Email. The bane of business communications. Despite the advent of tools like Slack and Trello, it’s still the killer app of the digital world. Microsoft’s Outlook has held sway for decades. But over the last couple of years, some contenders have popped up in the Apple ecosystem. Old stalwarts like Postobx are still around. Mailbox was bought by Dropbox and sacrificed on the digital altar not long after.
Here I take a look at what are the new and newish contenders for email apps.
Airmail 3
Born out of some smart brains in Italy, Airmail 3 is available on the App Store. It works in iOS for iPhone and iPad. The integration across Apple devices is slick and fast. Their website here.
The Upsides
The US design is quite nice, but the squiggly icons are a bit comical. The incoming email sound of an airport announcement is fun…but hey, I’m one of those odd types that likes airports. Airmail 3 is loaded with features and  is highly customizable. It handles Gmail keyboard shortcuts and Gmail set-up is wonderfully simple. You can snooze emails until later, archive them and set up folders quickly and easily. Airmail 3 has great integrations with other apps like Evernote and Fantastical, Dropbox, OneDrive and more.
Downsides
If you use Office365, it can be a bit awkward, but that’s Microsoft being cranky, not the app makers. This is a power users email app, so it takes a bit to get used to and customize to your liking. Like other email apps, there’s no calendar function nor contact management built in like Outlook.
Summary
If you’re a heavy duty email user and you use email like a ninja, this apps for you. It costs $10.99 in the US and $13.99 in Canada. You also have to pay for the iOS version (I’m not impressed with that.) Outside of Outlook it’s tops. Needs some work on the UX with the silly cartoon icons in my view and with a Dark Mode would be great at night. Tech support is quite good and friendly.
Airmail App
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Polymail
This app just went live July 21 on the App Store. I’ve been using the beta for a few months on iOS and macOS. Like Airmail 3, seamless and fast integration across devices. Right now it’s free. I’m sure they’ll charge for it and that’s okay. Their website here.
Upsides
Polymail design is what Airmail would look like with better design. I personally prefer the design of Polymail, it’s cleaner. Another nice little feature is “contact profiles” which brings in contact information, including public LinkedIn profiles. It’s slick and you can hide it when you want to. The “Contact Profiles” also gives you the email strings associated with that contact on the lefthand side and this is a very powerful feature. I find the placement of the icons to be used for productivity helpful and well placed. You can schedule when you want to send emails….so you can go to bed at 9PM and send them at 2AM so it looks like you’re a night owl. You can also automatically unsubscribe from email lists. Sweet.
Downsides
It’s not as customizable as Airmail 3, but pretty close. No DarkMode. No calendar either. No integrations to apps like Evernote or Fantastical, Dropbox, OneDrive etc., which Airmail does exceptionally well. The new emails column can be a bit hard to read.
Summary
Polymail is a very nice email app. I’ve actually moved away from Airmail to Polymail and NylasN1 for the most part. The Airmail cartoonish icons just annoy me too much, but that’s personal design taste. For a first-build fresh off the DevOps cutting floor, this is a very nice email app and the Contact Profiles is very useful if you’re a business user like me. I deal with clients all over the world and Polymail is somehow, good for multiple timezones.
Polymail
NylasN1
This is an Open Source email app for macOS. They call it “extensible” and it’s a nice app. It’s an email app that isn’t for the feint of heart. While it’s not buggy, it will likely appeal to hardcore coders and geeks for now. Supports Exchange, iCloud, Gmail and Outlook. Their website here.
Upsides
It has an awesome Dark Mode (image below.) That is very nice at night on the eyes. Seamless Gmail implementation but not Exchange. They have what they call Enriched Contacts, similar to Polymail’s Contact Profiles, but not as good in my view. Customization is good and somewhere between Polymail and Airmail 3. You can get “read reciepts” like Polymail (not available on Airmail 3) so you know when someone got your email. It has plug-ins so as people in the open source community develop plug-ins, you can install them. Pretty cool. The Mail Merge feature is very nice and easy to use. The Send Availability is cool too and they’re doing some stuff on end to end encryption, if you’re on the heavy duty privacy side of things. Nylas also has snooze and meeting set up features. Very nice UX though.
Downsides
While it’s definitely stable, I find it takes a while to launch. There’s also no calendar function. It’s not as customizable as Airmail 3 or Polymail, but lots of extensions seem to be coming. There’s no iOS version. It’s not on the App Store and so you’ll have to allow it to bypass Apple’s gatekeeper system. They have a free trial, but it’s annual subscription after that which doesn’t impress me. I’m not sure an email app is a subscription type of thing, they’re just not sticky enough.
Summary
Nylas is a great email app. Personally I like how they’re enabling extensions to increase the power of the app. Polymail and Airmail should take note. Of any of these apps, I bet Nylas could build in a calendar function. That would be very nice.
Webconomist - Giles Crouch
Overall Review
Over the last few months I’ve moved away from Airmail 3. The UX is the main reason. It’s packed with excellent features and seamless across all Apple devices. Poymail is clean, better UX than Airmail 3 in my view. Would like to see it have Dark Mode like Nylas. And of Nylas…I went through beta and now have the first year. I like using it at night the most. The UX is very well done and it’s a powerhouse. Only downside is no iOS version.
All three apps have very good productivity features and actually make email much easier. Trying to get to Inbox Zero with Outlook or Mail App by Apple is tiresome at best. The only downside to ALL these email apps is no calendar functionality. While Airmail 3 has integration with Fantastical, I’ve had nothing but trouble with the Fantastical iOS app which has never synched for me. Email apps need to figure out calendaring better and integration of contacts…neither of which are simple or easy. If you want your contacts and calendar integrated, stay with Outlook for macOS. Otherwise, well, Nylas if you’re comfortable with Open Source tools, Polymail if you want nice design that’s easy to use. Airmail 3 if you want a lot of customization and you’re a heavy user of Evernote, Dropbox, OneDrive etc.
SparkMail: There’s also SparkMail. I’ve never used it so I have no comment.
Mail Pilot: They’ve left the App Store and I can’t find how to download it off their site. I had so many problems with it anyway. Very innovative, great UX. Maybe the new version will be better.
A Thought on Outlook
Microsoft has made some tremendous strides lately, including with UX design. When it comes to Outlook, the new design is better, but still lost in the land of corporate mediocrity. The great thing about Outlook is that it includes calendaring and contact integration. While Microsoft claims to play nice with Google email integration, the reality is quite the opposite. With a little work, Outlook could be truly awesome.
What’s your experience with email apps for Mac? Did I miss a great one?
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