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Posts tagged with "email"

One Week After Launch, Users Already Have Several Options for Alternative Browsers and Email Clients on iOS and iPadOS 14

iOS and iPadOS’s 14’s customization options don’t end at widgets. The OS updates also let users change their default email and browser apps for the first time. The feature is a little buggy in iOS and iPadOS 14.0, but I wanted to share how to set it up and explain what your current options are for anyone looking to switch away from the default Safari and Mail apps from Apple.

Switching is simple. The first step is to download a browser or email client that has been approved to serve as an alternative to Apple’s defaults. Developers must request permission to offer their apps as an alternative browser or email app, meeting certain requirements for each type of app. It’s an extra step in the app submission process, so not all browsers and email apps can be swapped in for Safari and Mail from the get-go. Still, less than a week after the public release of iOS and iPadOS 14, users have several options.

Microsoft Edge, Outlook, and Google Chrome are all default browser and email client options now.

Microsoft Edge, Outlook, and Google Chrome are all default browser and email client options now.

New alternatives are being released all the time, but so far, it’s possible to swap out Safari for:

Probably the most popular browser that hasn’t been approved as a Safari alternative yet is Brave, the privacy-focused browser, although The Verge reports that the feature is coming.

Email apps available include:

Between the two quartets of alternatives, a significant portion of the browser and email markets have been covered already.

Picking a new default browser or email client from the Settings app.

Picking a new default browser or email client from the Settings app.

Getting back to the process of switching apps, once you’ve installed one of the approved alternatives, go to the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad. Scroll down to the entry for the app you’ve just downloaded, and tap it. There you’ll find a new entry for ‘Default Mail App’ or ‘Default Browser App,’ depending on which you’re changing. Tap it and pick the alternative you want to use, and that’s it.

As easy as the process of switching is, though, the feature is not bug-free. I have been unable to get iOS or iPadOS to recognize my new default email client after I switch it. I’ve tried several apps and email links in multiple apps and on the web, but every time I tap one, the system Apple Mail-based compose sheet opens. Federico has had the same issue. I read somewhere that switching email apps only works if you change your browser first, but that didn’t work for me either. Perhaps MacStories readers will have better luck than I’ve had, but at the moment, I cannot change email clients.

9to5Mac also reported last week that if you restart your iPhone or iPad, any default browser or email changes you’ve made are lost. It’s not hard to reset your defaults, but it’s an annoying bug that I expect will be fixed in a later update to iOS and iPadOS 14.

Personally, I use both Safari and Mail and am happy with them, though I wish Mail would adopt some of the modern features of apps like Spark. Still, I’m glad users have been given greater choice when it comes to the default app experience.


Josh Ginter’s First Impressions Review of HEY

Despite all the drama surrounding the App Store launch of HEY, the new email service from Basecamp, I never got around to actually trying out the service for myself. As a result, I was excited to see today that Josh Ginter at The Sweet Setup had published an in-depth first impressions review following a couple weeks of use. In short, he loves it:

To say this is a glowing first impressions review would be an understatement — in just two short weeks, HEY has shown itself to be the most revolutionary app or service I’ve ever tried.

While I may not be alone, I also know many folks who feel otherwise.

Which makes a lot of sense, I think. Email is one of the oldest digital technologies and it’s worked a specific way for a very, very long time. There will be some deeply engrained email habits out there, and old habits die very, very hard.

I also recognize that HEY likely works for a specific type of emailer. HEY appears to thrive with a multitude of daily email and may feel out of place for someone who has either worked out their email workflow, someone who incessantly unsubscribes from anything unworthy, or someone who relies on other forms of communication to get their stuff done each day.

I found Ginter’s review an excellent primer on HEY’s unique approach to email. If you love in-depth app reviews – and I hope you do – and have been wondering why some people are calling HEY the next Gmail, I highly recommend Ginter’s piece.

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Spark Updated with Multiwindow and Dark Mode Support and a Design Refresh

Two Spark windows open in Split View.

Two Spark windows open in Split View.

