Email is the arena for an almighty battle of innovation right now. Ever since Mailbox introduced its shiny new side-swipe sorting to iOS, there have been innumerable reinventions of the veteran communication platform, with new clients arriving, by the bucket-load, on pretty much every OS.
Android has been no exception to this rush — in fact, it has been at the forefront. Google, itself, has made the official Gmail app a market leader in terms of intuitive design, whilst apps such as SolMail and Dextr are well-made alternatives, each with a slightly different approach to inbox sifting and sorting. There are plenty more where those came from, as well.
Take new email client, CloudMagic, for example. With a sleek interface and all the usual tricks of the email 2.0 trade, it looks like a great, free download. But how does it measure up to the fierce competition?
I was recently chatting with a few of my fellow AppStorm writers about email apps. For most of us, it’s almost a non-subject; we use Gmail as our inbox provider, and as a result, we use the official app, which just happens (in my humble opinion) to be the best Play Store offering in the email genre. But there was one writer who had just moved to Android from the Cupertino-based dark side. His main address was hosted on iCloud. Which outstanding non-Gmail app should he go for? Ah, about that…
I’m hoping that in similar future scenarios, I’m going to be able to recommend SolMail. This is an app which has clearly drawn inspiration from the smooth operators of email on iOS, such as Mailbox. But can SolMail really reproduce the kind of sleek design and ease of use pioneered by the Dropbox-owned app?
Email is essential these days. Virtually anyone who owns a smartphone can be accused of being a Crackberry addict, regardless of the particular phone they own. And although it’s great to be able to get emails no matter where you may be, there’s a downside to this level of connectivity.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll receive a huge volume of email each day. If my phone was to audibly notify me of the arrival of each new message, I would go insane — so I’ve disabled sound notifications. This means that I have to keep looking at my phone to see when I have a new message. Sometimes every hour, sometimes every couple of minutes. It’s infuriating. It drives me mad … almost as mad as constant sounds would do. It’s Catch 22.
What does this have to do with Boomerang? Well, aside from the fact that this is an app that can be used to send and receive emails, not a lot! My point is that email is something we can’t do without. But for too long we have all been constrained by the way email works. Boomerang has been designed to wrestle control out of the hands of email clients and place it back under your command.
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?
Recently, Gmail announced a new way of displaying email that presumably cleans up your inbox and makes you more organized — you can read more about it in Mark Wilson’s review. After using it on both the desktop and my phone, I’ve got to say they’ve done a good job. However, one thing they have not implemented yet is a priority inbox for close family and friends. While the Primary inbox does a nice job of filtering out automatic emails from social networks, shopping sites, and more, there is no way to differentiate work from personal email.
That’s where Dextr comes in. The app bills itself as a new mail experience that brings you closer to the people you love. Dextr’s goal is clear: to make it easier for you to communicate with the people you care about the most.
Google may well be best known for its search engine, but the company has plenty of strings to its bow including Gmail – the free email service that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. As with many other online services, there is a mobile version of the Gmail website that you can use to access your inbox from your phone or tablet, so why would you want to use an app?
The recent update to Gmail — both its Android app and the website — means that this seems like a good time to take a closer look at Google’s email service. This is something I use daily, and have done for years. There are aspects I love, aspects I hate, but I think it’s continuing to make moves in the right direction.
Many of us have devices that run on different operating systems, for example a work iPhone and a personal Android device. Looking at my specific case, I use a Samsung Galaxy Note II as my everyday phone and recently bought an iPad mini, which led me to explore ways of keeping the two in perfect sync.
In an always-connected world, it’s relevant for the two devices to communicate with each other and share data. Most importantly, having your emails, contacts and calendars synchronize from one device to the other is essential. This process should be seamless and transparent to you, so that all your content can be updated on both devices with no hassle. That’s what I will explore in the first part of this series.
When I got my first phone with a data-plan, about four years ago, I used every online feature I could: watching videos, checking Facebook, reading news, keeping up with RSS and so on. (Amazing how tame that list sounds when you consider what phones do now.) I also had all my email accounts set to check for new messages every thirty minutes, during the daytime, and notify me upon any arrivals.
Since then, instant email notifications have become ubiquitous – no need for the app to manually check the inbox every X minutes – and I’ve gained a couple of new accounts. For a long time, I had all my accounts set to alert me as soon as a new email came in, because it felt like the natural thing to do. But one day, my phone broke, and I was without email notifications for a little while.
Wow, that felt liberating.
I’ve since realised that there’s no need for me to be instantly up-to-date with every single note that hits my inbox. What’s more, the constant dings of notifications are a huge drain on my productivity. Oh sure, it feels like I’m only losing 30 seconds to check what’s been sent, but it so often leads to 30 minutes of writing replies, chasing up old emails, heading over to news sites… and even on the occasions where it does only take a moment, that’s still enough to break me out of flow.
As if those reasons weren’t enough, I found that, being self-employed, having these emails on all day long made me feel like I was at work all day long. That’s perhaps a useful mindset when starting a business, but it’ll drive you crazy after a while.
The only exceptions I’ll allow myself to make are in emergency situations, like when gearing up for a big launch, or attempting to fix a high-priority bug, or waiting for confirmation of something very important. Otherwise, work emails stay on the computer.
How about you?