My Yearly iOS Mail App Roundup [2020 Edition]

Every year, I reinstall all of my iOS third party mail apps and hold a battle royale to see which one will remain on my iPhone for the next year.

iOS Mail: where email goes to die. still no real share sheet. Must use some pretend “print and share pdf” to get a crippled share sheet. URL Schemes do work so you can initiate mail from Drafts which gives you access to Textexpander Fill-In Snippets. However, when you are answering email, you are limited to just the Textexpander Keyboard. Regularly updated.

Outlook: sucks slightly less than Mail. but still garbage as it has no real share sheet. Must also use some pretend “print and share pdf” to get a crippled share sheet. URL Schemes do work so you can initiate mail from Drafts which gives you access to Textexpander Fill-In Snippets. However, when you are answering email, you are limited to just the Textexpander Keyboard. Regularly updated.

Spark: If you ignore the Calendar and Teams, its not a bad little personal e-mail app. It has a nice share sheet and integrates with Omnifocus nicely. URL Schemes do work so you can initiate mail from Drafts which gives you access to Textexpander Fill-In Snippets. However, when you are answering email, you are limited to just the Textexpander Keyboard. Regularly updated.

Dispatch: No Exchange/Office365 or POP support. Nice share sheet and service menu. Integrates nicely with Omnifocus and Fantastical. Supports Textexpander Fill-In Snippets so emails can be initiated from within the app or Drafts and responding to email also gives access to Textexpander Fill-In Snippets. Native TextExpander support also allows the use of external keyboards. a Huge plus. It has not been updated in 2 years.

Airmail: Did Not Qualify: For two years the developers have refused to fix the broken plainbody URL Scheme. This is unacceptable. If an app cannot provide TextExpander support, then it at least needs to provide a working URL scheme to receive the text from Drafts. I subscribed in hopes it would spur the developers to fix this glaring issue. It did not so I canceled my subscription.

Edison: Did Not Qualify: Security Issues

The Winner: Dispatch The combination of share sheet, service integration, and TextExpander Fill-In snippets make this THE email app for power email users. Spark is a a nice runner-up but its lack of TextExpander support will keep it second fiddle.

I know the choice of email apps is personal and subjective and that the stock mail app serves most people. However my workflow is built on TextExpander and Omnifocus with a sprinkle of Fantastical. Dispatch rings all the bells and check all the boxes.

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I needed up in a similar place to what David talked about in Mac Power Users #539: Back to Email: I just don’t do much with email on iOS. I have the stock Mail.app setup for my work email, I use the Fastmail app for my personal email, and Gmail for lists, but all I do is read/flag messages there.

All actual email work gets done on my Mac (where I use MailMate for work email, FMail for Fastmail, and Mailplane for Gmail).

I’m much happier this way, and I was pleased to hear David had reached the same conclusion (although I don’t think he’s using 3 separate apps, but that’s my own preference).

Is Dispatch still publicly available?

Am I reading that right? $30 and it only works for Gmail? No additional IMAP accounts? I am still looking for a good Mac email solution but I have accounts outside of Gmail.

If you are asking about Mailplane, yup. You’re reading that right.

Its biggest selling point for me is the ability to easily manage a fast number of Gmail / Google Apps accounts, which is useful to me because I find that I often have to log into not only my own, but also family members email accounts when they need help with something.

If you only have 1-2 Gmail accounts to manage, I believe Kiwi for Gmail is free.

For iOS, although I’ve bought several mail apps the one I keep returning to is Yahoo Mail. Works well, it’s rationally designed with folder metaphor, and it works with all major email accounts. (I’m also a longtime subscriber to Yahoo’s Pro mail but that isn’t necessary to use the app.) I trepidatiously use Apple’s Mail app. I have Google’s Gmail app installed, which is good for a quick look, but I’m not a fan and prefer(red) Google’s discontinued Inbox mail app on iOS.

For Mac, I tend to use webmail, though for specifically dealing with Gmail I’ll use MailPlane or Kiwi. MailPlane is a smoother, faster experience, but Kiwi lets you work within all GSuite services.

I really appreciate this idea, but I think you’re missing a variety of key contenders:


Too buggy for me.


My runner-up. I forget why I couldn’t go for it, actually. Installs Canary again…


AltaMail is wildly powerful—has a 4.8/5 —and also hideous. Too hideous for me.

Spark is my winner—best overall design, although I hate the movement towards collaboration tools, calendars, and the like. I don’t have the TextExpander needs of OP though.

Of course, there’s always another app. Thanks for the write up. Looking forward to next year!