Spark, the email client from Readdle, received a strong update today that adds support for the latest iOS and iPadOS features, dark mode and multiwindow, while also introducing a design refresh that refines, rather than reimagines what was already there.

Multiwindow on iPad is excellent to have in an email app. I’ve been using Apple Mail in multiple windows since iPadOS first launched, and it’s especially handy for composing a message while still viewing other messages in your inbox, or that you’ve saved for later. Spark is no exception here: the flexibility to browse the app while writing a message, or even compose multiple messages at once, is fantastic. Where apps like the official Gmail client don’t even support Split View yet(!!), I’m happy to see Spark follow Apple Mail’s example in making multiwindow a core functionality.

Unlike many other apps that have added support for iOS 13’s dark mode this fall, today’s update for Spark is especially noteworthy because the app didn’t formerly offer a dark mode option at all. Now, Spark supports both light and dark modes and follows the system setting by default, though you can choose to perpetually keep the app in a single mode. I was happy to find that you can choose from both grey and true black themes, both of which look especially nice with the app’s blue accent colors; the only drawback is that just the grey theme can currently follow iOS’ system setting, so if you want to use true black, the app will stay in that mode until you manually change it.

Customizing Spark's toolbar.

Customizing Spark’s toolbar.

Dark mode comes alongside a design refresh for Spark. While the app will still look entirely familiar to existing users, I think the tweaks to font details, spacing, and layout result in a better experience overall. The biggest standout of the redesign is that Spark can now display avatars next to messages, similar to what the official Gmail client offers, which I really value. Also, there’s a new option to customize the toolbar actions when viewing a message. Spark has always been great at providing customization tools, so it’s nice to see yet another added to the app.

Spark is one of the best email options on the App Store, and I especially recommend it for teams. Federico, John, and I use its team features to share and comment on emails together, which is an extremely valuable aid to collaboration. If you’ve tried Spark before and it’s not for you, there may not be enough different in today’s update to tempt you, but if you use an iPad at all, don’t underestimate how nice it can be to employ multiple windows while working through email.


Spark Launches Email Delegation Feature for Teams

Today Spark launched a new Delegation feature for teams, which is available on both the Mac and iOS. Delegation enables team members to assign emails to one another, with optional due dates attached, and follow the progress of those emails over time. It’s a feature that addresses well the workflows a manager or executive may have with their assistant or other team members.



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Spark Adds Rich Text Formatting for Email: Lists, Text Colors, and Highlighting

Today in an update to its iOS and Mac apps, the email client Spark has introduced new rich text formatting options to enable greater flexibility in styling your messages.

Spark already included the expected bold, italics, and underline options, and its macOS version previously allowed creating bulleted or numbered lists, but those list options have now come to iOS as well. Additionally, both Mac and iOS users can now change the color of text in their emails, as well as add highlighting to text.

Rich text support is a particularly important feature for an email app, so I’m glad to see it come to Spark. While I likely won’t start sending messages with different colored fonts, it’s nice having the variety of options Spark provides here. Lists in particular were something I’ve missed having in the past, and I like the idea of employing highlights to call out anything of special importance in an email. I’ve historically used bold for that purpose, but highlighting definitely does an even better job of standing out.

Spark’s latest update is available now as a free download for iOS, and the Mac update is coming soon.


Google Is Discontinuing Its Inbox Email App in March 2019

Google launched Inbox in 2014 as a place to experiment with new email features, some of which made their way into the company’s Gmail app eventually. Although it served as a sandbox for trying new features like email snoozing, Smart Replies, and Nudges, Inbox was not updated nearly as frequently as Gmail. So, it wasn’t surprising to hear from Google yesterday that it plans to end support for Inbox at the end of March 2019.

If you are an Inbox user and want to move your email accounts to Gmail, Google has created a transition guide.

