K-9 Mail – The Best Alternative Email Management Solution For Your Android [1.5+]

Saikat Basu 12-06-2012

best android email appThere’s the default Gmail client for Android of course, for handling all my Gmail inboxes. But I have a Yahoo account too, plus a few more for my newsletters and other stuff that I don’t need that often. I thought my Android needed another email client that could help me manage all my email accounts.


The great thing about Android is that there usually are alternatives to be found that address the shortcomings of one program. Google Play gave me the rather un-mail like name of K-9 Mail. It sounded more like a German U-Boat than a full-featured Android email client.

But from first impressions, it seems that it’s just as capable of torpedoing any deficiencies in my mobile email management.

K-9 Mail Is Open Source…But Feature Rich

K-9 Mail is completely community developed and is hosted at Github. The mail client is based on Gmail’s original email client for Android but it comes in with a whole lot of other features. K-9 supports IMAP, POP3 and Exchange 2003/2007 (with WebDAV).

It is not very glamorous to look at but I hope it’s not looks you are after. K-9 Mail gives you two themes – Light and Dark. You can change the font size, and that’s about it for the front-on display.

Here’s how the first screen will look after you have configured your accounts. From the settings, you can also set it so that you directly land in the unified inbox:


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You can set up a mish-mash of email accounts on K-9, but handling all those incoming torrents of email starts with notifications. K-9 allows thoughtfully allows you to set notification alerts for each account. For instance, you can give each account a different ringtone, vibration pattern, and notification LED color. You can give each account a different color too.

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That’s a bit on the cosmetics. Let’s look into some key features.


K-9 Mail and It’s Key Features

Organizing your email

K-9 has a unified inbox apart from separate one’s for your accounts. The Unified Inbox pulls in all the emails from all your accounts and by default displays them from the latest to the oldest. In K-9, you can apply various sorting functions to all your inboxes. For instance, you can sort them so that the unread emails are at the top, or the ones with attachments:

android email client

K-9 also gives you a search feature from its landing screen. It will search all your folders for the keyword of your choice. K-9 can retrieve the email provided it has loaded (synced) all the mails you have in your account.

K-9 has good email organizing features…for instance you can move emails from one folder to another, copy it to another folder, archive it as usual, or mark it as spam.


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Clicking on Folder List brings up your original folders as configured for your account. For Gmail, it includes Labels too. You can also share an email but it wasn’t working for me, so perhaps that was a bug there.

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Viewing your email

This is a screenshot from a full message window as displayed on K-9 Mail. Personally, I found it neater than the Gmail Android app.


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You can star it if it’s important enough. Mark it spam if that’s what it is. You can click through hyperlinks and select text. The share function works from the full view. The option to view the full headers of an email is available from the menu of a particular email.

Composing your email

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Replying is as smooth. To make it smoother, you need to have all your contacts and their email IDs synced with the Android’s phone book of course. And, there is the Read Receipt option, just the thing for all your business emails.

The Little Extras You Will Notice

The best features of K-9 are all beneath the surface. To explore them all, you will have to go into the Folder Settings, Account Settings, and Global Settings. There are a universe of options to configure that can give you fine-tuned control over your inboxes. It would destroy the conciseness of this article, so I will limit myself to points:

  • You can configure IMAP server settings.
  • Pull and Push folders can be separately managed.
  • You can set message and folder size sync limits to conserve phone space.
  • Apart from default identities and signatures, you can also manage identities with alternate ‘From’ ID and signature.
  • K-9 Mail also supports OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy) protocols if you need to encrypt and sign your emails.
  • You can set a Quiet Time when all notifications will be disabled automatically.

    best android email app

  • You can choose between rich emails and plain text emails.

Before Signing Off…

K-9 Mail comes close to being a complete email client package for Android. The emails loaded pretty fast and the email management features made for an easy user experience. Threaded conversations are absent, but you can use the More from this sender option to lineup emails from a specific sender in one queue. There are still lots to write about, but I will let you draw some of your own conclusions and tells us about them in the comments. Do you find K-9 Mail to be the best email alternative to Gmail for Android?

Related topics: Desktop Email Client, Email Tips.

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  1. Jack
    October 11, 2017 at 5:14 am

  2. folky
    June 1, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    I've been using K9 nearly as long as I've been using Andoid-devices. Only problem I still have is: How on earth can I set plain text-only for reading mails?

    • Saikat Basu
      June 2, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      I have stopped using K-9 for a long time now, but from what I gather, this is THE requested featurefrom the user community.

  3. Kevin Bowley
    January 11, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Wow, I have been trying to find a good email app that A;) See's all the v-cards in my contacts folder (about400). B;) handles large quantities of emails and properly groups them by day then group. C:) Can deal with 30+ folders and manages them simply. I am very glad I found your article as K9 does nearly as well as Outlook 2013 on a PC (with over 50k emails in a single PST and has three PST's that size). So far so good...I was very surprised to find that Outlook for Android is horrid. I think this one can deal with my three IMAP accounts I setup on my Motorola X that stay synced with my laptop without issue. Thanks!

