Last week, I mentioned how Airmail – my favorite email client for iPhone and iPad – would soon receive Siri integration on iOS 10. Today, Airmail 1.3 has hit the App Store with a variety of iOS 10 features in addition to SiriKit, including support for rich notifications and iMessage.
As covered in the SiriKit section of my iOS 10 review, developers at Bloop are taking advantage of the messaging domain to let users send emails using Airmail as if it were a regular messaging app. After granting Airmail access to Siri, you'll be able to invoke it and initiate requests such as "Send a message to John using Airmail saying I'm going to be late"; an Airmail snippet will be presented in the Siri interface with your message ready to send.
Because of how SiriKit works, there is no strict syntax to ask Siri to send messages with Airmail. You can add as much verbosity as you want to a request, or perhaps make it shorter and tell Siri "Airmail John I'm going to be late". You can also use Airmail via voice in any language Siri is supported – it's not limited to English and the system automatically adapts to common expressions for your locale.
Airmail will always conform to SiriKit's "resolve, confirm, and handle" request flow: if a command doesn't contain all the information required by Airmail – such as the name of a recipient or the body text of a message – Siri will ask you to enter details as additional steps.
Airmail's SiriKit integration worked well in my tests, but I wish the app supported the message history intent so I could have Siri search for messages in my inbox. I'd find that especially useful when driving so I could get an idea of which email messages I received while I wasn't looking.
Besides Siri, Airmail 1.3 has added support for rich notifications on iOS 10. Unlike previous text-based notifications, iOS 10's Notification Content extension enables Airmail to display its custom UI in an expanded notification's card.
Rich notifications are one of the highlights of iOS 10 – they let you save time by previewing content as an alert comes in instead of jumping back and forth between apps. In Airmail, this results in cards that display a message's 'From' field, subject, 'To' field, and body text with different formatting styles to match the look of the app.
The custom interface helps previewing a message as it would appear in Airmail, but I wish the developers had gone a bit further and embedded inline attachments in the preview as well. I also would like to see an option to add more than two actions to notifications, as supported by iOS 10. I ran into a bug that cuts off notification content on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and I hope Bloop is going to fix it soon.
Airmail's iOS 10 update brings an iMessage app to share attachments, too. The app scans all your accounts for recent attachments, which can be sent to someone else on iMessage with one tap. In the full-screen view, you can even search and press to preview attachments.
I like the idea of bringing attachment sharing to iMessage – I think it's a smart replacement for forwarding files to friends or colleagues – but I'd like to see Airmail's iMessage app go beyond files. It'd be nice to share an entire email as a custom view inside iMessage – that way, I could reference any email message without leaving a conversation.
Last, watchOS 3. Airmail 1.3 supports the latest Watch software with complications and background refresh of messages. In my experience, I've noticed better performance of Airmail's Watch app, which I appreciate when triaging email from my wrist (it sounds absurd, but it's more convenient than you think).
I've recently taken another look at the state of third-party email clients for iPhone and iPad. I've used Email, Spark, Outlook, CloudMagic (now Newton), and Inbox, but I keep coming back to Airmail. It's the only client with excellent third-party app integrations to process messages quickly, it's available on the iPhone and iPad, and it's constantly updated with new features. I'm willing to put up with its glitches and bugs because, when it comes down to pure functionality, Airmail's approach is unparalleled on iOS.
The app's latest update only confirms that Airmail is a great iOS citizen, and I'm looking forward to even deeper extensibility.
Airmail 1.3 is available on the App Store.