As with any mobile OS, there are a lot of ingredients that go into Android’s mix, and though many of us share likes and dislikes, each of us has a set of favourite features. In my case, Android’s tight integration with the Google Apps services I use on a daily basis makes life a great deal easier, and it was one of the primary reasons I chose to switch to a phone powered by the little green robot.
One key example of this is Gmail. The official app Google provides on Android is brilliantly designed, providing the instantaneousness of IMAP, with the intuitive operation of swipe-to-archive. However, as a (predominantly) Gmail user myself, it had never occurred to me that this glorious messaging experience is not extended to those Android users who rely on email providers other than Google. That seems a real shame.
A new emailing app, Compail, looks like it wants to provide an intuitive, Gmail-like experience to the rest of the email universe. Can it deliver the same slick environment as Google’s custom-built email flagship, though?
Well, it looks a lot like Gmail. No, I mean a lot. Owners of iOS devices will also notice the design influences of Mailbox, too. The resulting visual mash-up is classy, flat, and highly functional.
Setting up an account is a pretty slick experience, requiring only the selection of your email provider along with the input of your login details. Compail then automatically works out the required server addresses and port numbers.
Having set up your first email account — an in-app upgrade of $1.36 is required to add further accounts — you’re first presented with a list of folders. By default, just the History folder is included in this menu, and it acts, in essence, as your inbox. You can, however, add smart folders here, which abide by rules based on sender and subject, and each of these folders can be given a priority ranking, along with a custom icon.
Enter a folder, and you’re presented with a list of your emails. Once again, it all feels very familiar to a Gmailer. Emails come complete with their subject and sub-header, their time of arrival, and a tappable star on the right-hand side, which can be used to denote an incoming missive of importance. As is the current fashion (of which I approve) among email apps, messages can be sorted with a sideways swipe, although enabling this requires a trip to the app’s settings.
The Gmail mimicry continues once you move into viewing individual messages. Compail provides more of an imitation than a clone in this area, although in most respects, it functions perfectly well.
The sender and subject are followed by the option to load any images the email contains, with the message contents below. A constant menu bar at the bottom of the screen provides access to the reply, trash and star controls, as well as next and previous arrows for an easy way to flick through your messages.
A minor irritation here is that emails aren’t always scaled correctly, often initially appearing at half the width of the screen. You can, of course, pinch to zoom in, which has the effect of manually correcting this issue, but after a while, this does become tedious.
Just as important as the reception of emails is the sending of them, and Compail’s message composition environment is a simple, but well-equipped one.
Although most of the options are nothing out of the ordinary, the opportunity to attach files of any variety is included, as is the addition of a custom signature for each account.
Interestingly, one of the areas in which Compail is most successful is its settings, which are comprehensive.
Several message listing options are available, allowing unread or starred emails to appear first, and there’s a choice of three different colour schemes. As mentioned above, there is also the opportunity to enable swipe-sorting. Interestingly, you can also choose the action you want Compail to perform when you swipe an email, and you can assign left and right swipes for different actions.
Equally, each account can be assigned a unique form of alert — that is, the combination of vibration, sound, and the notification light — and you can adjust the maximum size of email to be downloaded, how long messages should be stored, and how often you’d like Compail to check your account.
Given the quality of Gmail’s home on Android, it isn’t surprising that a developer has chosen to mimic Google’s product, and Compail‘s developer, Steyla, has done a good job. Of course, it isn’t an approach that can be described as particularly innovative, but given that folks who use email providers other than Google are missing out on the Gmail app’s great features, I think it is an approach that makes sense.
The negatives in Compail can really only be described as niggles. The mis-sizing of emails, for instance, should be easily fixable from the developer’s perspective, but it is currently a waste of the user’s time. Another issue is the requirement to pay in order to use multiple accounts, although the fee is small.
Overall, however, Compail is an extremely solid package that should prove to be a revelation in email for those who have, up until now, been without the Gmail-style ease of email organization.