iOS 7 Mail: Not The Mail App You’ve Been Waiting For

As developers dig deeper into the changes Apple has built into iOS 7, they’re finding the changes aren’t very deep at all. Here’s how one of Apple’s most heavily used preloaded apps is lagging behind third parties, which have begun to treat email like a productivity app.

As you may have seen, Apple’s new mail app is visually cleaner and filches some neat tricks from competing mail apps. But beyond some housekeeping tweaks, most of the Mail app seems to function the same. Here’s what Apple has added—and how the best third-party Mail apps for iOS are keeping their edge.

What Apple Added To Mail

Besides its visually sparse, Helvetica-rich design, Mail looks mostly the same at first glance. Under the hood, the ability for email services that aren’t Gmail or iCloud have been expanded in settings, and it’s now quicker to junk a message than before—but these aren’t game changers.

One useful addition is the new custom mailboxes with filtering rules—but you can’t create your own. Hidden in the "Edit" menu is a switch to enable filtered mailboxes for Flagged email, messages with attachments, Unread messages,To or CC’d mail, Drafts, All Sent, and Trash smart mailboxes. You can also mark all the messages in these boxes as read or unread in one fell swoop.

Edge-to-edge photos are a nice touch, and you can now swipe across a table cell in Mail to take action on that message (much the way you can in another popular email client that I’ll discuss below.) Finally, Apple has improved Mail search to the point where it actually functions.

Other Mail Clients Moving Towards Productivity

The most popular and brilliant piece of marketing recently has been from Mailbox, the Gmail specific iOS email client, now owned by Dropbox. Even with the qualifiers of users having to have an iPhone and be a Gmail user, there has still been a firestorm of interest from hundreds of thousands of people who want their email to fundamentally function differently. The action-based method of treating emails as tasks has exploded and led to a barrage of similarly spec-ed apps.

Another client that has debuted recently is Mail Pilot, which was originally a Kickstarter project that happened in parallel to Mailbox but pivoted from its inception to more closely mimic the competition. As to why email is heading in this direction, cofounder Josh Milas has said: "[E]mail is used less for simple communication and more for organization and productivity. Rather than continue to trick outdated clients to work in this way, we (and others) have redesigned the email experience to fit today’s workflows."

Priced at $15, Mail Pilot is an expensive app no matter how you slice it. Differentiating it, however, Mail Pilot does support Yahoo, AOL, iCloud, Gmail, and IMAP as opposed to only Google. Easily winning the feature war, Mail Pilot works well but can feel uninspired at times. The company is trying to expand quickly, as they've also already announced a Mac desktop client coming soon.

Both Dispatch and Boxer are also task-based clients that do have unique features, though nothing to steal away by people who may have found an app that satisfies their needs. Dispatch provides an Undo button if you've swiped wrong, while Boxer focuses more on the To-do aspect having a separate dedicated section for those tasks.

Unlike those apps that snooze emails until later, Triage has a different take on what email should be on a phone. As the name suggests, the app is a way to quickly address the stack of email you may have piling up throughout the day. Emails are presented one at a time and you either reply, archive (delete), or save for when you're on a computer and can dedicate more time to responding; that's it. Triage is a truly mobile email experience, since it assumes people don't want or need a full client, only a way to manage while they're out. People who don't receive a huge amount of emails will probably have little reason to triage five emails over the course of a day.

Let us know in the comments if you prefer an email app we haven’t mentioned, or give us a mention on Twitter to shout out your favorites.

[Chisel Image: Carlos andre Santos via Shutterstock]

Article Tags: iOS 7 mail is meh

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  • "Finally, Apple has improved Mail search to the point where it actually functions."

    What have you been smoking? Evidently the same stuff that the nuts at Apple have been smoking, because email search is a complete FAIL.

    They took something good and made it completely useless.

    Type 'from:’ instead of hitting a button...? Why add the extra typing?? Sort by ... Uh... What exactly is it sorting by, because it's obviously not date.
    Display numerous copies of duplicates of redundant exact replicants of the same message?

    Ah, yo dude, hand me that spliff...

  • Bloughmee

    It's idiotic - all I want to be able to do is SORT my  inbox - by date - by sender - by  subject... like I've been able to do in Outlook on the desktop for what... 20 years?    Geez. 

  • Judith Galloway

    The new Ark Mail
    App has drastically improved my mobile emailing.  Beautiful layout, easy to send Dropbox
    attachments, and even provides you with a profile for each of your email
    contacts with links to all of their social media accounts. I downloaded it at

  • Ruslan Abylkassov

    Were you actually expecting them to overhaul every single stock app? Never has an iOS update changed more than a few stock apps in minor ways, so far iOS7 has made the most changes of any update even if you ignore the fact that they completely redesigned the entire system. I'm impressed they even added any features to mail at all. And if the rumours are to be believed, this all happened in the space of seven months. Just be happy with what you get. And be happy that iOS has such a thriving app ecosystem that you do have a great selection of very good third party mail clients.

  • Blake Ian

    I've been on Sparrow for a year now and after getting over 1 or 2 "eh" moments, I am very happy and productive on it. On the phone I waited online for my Mailbox download eagerly, installed it when the day arrived, used it for 5 minutes and then went back to Mail. Now that my iOS7 beta 2 has cause Mail to bulk deliver my emails every hour, I have been giving mailbox and other apps a look again. Perhaps I'll check out Mail Pilot. Great article. Thanks!

  • Brian

    After using Gmail for years & recently adopting a Macbook Air I still don't use mail. Maybe this will entice me to look at it again. I really liked using Xobni for a while on top of Outlook at work but was too slowed my laptop down alot.