NOTE: This App Directory entry has been updated. Click here for the most recent version.
Although it would be fantastic if there were a better third-party option, Apple's Mail.app is really the best way to handle email on your iPhone. It it has most of the features users need without feeling overloaded, supports all types of accounts, and is easy to use.
Platform: iPhone Price: Built-in / Free
- Supports POP3, IMAP, MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo!, Microsoft Exchange and AOL accounts
- Supports associated LDAP servers for contacts and CalDAV servers for calendars
- Unified inbox
- Thread messages
- Ability to archive messages in Gmail
- View attachments within the app or send them to third-party apps
- Technically capable of printing emails through AirPrint, though AirPrint barely supports any printers
- Works in portrait and landscape mode
- Ability to search for messages locally and on the server
- Batch-organise and delete messages
Mail.app is simple and easy to setup and use. It has pretty good support for a variety of account types, supports push email for certain account types, handles threaded messages better than Apple's Mac OS X version of Mail.app, and is pretty fast and stabile. No, it's not groundbreaking or perfect. Yes, it would be great to see more competition on iOS. That said, it's still pretty solid.
Search is simplistic and often ineffective. Gmail support could be better. Push email should be available for all accounts, not just MobileMe and Microsoft Exchange. Text formatting, adjustment of reply/quote indentations, rearranging names in the address fields, adding and deleting mailboxes, and flagging/starring messages are all features coming in iOS 5, so we're not going to complain about their absence.
eMailGanizer is really the only true competition on the iPhone, offering a full-fledged IMAP client with some very compelling features. I wanted this to be the best email app on the iPhone, and for some it may be, but it's designed for a fairly specific purpose. If you use IMAP and like to organise your messages in lots and lots of folders, you're the person eMailGanizer was designed for. It keeps many more messages on your iPhone than Mail.app, and it also keeps data about those messages. It does this so it can quickly suggest which folder it thinks particular messages belong in. This way you can quickly file everything. While it's very good at organisation, it is lacking a bunch of features that Mail.app has, such as a unified inbox and support for POP3 accounts. Nonetheless, if eMailGanizer sounds interesting to you, you should check it out — it's free. You can pay $5.99 for the pro version, but from what I can tell it only removes ads.
iGmail is only for Gmail, but if that's your mail service of choice you might want to check it out. It's basically the Gmail web app combined with some iPhone interface elements and push notifications. It's not stellar, but it handles a few things the web app can't, and it won't cost you anything.
Pull to Refresh is not an email app at all, but a jailbreak hack that'll let you pull down on your email list in Mail.app to refresh it. You've likely seen this on plenty of Google and Twitter apps, and it's the sort of thing that belongs in Mail.app. If you jailbreak, you can have it.
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.