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Newton Mail to Shut Down Service September 25th

Newton, which began life as CloudMagic in 2013, will shut down its email subscription service on September 25, 2018. According to the company’s CEO, Rohit Nadhani:

We explored various business models but couldn’t successfully figure out profitability & growth over the long term. It was hard; the market for premium consumer mail apps is not big enough, and it faces stiff competition from high quality free apps from Google, Microsoft, and Apple. We put up a hard and honest fight, but it was not enough to overcome the bundling & platform default advantages enjoyed by the large tech companies.

CloudMagic was relaunched as a subscription email service and renamed Newton in 2016. According to Nadhani’s post, the company, which offered iOS, Mac, Android, and Windows versions of its email client, served over 4 million customers, 40,000 of whom signed up as paying subscribers.

In anticipation of the shutdown, the company has disabled signups to its service and is working with the App Store and Google Play Store to offer pro-rata refunds to annual subscribers whose subscriptions are set to expire after September 25th. Nadhani says that CloudMagic will continue to work on new projects.

Email is a tough category in which to compete. Default applications like Apple’s Mail app don’t give most users a reason to look elsewhere, and users that do want to try a different email client have many excellent free options from big companies like Google and Microsoft. For the remaining users willing to consider a paid email service or app, the competition is fierce with excellent choices like Airmail and Spark. The end of Newton is a reminder that no business model is a safe bet and even those apps and services you may be willing to pay for can’t last if others don’t feel the same as you.


Spark 2 Hands-On: Email for Teams with App Integrations

I’ve made no secret of my complicated relationship with email over the years.

While I’m always trying to optimize my email setup and finding new ways to spend as little time managing email as possible (for instance, I let SaneBox categorize emails on my behalf), my underlying problem lies in the scarcity of desktop-class email clients for iOS with specific features I’m looking for. As I shared in an episode of AppStories, these include: modern email options such as snoozing, read receipts, or “send later”; the ability to customize the app’s sidebar with mailboxes and saved searches; and app integrations to save messages into other iOS apps either as links or PDFs.

I’ve tried dozens of different email apps for the iPhone and iPad over the years. Some of them stuck for several months on my Home screen, like Airmail; some turned out to be ill-fated experiments; others were stuck in the old mindset of offering a “light” companion version on iOS and a “real” counterpart for the Mac.

Spark, developed by Readdle, has been at the forefront of innovation in email clients since its iPhone debut three years ago. In my original review, I noted how, despite several limitations (such as the lack of iPad and Mac versions) and an unclear business model, Spark was a new kind of email experience that felt refreshingly powerful, especially when compared to Apple’s stale Mail app. Spark gained a host of welcome enhancements in the past couple of years: in addition to being fully multi-platform on Apple devices, Spark is now capable of snoozing messages and sending them later; on the Mac, besides smarter search, Spark can even save messages into apps like Bear and Things.

I’ve gone back to Spark as my primary email app a handful of times over the past three years. Ultimately, I always stopped using Spark because it lacked feature parity with the Mac version (app integrations were never ported to iOS); most recently, I started using Apple Mail again because its drag and drop support in iOS 11 allowed me to “manually” integrate it with Things, Notes, and other apps.

This context is necessary to understand Spark 2, which is launching today on iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and which Readdle touts as the biggest update to Spark since the original app from May 2015. Spark 2 is a peculiar upgrade: on one hand, it won’t look that different to individual users, save for a couple noteworthy exceptions; on the other, it’s a major reinvention of Spark for teams, which explains why Readdle is hedging the app’s future on collaboration and a subscription-based business model (albeit with a generous free tier). The developers at Readdle are betting heavily on a vision that sees Spark as the centerpiece of email communication for teams – a platform in its own right, with all the upsides and potential issues that it entails.

For that reason, this can’t be a full, in-depth review of Spark 2. As a team, we’ve only had access to Spark 2 for the past three weeks, and we haven’t had a chance yet to test the app during one of the busiest periods of the year such as WWDC. I’m going to need more time for a full verdict and to understand how the MacStories team can be set up as a Spark organization. However, I believe that Spark 2 is the closest I’ve ever been to finding my ideal email client, and I want to explain why.

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