There is no such thing as a good email app, technically speaking. Even the best one in the world is still, well, an email app, and that means it delivers you the endless stream of notifications, newsletters, spam mailings, deals, sales, invitations, requests, and obligations that take up your time and sap away productivity.
Of course, you still need an email app — but if you’re going to have to deal with email, it had better be fast. Whether on iOS or Android, a good email app has to make loading emails, refreshing your inbox, replying, archiving, deleting, unsubscribing, and more as quick and as seamless as possible.
Unfortunately, it’s also a rough time in the email app world — email apps are disappearing seemingly by the day, with apps like Newton, Astro, and even Google’s own Inbox all closing down in the past few weeks or the near future. Simply put, it’s hard to make a good email app, and even harder to keep a good email app going.
But it’s not all bad, and there are still some great options out there that will help you get your email done and get you back to doing things you’d prefer with lightning speed.
The best email app for iOS: Outlook
Ironic as it may seem, the best email app for the iPhone is Microsoft’s Outlook. Boasting a clean design without too many frills, Outlook will help you get through your emails as fast as possible and get back to living life.
All the key features of modern email are here: swiping gestures to let you easily archive, delete, or snooze emails out of your inbox. A filtered “Focused” inbox that automatically tries to sort the important email you actually want to read from the endless spam that likely shows up. Support for iOS’s notification actions that let you reply, mark as read, delete, or archive emails as they come in. And it works with almost any email service, including iCloud, Yahoo, Gmail, Exchange, IMAP, and Outlook (of course).
Outlook also has a few quality of life features that just make it nicer to use for casual email, an ever-present response bar at the bottom (without needing to tap to open a new menu) that makes jotting off a quick response a snap. The deeply integrated calendar is also a nice touch, especially when it comes to adding things to your schedule that you just got an email about without having to juggle around between apps.
There are a few quibbles — search in particular on Outlook isn’t the fastest around, especially compared to Google’s Gmail app, and if you’re looking for more advanced options like muting specific threads, they’re not here.
But there’s one other big advantage to Outlook over other apps like Spark or Edison. And that’s the fact that it’s Outlook, a name that’s practically synonymous with “email app.” In a world where third-party apps get snapped up or vanish like smoke at the drop of a hat, and even Google’s Inbox can’t be trusted to stick around, Outlook offers a level of security that other apps don’t.
For power users: Spark
Spark isn’t quite as polished-looking or as easy to use as Outlook, but if you’re an email power user, it offers a lot that Outlook doesn’t — provided you’re willing to dig through the menus and lists to get to it.
The app itself is fast, fluid, and loads emails quickly. Like all the best modern email apps, there are customizable swipe gestures (Spark lets you add separate actions for both long and short swipes). There’s further choice in a pop-up widget wheel, a side menu, and what options the toolbar in the email viewer offer. And it checks all the major email provider boxes — Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo, iCloud, and Outlook.
Spark also has the single best notification options for any email app on iOS, period. There’s support for choosing what kind of preview you get when an email comes in, whether notifications are grouped by thread, and what quick actions you can take (although delete and archive are the obvious choices). There’s also a smart notification option that automatically mutes strangers and automated emails.
And that’s not even getting into Spark’s optional Smart Inbox, which works a lot like Google’s soon-to-be-defunct Inbox, sorting emails by category and trying to highlight which ones are the most important. (It’s easily togglable with an omnipresent switch on the top right.)
It’s a lot to take in, but if you need the extra brawn or don’t mind the less than elegant presentation, Spark’s a great choice, too.
The best email app for Android: Gmail
Google hasn’t really updated the Gmail app on Android (or iOS) for a long time — the base app still looks a whole lot like the one that Google shipped years ago in 2015. In fact, it’s actually gotten a little worse in some ways, like the addition of ads (ugh).
But if you’re an Android user, you likely have already recognized the kind of home-field advantage that Google has on its own platform, and Gmail is no exception. No other email app offers the same power, feature set, and speed as Gmail offers. And don’t let the Gmail branding fool you — Gmail also supports Outlook, Yahoo, Exchange, and manually configured IMAP accounts, too.
Gmail has smart filtering options, smart replies, an automatically flagged priority inbox — sure, there are email apps that replicate some or all of these features, but they’re all copying off Google’s playbook, and it all still works best here. Google Calendar or Google Docs support? Gmail supports those best, too.
Gmail also supports all the things that Google is doing with notifications, too, like notification channels, icon badges, pop-up previews.
Plus, if you’re on Android, Gmail is literally the default option. It comes installed on nearly every Android phone in the world, and it’ll always be the first to support any new features or integrations that Android offers in the weeks or years to come. And like Outlook, email itself would have to cease to exist before Google stops supporting the main Gmail app.
At the end of the day, it may not be the nicest-looking option around, but it’s hard to beat Google at its own game here.
For a better design: Outlook
Much like iOS, Outlook on Android is also an excellent option. It’s fast, it’s easy to set up and use, and doesn’t bog you down with too many options.
Most of what’s great about the iOS version is still great here: the app looks great (especially compared to Gmail’s somewhat creaky design), it’s fast, and makes getting through your email quick and easy. And the three tabs on the bottom devoted to inbox, search, and calendar are just as useful here, making it easy to flip between an older email you’ve just dug up, your next meeting, and incoming mail.
Compared to Gmail, there’s just less here, though — which is good if all you need is a simple email app, but more serious email users will probably want to stick with Gmail.
Ultimately, though, email apps come down to preference, and there’s constantly new options popping up. And the best part is that most of them are free, meaning it won’t cost you anything to download a new one and try it out for yourself to see if its for you.
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