Despite some useful updates to Apple’s stock Mail client in iOS 6, that app has lagged somewhat since we picked it as our App Directory selection back in June last year. From the moment Sparrow hit the iPhone, we’ve loved it more than any other mail client on iOS. Even though feature updates have ceased following its acquisition by Google and development will eventually wind down, Sparrow deserves its due and is our top pick among iOS email clients.
- Swipe to access just about anything, from settings to power features to your other inboxes.
- Navigate through email threads (conversations) by pulling up and down on the current message, or tap the thread view button to get an overview of everything.
- Unified inbox shows all your email accounts in one place.
- Quick, comprehensive search.
- Mark everything as read.
- Integrates with social media and your address book to add pictures of your contacts to each message.
- Integrates fully with Gmail, making it the best way to use Gmail on your iPhone.
Sparrow’s most amazing feature is its user interface. The app is just a pleasure to interact with. It provides so many options for accessing Gmail’s myriad features of Gmail that it’s amazing the designers managed to fit them all while maintaining a pleasant aesthetic. You swipe across a message in your message list to reveal special features. You swipe behind your email to access your settings. Sparrow essentially walks you through the message composition process so you can concentrate on writing an email rather than figuring out where and how to enter all the necessary information. It’s just a pleasure to use, and it provides Gmail features lacking in most other email clients on iOS.
Sparrow doesn’t offer push notifications. They can be enabled with a jailbreak hack, but since Google has purchased Sparrow there will be no updates bringing them officially. Sparrow also only supports Gmail on the iPhone, so if you use any other service you’re out of luck. Normally we wouldn’t highlight an email app that only supports one provider, but because Gmail is so ubiquitous and Sparrow is so much better than every other option on the iPhone, it’s hard to say it’s anything but the best.
Mail (Free), Apple’s built-in option, was our previous top pick and is still the best option for most non-Gmail users. The new features in iOS 6 (including the VIP list, the ability to archive or delete messages and paste in pictures and video) improve the app significantly. While it’s still not as good as Sparrow, it integrates with iOS better than anything else because only Apple can do that. It’s also fairly feature-rich now and works with almost any email account you can throw at it.
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, eMailGanizer will work well for you. 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 lacks many of the 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 $5.49 for the pro version, but from what I can tell it only removes ads.
iGmail ($0.99) 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 webapp combined with some iPhone interface elements and push notifications. It’s not stellar, but it handles a few things the webapp can’t and won’t cost you anything. It’s tough to justify a download when you can just use Sparrow, however.
Lifehacker’s App Directory is a directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.