Published on 23rd March 2016 | by Tim
Airmail for iPhone Review: Your Mail With You
Airmail is already a popular third-party email client on the Mac but it was always lacking an iOS counterpart, enter Airmail for iPhone. If you’re like me then you’ll find it beneficial to use the same email client across OS X and iOS so that you can take advantage of the various features on offer. I haven’t been a huge user of Airmail on the Mac, I’ve played around with it from time to time but the lack of an iOS app has kept me using Apple’s Mail for the most part.
If you’re already familiar with Airmail then you’ll feel right at home with the iPhone app as many of the same features are included. The first step is to add an email account, all of the major providers are supported along with the option to add a generic email account. I added both my iCloud email account and a generic IMAP account, both were set up quickly and without issue. One word of note, Airmail includes both account sync and preference sync so this should sync your settings from the OS X app. I haven’t used Airmail on the Mac for a while so had to start from scratch after installing it on my iPhone, but a nice feature and something that other email clients should adopt.
Once both accounts were set up I then had the arduous task of trying to get the app tailored to my workflow. There are tons of options within Airmail and even now I’m still delving into the settings to tweak things further as I come across something I don’t like or would like to change. For the most part, everything is self-explanatory but there are various settings that leave no explanation as to what they are for. Only after using the app for a few days did I come to realise what a particular setting related to when I was skimming the list looking for something specific.
The layout of the app is very similar to its OS X counterpart, you have a side panel which displays all your email accounts and mailboxes, then your inbox for one or more of your accounts. Initially, I had an issue with the side panel as I wanted to rename my email accounts, by default these had my email address displayed. It took me a few days of playing around with the app to find the correct setting, the same goes for a few other changes that I wanted to make such as pinning folders (which still refuses to work correctly).
The inbox displays all of your email messages in a pleasing visual style with icons denoting the sender, I found that for most senders this worked well and displayed an appropriate icon. Using the inbox to skim messages and see what’s worth reading is relatively straightforward, although at times I found it a little too busy and distracting. You can remove sender icons and make a few other changes to the layout of your email in the inbox, but no matter how many options I changed I still couldn’t get it right. With the desktop version of Airmail, there are a lot more options for the visual style of the inbox and something I hope is added to the iPhone version in future.
All the usual swipe gestures are there for managing your email, these can be customised to the users liking in the settings. There are also a huge number of options available when reading an email message, you can create a to-do, save as a PDF and there is even third-party app integration. If you use many of the popular cloud services, read later, writing or to-do list apps then you can easily add them and they will appear in the options list. A handy feature that I wish was present in Mail as it certainly makes it easier to add or move emails across various apps and services.
One thing that I don’t like about the inbox is how conversations are displayed, it seems to show emails that are no longer in your inbox. In Mail, the emails contained in a particular conversation are limited to those in your inbox, but not so in Airmail. If you tap to view an email that’s part of a conversation it will show the latest email and then every other email that has been exchanged, even if those emails have been deleted or moved to another mailbox. The settings only allow conversations to be on or off with no further fine tuning available. For some users, this might not be an issue but for me, it doesn’t make sense to have emails displayed that might currently reside in the trash.
Another minor issue I have is with the various mailboxes for sent mail, drafts, trash, etc. Accessing any of these brings you to a unified mailbox which includes mail from all your email accounts. You can switch email accounts by tapping and holding on the mailbox heading, but there doesn’t appear to be any way to access the individual mailboxes from the side panel.
For the most part using Airmail has been an enjoyable experience and closely mimics the desktop version, albeit with a few missing features. Over time, I expect more features to be added and maybe some fine tuning of existing settings and the layout of the app. For me, the app is a little too busy both in terms of its design, layout and the vast number of settings on offer. If you’re looking for an email client that does pretty much everything then this might be the app for you. If on the other hand you’re looking for something simpler, akin perhaps to the now shut down Mailbox, then you might want to look elsewhere.
If you use Airmail on your Mac then this is the perfect iOS companion app, currently only available on iPhone. For those that want an iOS mail app with more features and better third-party app integration then Airmail certainly ticks all the boxes.
Airmail is available to download from the App Store, it retails for £3.99/$4.99/€4.99.
by Bloop | £3.99/$4.99/€4.99
Summary: Ideal counterpart if you already use the Airmail Mac app. Easy to set up and works with most major email providers along with generic POP and IMAP. Plenty of options to manage your email and integrates with third-party apps and services. Can be a little busy at times with too many settings and options which can be confusing.