    Kevin Bowley
    Owner, Kevins Small Engine and Tractor Service, 03908


  4. rinus
    February 2, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    installed the k9 mail. but it does nog recognize email adresses from my contact. running Android 4.2.2

  5. Sudip Bhattacharyya
    October 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks a lot.
    Just replaced stock Gmail app with K-9 with my SGS II with ICS.
    Great app and great lesson.
    Thank you again.

  6. Jbrown
    September 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Does anyone know if K-9 email will allow you to choose which email account to reply from? In other words, lets say that I get an email to my Personal Gmail account, but I want to reply to that SAME email from my corporate account. Can that be done? If not, is there another email client for Android that allows that?

    • Saikat Basu
      September 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

      You can set up multiple accounts. But when replying to a specific mail, you have to reply from the same account, you can't choose one on the fly.

      • StoweAway
        September 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

        I just discovered K9 because the native ICS email client only displays in black backgound w/white type (ick) and love it. I believe though that you can set a default that will allow you to reply to all your emails from one email address but that's an all or nothing if I understand correctly.

  7. eddy chan
    September 6, 2012 at 5:04 am

    heard about K-9 mail, haven't try it out yet. But I tried the MailDroid. It is very nice too with feature set very close to what it is described here about K-9. Thanks for the review.

    • Saikat Basu
      September 6, 2012 at 6:06 am

      Are you using the Pro or the free version? Isn't the free version a bit limited?

      • eddy chan
        September 6, 2012 at 6:10 am

        I'm using the free version, still find it quite good. Going to download K-9 and see which is better. Tkx

  8. Norm
    September 5, 2012 at 12:21 am

    My standard e-mail on my LG was less than impressive and over the weekend I lost entirely one of my accounts. Verizon suggested K-9, initially it did not work and after a second attempt it did. NOTICEABLY faster, prettier, like it a lot. Thanks for your shared knowledge.

    • Saikat Basu
      September 5, 2012 at 2:44 am

      By Verizon, you must mean their customer support? Great, I didn't know they suggested Android apps too? Thanks for the feedback with your own user-experience.

  9. joe
    August 19, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Hello. New Samsung Epic 4G phone and I have email issues that I need to overcome.
    The supplied client does not have the one feature(among others) I just about have to have and that is the ability to set up a reply-to address that is not the email address I receive mail at.
    This helps me receive email at a specified address but when I reply to it I need to have it supply the address used on my desktop where I do most of my sending from.
    I searched throughout K9 but cannot find this feature.
    Native Android App does not do this on the Samsung but dd on my former HTC Evo 4g.
    I do use the K9 package and it seems to be a very good app--would be marvelous if my n
    Can someone advise if there is a way to do this?

  10. Claudio Cruz
    June 21, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I've tried androind clients and this is the best for me, though I could my exchange account fully set.

  11. Morris Allen
    June 21, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Since this is an Open Source app, could someone please allow us to make folders and set rules so that specific e-mail can be moved into the folders that the rules direct the e-mail to. It is a little like Outlook, I know. But I have to be able to have these abilities. This would prevent my e-mail from being deleted, which they are now.

    I am a Level II Engineer and have swapped over from Iphone to Samsung Galaxy Note. This addition would be a great help to me and I will be glad to assist you in alpha or beta testing this out for you. Feel free to contact me at my e-mail address. I think many users would be glad to pay for a e-mail program that does POP3 and doesn't sync to the exchange server..

    Thanks for your time and a possible help with your e-mail program.
    morris allen

  12. Tina Smith
    June 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I have been looking for an app that would do a better job with multiple accounts. Gotta try this out and see what happens

    • Saikat Basu
      June 20, 2012 at 6:46 am

      Do let us know your impressions. Mine were pretty good about the way it seamlessly handled multiple accounts.

  13. KruseLudsMobile
    June 14, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Use Kaiten Mail instead. That is the successor to K-9 mail from the same developer and is the paid, better version of the same thing.

    • Saikat Basu
      June 17, 2012 at 9:06 am

      Seems to be very well reviewed. But unfortunately, it is not free which K-9 is. Thanks for the recommendation though.

  14. Rhys Davies
    June 14, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Great app really enjoying using it

  15. Craig Lilford
    June 14, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Try maildroid free its seems to have a few more features than K9. Cheers

  16. Tanguy Djokovic
    June 12, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I've been using it on my asus tablet and I really like it a lot, it's a really nice mail client for android devices !!!

    • Saikat Basu
      June 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      Thanks for the thumbs up. It's always great to get a feedback from some one who has been using it for long (and of course, likes it).