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Is Canary mail still buggy. I know the app since a while. The interface looks nice, but I heard it was so buggy, so I didn’t test it out. So on my MBP, I still use the old version of Airmail. I don’t know if I should change…

I like trying new email apps, but after the Newton Mail breach, I won’t consider any mail client/service which inserts itself between my email servers and the app. I want the app to connect directly my email servers.

Those type of apps are few and far between unfortunately

For those who are users of the ultra-featured macOS app MailMate, there are only two iOS email apps in its league: AltaMail and Preside. I reviewed them recently:

Spoiler alert: I found Preside the better of the two. I also share @ryanjamurphy’s opinion of AltaMail — just couldn’t go there.

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I recently went through a quick review of mail apps when iOS Mail on one of my devices started to exhibit a set of strange behaviours (failing to load the body of some messages, silently falling to send some mail…). I ended up with Spark. It’s been solid thus far (touch wood), easy on the eye, good range of features, and I very much appreciate being able to sync settings and accounts between devices.

Airmail does not qualify so it does not even get installed. The plainbody URL Scheme of Airmail has been broken for 2 years and despite numerous requests, the developers have refused to fix it. They even went so far as saying the problem was with Drafts, not Airmail. Airmail is a bloated app filled with useless features that nobody wants, regular or power user. I am done with Airmail until they fix the URL scheme and tighten up the bloat. I will edit my original post to reflect this. Thanks for the reply. I will check out the other two you mentioned.

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I needed up in a similar place to what David talked about in Mac Power Users #539: Back to Email: I just don’t do much with email on iOS.

Ok I got around to listening to that episode, and it seems to be a strange time for @MacSparky to accept defeat on the iOS email power needs. With the iPad Pro and new external keyboard/track pad options we should be demanding more now than ever from iOS email app developers. The lack of share sheets, service integration, and textexpander support should be unacceptable to all users. Waiting to get home to process emails is what I had to do on Compuserve with my Commodore 64. I should not be doing it in 2020.

Sorry, my post wasn’t clear. That comment referred to Airmail, not Canary. If I put any effort into testing Canary I’ll report back!

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As native Textexpander access within apps is something that a lot of people seem to want, is there a reason why so few companies go this route ?. I realize that the masses won’t even know what it is, it would seem like something that isn’t so difficult to implement. If dispatch can do it, why not the others.

I think the winner has left the stadium?

The app store shows me that the app does not exist anymore.

I’ve also gone through countless iOS email apps. Spark would be my default except that it has a couple of frustrating tendencies.

  1. It is difficult to select an entire message thread for copying because of the way it “boxes” the components of a multi-message thread.

  2. Spark does not do well with group emails in which the individual contacts within that group have more than one email address. If a contact within a group has more than one email address, Spark duplicates the contacts in the address bar, Apple mail does not have that problem.

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The problem is two-fold.

People with voices (podcasts) are just unwilling to apply pressure by pointing out that as good as an email app is, it is missing TextExpander support. Instead they just ignore the glaring feature omission. In @MacSparky 's Email episode they interviewed @imyke and @RosemaryOrchard and neither one of them mentioned Spark is missing TextExpander support. I believe TextExpander is a a sponsor of MPU and the Automators. What the heck guys? Point it out.

Just think about it, for all of its praise, Spark in 2020 does LESS than an email app that was released in 2013, Dispatch. (speaking of email, not Teams and Calendar)

The other problem is SmileSoftware. They do themselves no favors with their lack of TextExpander evangelism. Their SDK languished on Github nonworking and not updated for 3 years until 9 months ago, they finally updated it. Their “TextExpander Enhanced Apps” page also suffers from the same lack of attention. They have not updated it for years. It contains old versions, apps that don’t exist anymore, and ignores apps that do offer TextExpander support. Link to their Textexpander Enhanced App Page

I have pointed this out to them in numerous emails, and until they updated the SDK nine months ago, my emails had gone ignored. I don’t have a podcast, I have no voice. If we want incredible email solutions for iOS, we should not just give up and accept the crumbs we are given or wait until we get home do deal with emails. We need to encourage developers and point out where they are lacking.

Sorry for standing on the soapbox but I have fought this battle for years, and when TextExpander went to subscription I thought they would back it up with more encouragement to developers to support TE. It has not happened. TextExpander is the subscription I mind the least and yet it is the most frustrating.

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I am using Drafts and the « Compose email markdown » Airmail action works perfectly fine on iOS. What is the problem exactly?

accidentally deleted my reply. :slight_smile:

the problem is the url scheme for non markdown. its called plainBody. it ignores all structure in a plain text email. so you wind up emailing one loooonnngg line of text. you are using the htmlBody url scheme

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