Despite many efforts being made over the years to replace it, we have to admit that email still runs the world. Electronic mail, so far, has no equal. Yes, those messengers may be boasting of close to a billion active users month in month out each but are they what you use for all your communication needs? Yes, you can now use the likes of Telegram to sign up for certain services or just rely on Slack at your workplace or deploy Microsoft’s fresh new take on email, Send, but just how far can you go?
On Android, there’s quite a number of well-done email applications that one can choose from. In fact, if you are just the kind of user who never goes out of their way to try out new things then as soon as you set up your new Android smartphone or tablet, there is never any need to go navigating the Play Store looking for an email application. You already have all that you need in the form of Gmail, Google’s own mailing service and application, which comes preloaded on almost all Android devices or the stock Android mail app which is available on just about any Android device and is easy to set up.
However, it is always a good thing to have choices. The five applications below are some of the best choices you will come across today. They try to stick with up to date design ethos of the Android world, eeerm Material Design, while still managing to differentiate themselves and staying above the pack. If I was to put together such a list four or five years ago then things would be different. K9 Mail, an application that for long was the SI Unit email app for anyone dissatisfied with the stock email app on their Android device since Gmail had not yet been updated to include support for IMAP accounts and other mailing services like Outlook, AOL and Yahoo.
Today, K9 Mail is buggy and while still worth a look, isn’t as exciting an alternative as it was back then.
If this was over a year ago then Dropbox’s Mailbox app would probably have made the cut. However, the poster child of cloud storage services decided that it was done with the sideshows and was going to stick with its core products. As a result, Mailbox is on its deathbed and is shuttering mid next month alongside photo sharing app Carousel.
Microsoft Outlook on Android and iOS started its life as Accompli, an already popular email app on both platforms that was acquired by Microsoft in December 2014. Microsoft went ahead to rebrand the app into what we now know as Outlook and has continually updated it making it one of the best email applications (if not actually the best) on both platforms. On Android, I seem to prefer it. In fact, I prefer it over the good old ever-reliable Gmail application.
Maybe I fell in love with Outlook because I am a heavy Outlook user on the desktop. Thanks to that, I find myself very much at home “flagging” emails for action later on instead of Google’s “starring”. Even though in my opinion the Focused Inbox concept doesn’t beat Gmail’s Priority Inbox, I find it pretty neat and helps me get by when all these public relations firms in our space decide to flood my inbox with their nagging empty shell emails.
The integration with the now built-in calendar is fantastic. After using it, you’ll forgive Microsoft for taking away a fantastic calendar application, Sunrise, from the Play Store and baking it right into its email app.
There’s one feature that I love seeing on Outlook on my PC: email priority status. I want to see that red exclamation informing me that a certain communication was sent with high importance; never mind that it is an announcement by a telco that they donated some donkeys to a self-help group somewhere in rural Kenya.
2. Inbox by Google
Our mailboxes can be overwhelmed. Moreso if you are just from the holidays and had set a nice out of office message. You come back a week or two later and your inbox is overflowing with unread messages like weeds in a cauliflower garden.
Inbox is an email application from Google that seeks to reimagine the future of email. A future where emails will actually be items you look forward to instead of being things you frown upon. It organizes your mail into the important and not so important (high priority, low priority…) and makes it easy for you to decide what actions to take with just one tap. Just like you would when deciding whether to swipe right or left on that Tinder profile.
Inbox’s newest feature, Smart Reply, accounts for about 10% of all responses made from the app by users. Smart Reply, launched in November 2015, makes it easy for users to reply to emails on the fly without having to type something long. Users choose from up to three basic responses that are automatically suggested since Inbox has already scanned the message to find out the most favourable auto-response. All they do is pick one and bam! E-mail replied!
While Inbox recently got support for Google apps so you can use it with your work email alongside your Gmail, it is not meant for everyone. I particularly love my plain old email app like Gmail or others in this list. Anyway, that is me, Inbox may work for you. There is only one way to find out now that you don’t need an invite anymore: trying it out.
Minimalist, good-looking and very intuitive. AquaMail is what every other email application that tries to be your calendar, notebook, to-do list and business card scanner should look up to in its efforts to shed all that fat bloat. It gets the job done without much hullabaloo.
Its implementation of Smart Folders is the best you will find on any email app. You choose which emails to view and act on based on time: by the hour, by days, by weeks and so on. Just like Outlook, action buttons are at the bottom in a blue bar you cannot miss and a reply, a forward or a journey to the trash folder is only a click away.
If you find the way the Gmail app handles conversations/email strings annoying then AquaMail may be the savior you have been looking for. It shows a small square with the number of conversations highlighted and clicking on it opens up the entire string making it easy to jump into any particular string. If you use Hangouts a lot and Google then dumps the conversations in your inbox soon afterwards, this may be one of the best apps you can use to revisit them.
The best feature of them all is the use of gestures in the application. This is one of the least talked about features of the app but as you will soon find out for yourself if you give the app a spin, simply flicking your finger across the screen either upwards, downwards or sideways results in random handy selections. Go on, explore!
4. Blue Mail
Blue Mail is something you may want to consider if your notification is usually a beehive of activities. Android has still not yet figured out a way of keeping all the notifications in one tidy place (as is the case on BlackBerry and iOS) so if you receive lots of emails in a day expect your notification dropdown to be buzzing with activity all day long. Blue Mail has a nice way of letting you decide which notifications get delivered. You can ignore the personal email account that you signed up to Facebook with and let your work emails sync every other 15 minutes while your self-hosted email syncs per hour. This is nothing huge really since every half-decent mail client has such a feature but for something as subtle as this, you don’t have to go through many hoops to just get it set up.
Its settings section is also not your ordinary email app’s settings area. There are more controls to make you fully in-charge, something that is clearly missing in some of the apps on this list. Throw in the ability to add tasks and a lock screen passcode (if you are on Android Lollipop and later and haven’t turned off the detailed notifications on your lock screen for one reason or the other – maybe, like me, you like them) and you have a winner.
Just like every app on this list except Inbox, Blue Mail supports all the major email services.
5. Yahoo Mail
What immediately comes to mind when someone reminds you of Yahoo Mail? 2006 or before right? On my part, it reminds me that I growing old really fast. It is just the other day when we were all using our Yahoo Mail accounts to chat with strangers on Yahoo Messenger and sign up for Friendster and MySpace and sooner, Facebook. Many years later, Yahoo Mail sounds like stuff you’ll only come face to face with if you visited a museum and not as an app on your phone. We are all wrong.
Yahoo recently refreshed its email application making it not only good to look at (it was already visually appealing before the update though) but also opening it up to other platforms as well.
Google had scored a few extra points towards the end of 2014 by making its Gmail app a one-stop shop for all user needs when it came to email. Users could sign in not just to their Gmail and Google apps accounts but also to their old and forgotten Yahoo email accounts as well as accounts with other services or even self-hosted email. One year later, Yahoo struck back adding similar features and struggling for attention and relevance in a new age.
Yahoo Mail as a service may be something you no longer use and there is hardly any way I can convince you to go back in time and pick up from where you left. However, just like it is not awkward to use Microsoft Office apps on a Blackberry smartphone running Android Lollipop, it is just fine to setup your Gmail account on a Yahoo Mail app. You won’t regret it since the app delivers on what it sets out to do.
What email app do you use on your Android device?
Lead image source: The Next Web