use Unibox as your default email app as it’s missing a lot of smart features, but it makes a great second or third email app.
iOS email apps are a playground for experimental ideas and innovation, because everyone has a different way of dealing with their inbox. You’ll find the basic smart inbox everywhere now. Even the good old (still surprisingly web based) Gmail app has sections for Primary, Updates, and Promotions.
If features are what you crave, look into Newton or AirMail. Newton is a subscription-based ($50/year) email app which integrates a plethora of smart features like read receipts, email scheduling, undo send and app integrations. AirMail has a similar set of features and an extensive Actions library. The app costs $4.99.
What does your email workflow look like? How do you manage your email across all your devices? Share with us in the comments below.
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