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Airmail is a powerful email client that jumped from Mac to iPhone

February 2, 2016
Airmail is a powerful email client that jumped from Mac to iPhone

Airmail - Your Mail With You ($4.99) by Bloop S.R.L. is the iOS version of the popular and powerful Mac email client that many have been using for a few years, myself included. If you’re looking for a feature-rich alternative to Apple’s Mail on iOS, then look no further than Airmail.

Oh, email. We’ve come a long way, especially on iOS — while many of us used Mail since it was the only option when the iPhone first came out, there have been many great alternatives on the App Store since it was introduced. A favorite classic was Sparrow, until Google bought it and eventually abandoned it, leaving everyone disappointed. Then Mailbox came along, got bought by Dropbox, and got shut down as well. And while there are many other options to choose from for email management on your iPhone, a recent favorite of mine has been Readdle’s Spark, which has been an app I use daily to manage my insane inbox. Despite that fact, I’ve been a frequent user of Airmail on my Mac since I don’t like and there haven’t been many other options I like (R.I.P. Sparrow), so I was excited to finally see Airmail arrive on iOS this week.

Airmail is a powerful email client that jumped from Mac to iPhone

Design-wise, Airmail for iOS is pretty similar to the Mac version, so there won’t be too many differences to learn if you use both. Airmail has been one of those apps that I believe tries to mimic Sparrow’s old style, and it does a fairly decent job of it. Since I come from Spark as my daily driver, Airmail’s design is simple, clean, and effective. In fact, to me, it seems like a better take on the native Mail app design, which I was never exactly fond of. Airmail has support for multiple email accounts, and you can view the inboxes separately or go with the unified inbox, where the colored labels and avatars for each account come in super handy. Navigating different sections of the app is easy, as all you need to do is a swipe gesture from the left edge or tap on the hamburger button to view the side panel, with access to all of your labels and folders, if you use them. The app also makes use of swipe gestures on individual messages to take action, and there are some smart filters to help you find what you’re looking for quickly. Overall, Airmail for iOS is fast and rather intuitive to use, making it a good option for email power-users.

Airmail currently supports the following accounts: Google, iCloud, Exchange, Yahoo!, and Outlook. There is support for generic IMAP and POP3 as well, if you need to use those. Given the broad account support here, chances are what you need is covered, so don’t worry. As I mentioned earlier, you can add in as many accounts as you need, and there are options to change the account icon and color per account to make it easier to differentiate from each other in the unified inbox. Each account has its own set of settings that can be tweaked, so it’s recommended to go in and tinker around to find something suitable for your email workflow.

One thing about Airmail for iOS that I’m loving is the iCloud sync. Since I have been using Airmail on my Mac for years, it’s nice to see this kind of feature supported. What the iCloud Sync in Airmail does is it can sync all of your email accounts on both your iPhone and Mac, as well as preferences (all of them or individual ones that you want, just tap on the toggle) and signatures. This also means that if you like to use the Snooze feature that Mailbox made popular, having the iCloud Sync turned on will have the snooze occur on both the iPhone and Mac, so you will definitely not miss that snoozed message. Since Mailbox has been shut down, this is a great alternative for those who depended on the snooze functionality.

Another thing Airmail does is integrate with many different services and apps, similar to what Dispatch does. You can toggle the ones you want to use under the Apps > Services section in the settings. It includes basics like Dropbox, Google Drive, Droplr, Pocket, as well as other apps on your phone, such as 2Do, Todoist, OmniFocus, Fantastical, Deliveries, Editorial, and more. I love having built-in integration with other services and apps that I use frequently, so this is a wonderful feature that makes life just a bit easier.

In Airmail, messages are organized chronologically, and if there have been multiple messages exchanged in a thread, you’ll know with the number indicator on a message. You can swipe on a message to take some quick actions: swipe right to archive, long-swipe to snooze, swipe left to delete, or long-swipe to view the full action list. If you’d prefer some different swipe actions, they can be customized (as well as full action list) in the settings. You can do press-and-hold a message to go into the multiple-editing mode, where you can select several messages to delete, archive, or move to a folder.

Airmail is a powerful email client that jumped from Mac to iPhone

Viewing a conversation allows you to see all of the messages in the exchange, though the most recent one is already expanded, and you’ll have to manually expand or collapse the others. I’ve noticed that if there are in-line images in the body of a message in a thread, it will appear as a small thumbnail, though if you tap the individual message, it will expand and the images are larger.

When you view a message, it will have the standard action buttons at the bottom: reply, archive, and delete. The reply button lets you reply to the sender, reply all, or forward. At the top, you can tap on the senders photo to view contact details and a history of emails that have been exchanged with that person, which is pretty nice. If you tap on the ellipsis button in the top right corner of a message, you’ll get a full list of actions you can take, such as snooze, move to another folder, create a to-do, add the sender to the VIP list, create PDF, mark as spam, send to the various services or apps that you chose to use, and much more. Like I said, this is like an email power-user’s dream come true.

When you compose a message (new, reply, or forward), Airmail adds a row to the keyboard for some formatting options. You can change the font, bold, italicize, and underline text, change alignment, add indentations, create bulleted or numbered lists, add quotes, undo or redo the last formatting action, or remove all format entirely. Another section on the extension lets you add files from iCloud Drive or services like Google Drive or Dropbox, you can throw in a photo from the Photo Library or do a new capture, and you can change which signature you want to use, all from the keyboard. There is also landscape support, which is nice on the large screens of the iPhone 6s Plus. While I do not always need to format my emails, it’s nice to have the options available. If you format frequently, then this feature alone is worth the price.

One thing that I loved from Spark are the Smart Notifications. While Airmail does not have this feature, you can set the notifications to be for VIP contacts only, which will take a bit of setting up, but it’s definitely worth it. There are also plenty of different alert tones for notifications, so Airmail is flexible with customization.

Airmail requires iOS 9 at the moment, and if you have an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, there is support for 3D Touch. So you can long-press a message to view the entire thread, and pull it upwards to get fast access to snooze, reply, or trash it. And for those with an Apple Watch, you can view your inbox from your wrist, and send quick replies when needed.

So far, in my time testing Airmail on iOS, I’m enjoying it a lot. The design is simple and clean, there are plenty of powerful features that make it a worth replacement for Mail, and the integrated services and apps mean a seamless workflow with your email. Plus, the customization means you can make the app work for you, and the iCloud Sync is great for those who are using Airmail on their Macs. However, I have been used to easily clearing out batches of messages with a single swipe in Spark, so I’m not sure if I can fully move to Airmail just yet. I also like having my calendar integrated in my email client, so maybe that is a feature that can be added in the future. These are just small nitpicky things, but Airmail is still a very polished, feature-rich email client that is worthy of a spot on your home screen.

I recommend giving Airmail a try if you want a powerful email client for your iPhone. Airmail – Your Mail With You is available on the App Store for $4.99. The Mac version is also recommended, and can be found for $9.99.

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