While Android's Gmail client is pretty sweet, its regular IMAP client leaves a little bit to be desired. For its flexibility and configurability, we recommend K-9 Mail to manage all your non-Gmail accounts on Android.
Platform: Android Price: Free Download Page
- Supports IMAP, POP3, and Exchange 2003/2007 (with WebDAV)
- Unified Inbox
- Ability to archive, star and mark messages as spam
- Supports IMAP IDLE, so all IMAP messages get pushed to your phone
- Ability to assign folders on your account to the archive, sent, spam, drafts and trash features
- Set sync limits to save your phone's battery and space
- Tweak the user interface by changing account colours and removing buttons
- Batch manage messages with a swipe
Like many of our App Directory picks, K-9 wins out in sheer number of configuration settings. Lots of clients can give you your mail, but few let you organise them in the way K-9 lets you. You can tweak which folders match up with which functions (like archive or spam), tweak how much of a folder K-9 downloads to your device, and even what colour the LED light flashes when you get a notification. Managing email is one of those things that we all have a specific way of doing, and K-9 lets you do it your way rather than forcing you to make do with the features it has. For that reason, it's our favourite IMAP client on the Android platform.
K-9 is a pretty solid app, but is still missing a few features we'd love to see. For example, you can't search for messages on the server, only messages K-9 has actually downloaded to your device, which is a big pain — this is a pretty big feature that should be a staple of any IMAP client. In addition, it doesn't seem to have a "conversation" view, nor will it even clump threaded messages together in the inbox, which is something we've come to expect from our mail clients over the years.
The other problem I have with K-9, and this is a more minor gripe, is that it's a big confusing at first. K-9 has an incomplete user manual on Github, but it isn't the best. Certain things just aren't self-explanatory. For example, when you first start it up, some messages are greyed out, with no explanation as to why (apparently they're messages that are only partially downloaded). Similarly, you have to swipe a message to "check" it for batch message management. Most apps would just have a checkbox. This cleans up the interface nicely, but it's just something that takes you a few minutes to figure out.
While K-9 is the best around, there are still a few other good options on Android. MailDroid is a popular pick, and it's a bit easier to use than K-9, but doesn't have nearly the amount of options that K-9 does (and the pro version is unnecessarily expensive at almost $US20). You also have the default Email client on Android, which isn't exactly powerful, but is enough to suit many people's needs. Overall, though, few of the mail clients come even close to K-9, so we'd highly recommend checking it out.
A note: Obviously, if you're using Gmail, the native Gmail client is an alternative. In fact, we'd probably still recommend it over K-9 for Gmail addresses, since it just works so well. Dubbing K-9 the "best" email client really applies to non-Gmail accounts. While it works great with Gmail accounts, the Gmail app is probably better, and K-9 only really needs to be used if you have non-Gmail accounts you want to deal with.
Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we're focusing on email clients.