One of the most frequently used applications on any iPhone is email. Whether you rely on email for business or personal, it’s a vital application and one that you will likely interact with countless times throughout a typical day. With iOS 7, Apple’s stock mail app underwent some major interface changes, but functionality has largely remained the same. Sure we swipe left, instead of right to delete mail, but there has been little in the way of innovative changes to make users more productive. After the iOS 7 calendar debacle, perhaps that’s not such a bad idea. While Apple’s stock mail app has remained somewhat stagnant from a features standpoint, there are a number of developers that are rethinking how we should manage our inbox. So while the default Mail app ‘just works‘, these apps are pushing the envelope. So whether you’re frustrated with the iOS 7 mail app or looking for new ways to wrangle your inbox, we’ve compiled a list of the best email apps for iPhone.
Editor’s note: The following apps were tested using Gmail and iCloud. While some of the apps included do support Exchange, IMAP accounts, they were not tested during these reviews.
Mailbox created quite a buzz when Orchestra launched the app to long virtual lines that required folks wait to gain access. The delays associated with the reservation system are long gone, but Mailbox remains a strong email app. Orchestra has since been acquired by Dropbox, providing an added benefit of experience scaling services, a requirement for an app that has gained a great deal of popularity amongst iOS users.
You’ll need a Gmail or Google Apps account in order to use Mailbox, however the company is working on adding support for new services. Mailbox was created for mobile and the iPhone in particular. Mailbox can check your email from the cloud, resulting in fast transmission of new messages and notifications. Mailbox was noticeably faster delivering new mail than any of the apps tested.
Inbox zero. The goal we all strive to meet and Mailbox provides the necessary tools to make that a reality. When a message arrives in your inbox, the stock mail app allows you to Archive, effectively storing it away in folder in Gmail. If you swipe right in Mailbox, the very same action occurs. If you increase the length of your swipe, for example edge to edge, it will delete your message.
Mailbox excels by providing so many more options. While Mail puts off decision making for another day, Mailbox allows for a series of actions. A partial swipe will reveal a yellow bar that on release pops up into options for when you want to revisit an email. Mailbox creates a series of folders which it will use to store you messages. This helps to keep your inbox manageable and will return the message based on your preference. Either select from the provided options, pick a date or select the vague ‘Someday’. At any point, you can select the clock tab at the top to view your messages.
Using the same swiping motion, but going further in the swipe, brings up a ‘To-Do’ action. Mailbox has presets for To Buy, To Read, To Watch or you can create your own.
Tapping on the menu icon provides for a simple categorization of your inbox management. The app moves fast and uses color to help with visual recognition of an inbox category.
All this is done using a minimalistic user interface that’s a pleasure to use. It gets out of the way, so you can focus on managing your inbox. Font size is slightly smaller than the stock app, which could be troublesome for some. It does provide you with an expanded view, so you can see more email previews. Despite Gmail being the only option, Mailbox does not support labels, which might be a deal breaker for some.
Tip: If you scroll to the bottom of your inbox, Mailbox provides you with an option to ‘batch swipe’. Sure it’s cheating, but it’s a quick way to declutter your inbox allowing for quick archival of your messages.
Mailbox is a fast and intuitive app that will have you swiping your way to inbox zero in no time.
Mailbox (free) is available for download in the App Store.
Boxer offers support for Gmail, Outlook, Exchange, Yahoo, iCloud, AOL and IMAP. If you have multiple accounts, you can view them separately or use the unified inbox. Like Mailbox, Boxer makes heavy use of a variety of swipes to create actions. A swipe left will archive a message. Go further and it deletes. Swipe right reveals an ‘Action’ menu, a group of boxes that allows for insane levels of inbox management.
As someone who is consistently doing battle with an ever growing inbox, I’ve started to rely heavily on labels in Google. Among the actions are labels, which will bring up a list for easy categorization. Selecting a label, moves it out of the inbox and neatly organized, something not fathomable in the mail app.
Boxer is also part task manager. Select ‘To-Do’ and you can set due dates, add priority and add an assignee.
A unique feature of Boxer is the ‘like’ option. It generates an email back to the sender/recipients with a short message that you like it. On the topic of short messages, Boxer includes an incredibly useful Quick reply feature, also part of the action set. There is a rather generous selection of quick replies you can utilize or create your new ones using the templates in settings. For those looking for even more robust tools, Boxer provides support for the SaneBox, a paid service that providers for smart filtering, attachment organization and a one-click unsubscribe among other features.
