Hate them or love them, emails are one of the most used forms of communication, with over 205 billion emails sent every single day. Of course, most of them end up in the spam folder, but someone has to read those that don’t. That someone is you. And if you’re like us, you do most of your email reading and writing on your Android smartphone. The good news is that your device most likely already comes with an excellent email app pre-installed—Gmail from Google—and that alternatives are plentiful. In this article, we are going to cover top 5 best email apps for Android smartphones, including Gmail, to see what are their pros and cons.
Gmail the app started as a free, advertising-supported email service provided by Google. The service launched in 2004 as an invitation-only beta release and opened its gates to the public on February 7, 2007. For its time, Gmail offered impressive storage capacity of 1 GB per user. In comparison, Hotmail, now Outlook, offered just around 5 MB of storage space. Now, Gmail gives all of its users 15GB of free storage.
Given that Gmail has more than 1 billion users, it’s no surprise that it was the first app on the Google Play Store to hit one billion installations on Android devices. Today, it enjoys a great rating of 4.3-stars from almost 2 million users, and the popularity of the app is only growing as its features are increasing.
The thing is, the current iteration of the Gmail app for Android can do much more than just grant you the access to your Gmail account. It supports non-Gmail addresses, such as Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail, or any other IMAP/POP email services. Adding additional email accounts to the Gmail app is painless, and new emails are displayed in a single unified inbox. You can mark emails as spam, archive them, sort them into separate folders, set your own vacation responder, mute threads that you don’t want to follow, and do a lot more useful things.
While it’s possible to use an Android device without a Google account, only a very small fraction of Android users do so. Chances are that you aren’t among them, and if that’s really the case, you already have a Gmail address and are ready to use the Gmail app. Unfortunately, your Gmail address likely doesn’t even remotely resemble your real name. After all, with more than 1 billion active users, most names and their various versions have been registered. That could be a bad news from the professional point-of-view, since the Gmail app works best when paired with a Gmail account. Other than that, Gmail is the go-to email client for Android smartphone and tablets, and it will probably remain so for a long time.
Many die-hard Android fans who are using the mobile operating system since its infancy are fond of the K-9 Mail app, as it’s one of the original alternative email clients on Android. The app is also popular among the open-source crowd, not least because it’s a completely community developed project. Everyone can chime in and contribute in a variety of ways. This communal effort has given us a great open-source e-mail client with search, IMAP email support, Exchange 2003/2007 (with WebDAV) support, multi-folder sync, flagging, filing, signatures, bcc-self, PGP, mail on SD, and other useful features.
The PGP support is probably the most interesting feature, considering the current climate surrounding personal privacy and security in the digital era. As described by security-in-a-box, a project of Tactical Technology Collective and Front Line Defenders, K-9 Mail integrates seamlessly with Android Privacy Guard, which is a free and open source application that lets you encrypt, decrypt and sign files, messages or emails using Public Key Encryption (like OpenPGP) or encrypt/decrypt files or messages with symmetric encryption, securing them with a password.
With your OpenPGP keys imported into APG, all you have to do to enable the email encryption is to tick the “encrypt” checkbox located under the recipient field. This is a must-have feature for journalists, people living in countries ruled by oppressive governments, and all those who are not fond of the idea of the government snooping on emails.
The downside is that K-9 Mail, like so many other open-source apps, lacks the fine degree of polish and cohesiveness that the modern user is now used to. But get over the initial hump and you’ll be rewarded with a full-featured Android email client that knows how to keep your personal communication private.
Microsoft Outlook traces its origin to an email service by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, who named it HoTMaiL. It was acquired by Microsoft in 1997 for an estimated $400 million and promptly renamed to Windows Live Hotmail, only to be replaced by Outlook.com in 2013. Outlook represents Microsoft’s answer to Gmail and the entire paradigm of sleek, web-based applications accompanied by equally capable mobile apps.
The Outlook app for Android supports Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and even old Hotmail accounts. Its key selling point is called Focused inbox. The purpose of this feature is to keep the important messages near the top of the screen to ensure that you won’t miss them.
Microsoft has made it very easy to access calendars and files right from the inbox, making on-the-go productivity more enjoyable. What’s more, Microsoft’s suite of apps is a very compelling alternative to products from Google, especially for people who are using Microsoft Windows and playing on Microsoft Xbox.
The odd thing about most email clients is that these clients don’t correspond to the way we communicate with one another. When we communicate with our friends or online stores or business associates, we organize our conversations around topics and people. However, most email clients display emails as individual thoughts.
WeMail organizes email into a chat-like experience, promising to reduce your inbox size by more than 50 percent. This means that you no longer have to scroll down several pages just to find a response from yesterday only because you’ve also exchanged several dozen emails with two other people.
On top of that, WeMail features one of the fastest and most advanced email search functionalities, allowing you to instantly find what you are looking for. All your documents and photos can be accessed with a single tap and you don’t even have to type to compose an email—you can just dictate it to the app and WeMail will automatically convert it for you.
As a Webby Award Nominee for Best Mobile Productivity App 2015, Boxer is a worthy alternative to more established Android email clients. It supports Gmail, Exchange, Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail, iCloud, Office 365, IMAP & POP3 mail accounts, integrates well with services like Dropbox and Box and Evernote, and it even comes with a built-in to-do list feature.
Using a wide variety of handy shortcuts, you can swipe to archive, trash, or block emails. And if that isn’t enough, there’s a total of 12 options for additional customization. There’s no need to type out every response—just select one from a long list of pre-configured messages and keep focused on your work.
Boxer is available in three versions: Boxer for Exchange, which adds exchange support via ActiveSync, Boxer Pro and Boxer Pro + Exchange. The Pro version comes with multiple account support, custom quick replies, and custom signature. The Pro + Exchange version than just throws in the extra Exchange support, because having four versions is apparently better than just two.