There are certainly strengths and limitations of default email clients on various mobile devices we use all the time, but what about the constantly growing list of 3rd party email clients available in the App Store or the Google Play marketplace?
In the first in a series of blogs on the topic, I’ve run some tests on a selection of the more popular ones available in Apple’s App Store.
Two templates were tested, each using non-standard Google fonts as well as a CSS3 trick (rotation) to see whether those technologies were supported. One template was responsive, with break points for certain screen sizes and the other was fluid, where everything in the email adjusts according to the width of the screen, whatever that may be.
The results have been tabulated below, however I have more detailed comments at the end of this blog.
|Client||Responsive||Fluid||Web fonts||CSS3 Tricks|
As you can see it’s a mixed bag. On the upside, quite a few of the clients tested supported web fonts and CSS3 tricks, which was an unexpected surprise. Unfortunately on the downside, the vast majority had limited support for responsive design and only marginally better support for fluid design.
The mailbox provider specific clients like Yahoo and Gmail are likely to be the most widely used, apart from the default one, but sadly they have the worst support for these exciting new technologies. To make things worse they all identify themselves as Mobile Safari so it’ll be difficult to track how widely used they are.
Hopefully as the clients continue to mature they may start to support modern design techniques, allowing us to give subscribers better and more consistent user experiences. I will endeavour to update this blog as new versions of these clients are released. If I’ve missed out your favourite email client let me know in the comments section below.
Stay tuned for my look at Android based clients coming soon.
Note: All of these tests were done on an iPhone 5s using iOS8 beta 4. Some email clients had difficulties running on this version so have been excluded from the results until a compatible version has been released.
Version tested: 1.12.1
The AOL app is not limited to just email, but a whole host of AOL features and content including news, weather and videos. The email client itself is fairly basic and lacks a lot of the better features offered by the default iOS Mail app and doesn’t support either coding approach, web fonts or CSS3 tricks.
Version tested: 8
The latest version of Apple Mail has some great new features in iOS8 including enhanced swipe gestures to manage your email. It has long been the gold standard in terms of feature support and this release is no different, passing every test with flying colours.
Version tested: 5.087
CloudMagic is a relatively new email client that has a very clean interface, supports any IMAP mail server and has built in support for a number of productivity tools like Evernote, Salesforce, Pocket and even MailChimp. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to support either fluid or responsive design or web fonts and CSS3.
Version tested: 3.14159
The official Gmail supports multiple account and advanced searching, as you’d expect from a Google product. It also has full support for Gmail’s priority, promotional and social Tabs. Unfortunately it’s rendering of responsive emails leaves a lot to be desired and it failed on the web font and CSS3 trick tests too.
Version tested: 0.99.7
Inky is a fairly new email client with lots about it to like. It supports any POP or IMAP server and Exchange support is promised. Like most modern email clients it uses swipe gestures and also features some fairly unique features like a 1-click unsubscribe. It also aims to help organise your email by prioritising emails using different coloured ink icons to depict how important it think each email is, which you can train it over time. Unfortunately despite all these features it doesn’t support responsive design, however fluid design is at least partially supported as are CSS3 tricks. Web fonts, sadly, are not.
Version tested: 2.0.3
Mailbox has been around for some time and its main aim is to help you get on top of your email by allowing you to “snooze” emails for varying amounts of time in order to de-clutter your inbox. Dropbox liked this idea so much, they purchased the company! Unfortunately as of writing Mailbox only supports Gmail and iCloud accounts, so its appeal is limited, although it’s worth mentioning you do get some free bonus space on your Dropbox account simply for using it. Sadly, its support for any of the technologies being tested leaves a lot to be desired and it failed on all accounts.
Version tested: 2.1.0
Molto has been around since late 2012, but I’ve only just come across it. This is a real shame because of all the clients tested this was probably my favourite, apart the default one. Its beautiful interface is a delight on the eyes and is very easy to use, with friendly tutorials urging you to get the most of out of it without ever really getting in your way. It supports both POP and IMAP accounts, although not Exchange. It passed all the tests with flying colours with support for fluid and responsive design as well as web fonts and CSS3 tricks.
Version tested: 2.1.1
myMail is another client which supports both IMAP and POP accounts, but not Exchange. It also allows you to sign-up for a @my.com addresses from within the app. It was only released in October 2013 and it has a fairly immature feature set compared with the rest of the clients tested. Unfortunately it didn’t fare very well on any of the tests, failing them all.
Version tested: 2.1.0
Seed is a pretty good email client with support for all mail servers including Exchange. It supports gestures for managing your email and a nice interface where it sorts email threads in a conversation style, a bit like Messages (iChat). Unfortunately it has limited support for fluid emails and responsive emails aren’t supported at all. Happily web fonts and CSS3 tricks are supported and work well.
Version tested: 1.3.5
Sparrow is the granddaddy of 3rd party iOS email client and caused quite a stir when it was released. So much so Google hired the developers who built it. Sadly, as a result, it has been left to rot ever since, save for an update late last year to fix iOS7 compatibility. The once groundbreaking client no longer holds up against any of the more modern or better maintained email clients. It lacks push support and it’s not an Universal app meaning it’s not optimised for the iPad. Interestingly it has partial support for fluid design, although not responsive and it supports both web fonts and CSS3 tricks.
Version tested: 3.1.3
Yahoo Mail supports multiple accounts, but only Yahoo accounts. It also has support for Flikr themes which make a nice change from the default purple interface. Unfortunately it does not support any of the technologies being tested.