After reading countless articles and looking for a better way to consume email on the iPad, I decided on Accompli, which ultimately became Outlook post Microsoft acquisition. I enjoyed Outlook’s speed, the swiping features and a few other things. After using it for about 2 years on two different iPads, I’ve done something that’s not very technorati acceptable: I’ve returned to Apple Mail.
You may ask why?
There are some key Apple Mail features often overlooked by App reviewers. Conversely, Apple has done things to improve Mail’s interface and functionality. For example, implementing swipes (made famous by the now defunct Mailbox App) has made Mail a more efficient tool. With a bit of tweaking, you make find Mail a better choice than the third party mail clients for iOS.
The features I’ve missed since moving away from Apple Mail:
- Auto Outgoing Mail Account: I have a 11 email accounts on my iPad. Nothing is more annoying (read: embarrassing) than sending an email from the wrong business account. Apple Mail’s ability to recall the account you normally use to send mail to a specific recipient makes it idiot-proof. Strangely, I haven’t found another client that does this. For this reason alone, I prefer Apple Mail, but there’s more.
- Portrait Mode: Mail’s portrait mode is simple and beautiful. Looking at an email in full-screen portrait mode is a joy. Pinch and zoom, just like iPad always promised. The Inbox slider elegantly slides away and doesn’t take up valuable portrait-screen real-estate. For some annoying reason, Microsoft doesn’t allow this in Outlook. No pinch and zoom in portrait mode and no full-screen email. Actually, Outlook will show you an email in full screen, but only in an email thread! If you want to see a full-screen email, have a recipient send another email, click the little dots within the thread and it works. Lame. After sending Microsoft countless feedback about this, I’ve given up.
- Creating Calendar Events: I use Fantastical as my main calendar App (and you should, too–it’s awesome). Fantastical uses iOS calendar services to display events. Apple Mail does a great job of detecting times, places, people and simply holding “10AM” in an email gives me the option to add the event. This is time saving and elegant. Outlook’s integrated calendaring is great if you live in one App, but I don’t live in one App.
- Click-a-Link Compatibility: when you click a link in some other App, it always defaults to Apple Mail. Consider it a limitation in iOS, but I’m tired of fighting the annoyance with copy/paste. Click and go is a lot faster.
- Loading Images: I don’t want images to load when I open an email. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to curtail spam is to load images only when I allow it. Why is this? Most spammers include a single pixel image in HTML email that signals to their servers, “firstname.lastname@example.org opened their mail!” Once that happens, you’re on their list. I wish Apple would move the load images link to the top of the email window from the bottom, but it’s an annoyance I’ve decided to accept for now.
- Notification Control: In Notification settings in iOS you can set specific notifications by email account. If you get unimportant mailing list mail in one email account, simply turn off the notifications for that account. Whats more, you can alleviate the badge count by mail account on the App’s badge. This way, when you look at the badge count, you can see the count of new mail you care about.
- VIP: this is one of those silly features that you miss. When you get it back, you think, “wow, I should really use this.” If I’m working clients and don’t want to miss their email whilst sifting through hundreds of unread email, I label them as VIP. Tap on the little star in the Inbox drawer and boom–all your currently important mail is there. Pro-Tip: tap the little “i” to see and edit your VIP list. Pretty nice.
Outlook for iOS is a great App. There is a lot to like about it. Yet, after fighting it for so long, I’ve happily reverted back to Apple Mail. I’ve tweaked the swipe settings (swipe left to delete, etc), the archive/delete default settings with Gmail accounts (one account defaults to archive, one to trash) and limited the inbox previews to 1 line for more visible mail on the inbox (you can reduce to none). I’ve read complaints regarding speed, yet I’m not experiencing that with iPad Air 2. Perhaps the hardware has caught up to the code in this case? I find Mail to be very responsive. I’ve read that search is slow and even “useless” with Mail, but in my experience it seems competent searching 11 email boxes simultaneously. I particularly like Spotlight’s ability to search by person and not necessarily the email account.
On iPhone, I use Spark and recommend you take a look at that. If they make an iPad version, I’ll likely switch to that. To me, the Spark guys have really re-thought the email client. On iPad, however, there’s nothing better than Apple’s Mail client. You may need to tweak it and massage it for your preferences, but once you do, it’s quite rewarding to use.
Also published on Medium.