I mentioned earlier how Boxer provides either individual or unified inboxes. A ‘dashboard’ view provides a quick overview of your inboxes, to do list and emails that have been assigned. This is a high-level look at your inbox.
The settings section of the app provides a wealth of customization options. You can customize most every aspect of how this app interacts with your swipes, initial launch screens and more. Boxer excels on so many levels at providing a robust email management solution.
Boxer ($0.99) is available for download in the App Store.
Triage offers support for Gmail, Yahoo!, iCloud, Outlook and IMAP. While most apps provide you with email in list format, this email app takes an entirely differect tact. It stacks your inbox, forcing you to make a decision on emails, either swiping up to archive or down to keep. This app feels less like a comprehensive email management solution, but for some, that’s exactly the appeal. The simplicity, forcing an A/B choice due to the lack of list of emails, requires action to move to the next message. It felt like playing Tetris with my inbox, with each swipe moving closer to a goal of inbox zero.
The app supports multiple inboxes, but does not provide a unified inbox, although switching between accounts is easy enough. Personally, I’m too tied to the conventional email inbox, that I could not see this as my primary go-to email. Despite my personal preference, this app certainly executes well upon its goal of allowing users to use their downtime to ‘quickly remove the noise and stress.’
Triage is a unique, simple approach to email management that can make cleaning your inbox fun, easy and stress-free.
Triage ($1.99) is available for download in the App Store.
What feels like a nice remix of of the stock app (provided you like the color red), myMail feels at home in iOS 7 and brings with it a few new tricks you won’t find in the stock app. It supports all of the major email services. A unified inbox is not on the list of features, but there’s plenty to like about this email solution that goes beyond it’s gorgeous user interface.
Your inbox can be customized to your preference. Unlike some apps we’ve reviewed, myMail allows you to turn the sender avatar on or off. I receive a lot of email from people I don’t know, which can result in ‘generic’ avatars that can be visually overwhelming. I appreciated the level of customization.
There is a one-way swipe action in myMail that brings up a series of options. You can favorite email, an option that’s supported in both iCloud and Gmail. The thumbs down provides for a quick ‘spam’ action that will send all messages from a particular sender to the trash. A ‘move’ feature is akin to labeling in Gmail and you can quickly scroll through labels and sort your mail.
One drawback to some of the newer email clients that use swipe actions is the inability to select multiple emails. This app provides both which is a boon to those who enjoy batch processing.
myMail (free) is available for download in the App Store.
Molto transforms your email into a more visual experience, with contact avatars culled from your contacts or Facebook friends (provided you allow access). The result is a distinct and beautiful interface. Thanks to inline photos, processing email can at times be faster. For example, I receive notifications when a camera sees someone arrive at my home. With Molto, I can quickly see if it’s a delivery person or a squirrel who has inadvertently triggered the camera. Having photos inline within your inbox makes it feel a bit like a Facebook news feed and for some, that’s a nifty feature.
By utilizing ‘Smart Filtering’, this email app helps categorize your email. You can still view all or select ‘Social’ and see what email notifications you’ve received from your favorite social networks.
Archiving email is simple enough, with a simple swipe right. To generate actions, tapping on the avatar of the sender allows for a quick reply, star, mark as read or archive. While Molto supports labels, access is only available when you open the message.
There is an interesting All Stars feature, that generates a list of personalized contacts. This feature did not work as I expected. Although it needs more work, the concept is smart. You can view a list of recent emails and generate quick emails to those contacts. I’d hope that in future versions, Molto will allow customization of All Stars.
Molto supports most major email services, also providing limited support for POP and Hotmail. It’s a nice mix of unique features, beautiful UI elements and the resulting visual experience is top notch.
Molto (free) is available for download in the App Store.
For plenty of folks, the stock email app works perfectly fine and they have no reason to switch. If you find yourself inundated with email or looking for an alternative to the stock mail app, there are a wealth of great alternative email apps for iOS. The action based systems some of the above employ help users file and organize email. That alone should help you reach the coveted goal of inbox zero, a task you’d find more difficult using the default mail app.
Since the first iPhone, I’ve used the stock app for email. It’s been solid, but not spectacular. Having surveyed the field of available third party email apps, I’m once again reminded of how the iOS ecosystem is rich with alternative options for most any app category. If you are looking for a fresh take on your inbox, this list of the best email apps for iPhone is a great place to start.