As an aging boomer I remember email from back in the day as an easy way to connect with colleagues in the tech industry, academic friends, and a few family members. Just as the internet went from information superhighway to misinformation superhighway, email has transformed from useful utility to communicate, to a dreaded chore.
Everybody I know has email. Nobody I know likes using email except a few who don’t get much of it. The rest of us get too much. Too many cc messages. Too many replies. Too much spam. Everything about using email these days is too much discomfort; not enough worthwhile usability.
The state of email, even for Apple’s customers, is not good. The Mail.app on the Mac isn’t bad. It has more features than most email apps. Junk Mail is built in. But in an age where we are swimming in too much email, Mail’s user interface has grown cold, stale, thick, and inefficient.
There are alternatives to Mail.
First, a list of requirements. Spam. Sync email accounts from Mac to iPhone to iPad. Fewer features that are seldom used (stationery and templates). Less clutter in the toolbar comes to mind, too.
Second, a list of alternatives. Airmail, Spark, Polymail, Newton, Astro, and others come with features not found in Mail; some free, some with a hefty ongoing subscription price tag, but all are, well, just easier to use.
Airmail is the only alternative app that also works with SpamSieve on the Mac, and that’s the only way to really grab and sanitize email spam. Block spam on your Mac, and that blocks it on iPhone and iPad. Airmail also has the most features of the alternative crowd, but that presents a heftier learning curve and more bugs to contend with when new updates arrive.
Newton may have the easier and most focused inbox but it’s a monthly subscription plan. I’m trying to cut down on expenses and not add more.
Polymail is pretty good, too, especially if you use email in marketing. It’s a team oriented, contact-based app; free to try but with an ongoing expense.
Postbox promises to help you conquer the inbox but seems to have more features and complexity than Apple’s Mail. My objective is to get rid of spam and manage email messages faster and easier. PowerMail is similar but with even more features and heavy focus on search and message management. I’m happy if I don’t have to search.
One of the newest email apps is Astro, which works on Mac, iOS, Android— even Slack and Amazon Echo— and claims to be powered by artificial intelligence. The idea here is to do different than what Newton and Polymail do, not focus on contacts, but focus on getting things done via the Calendar; Apple, Google, or Microsoft. Not bad for free, but you know a shoe will drop soon.
That brings me to another shoe and a favorite. Spark. It’s free for Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Watch. Among all email apps for Apple’s devices, Spark is the easiest to set up, easiest to use, most comfortable, most efficient, and with the lowest learning curve. If you use Mail on your Mac to capture spam, Spark remains mostly spam free. Yet, it is smart enough to give you access to IMAP email account folders, and accounts sync seamlessly between Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Now, about that other shoe. Spark is free. For now. Something this good cannot stay free forever. Just make sure you’re using an IMAP email account and you store files and messages on the server instead of your device (goodbye, POP email) and switching between devices and other email apps is much easier.