Apps Software

What are the best free alternatives to Inbox by Gmail?

Inbox by Gmail is heading for Google's scrapheap

Google has announced that its Inbox by Gmail app will be off to the knacker’s yard in March 2019. So, before the ship sinks beneath the digital waves, here are the four best mobile app alternatives to Inbox by Gmail.

A quick caveat: although there are some excellent paid-for apps, we’ve decided that, as Inbox by Gmail is (*was) free, the alternatives should be too.

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail: Microsoft Outlook (Android and iOS)

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail

Everyone’s heard of Outlook – and with good reason. The venerable desktop software is a staple of businesses around the world.

If you’re looking for a clean and easy-to-understand alternative to Inbox by Gmail, you should consider the free app version. The service aims to make you as organised and productive as possible, bringing together “all your email, calendar events, and files together so you don’t have to”.

And it does just that. The app might look very simple at first glance, but a dive into the settings, calendar and search area reveals its true power. For example, you can customise what a swipe in the inbox will do, change notification sounds and enable add-ins for popular apps such as Evernote and Trello. It’s impressive stuff.

But the Outlook feature that will probably appeal most to die-hard Inbox by Gmail users is Focused Inbox. This automatically sorts the most important email, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks. If you’re not a fan and would prefer an old-school, time-based inbox order, you can switch off Focused Inbox in the settings.

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail: TypeApp (Android and iOS)

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail

It takes some Icarus-style moxie to call yourself “the best email experience ever made for a mobile device”. However, credit where credit’s due – TypeApp comes close to meeting its claim.

With a feature list longer than War and Peace, TypeApp makes it very easy to manage your email accounts in one place. A mere tap switches between one mega “Unified” inbox and a specific account (via a tab-like tool that TypeApp ominously calls “The Picker”).

Similarly, there are three main Gmail-style tabs in the homescreen – the inbox, people (see screenshot above) and tasks – which saves the extra tapping you’d have to do in other apps.

If that wasn’t enough, you can also set quiet hours, import calendars and, of course, customise the appearance of the app to your heart’s content.

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail: Astro (Android and iOS)

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail

Aside from easily winning the award for the coolest name, Astro Mail’s USP is its artificial intelligence. The app aims to automatically reduce the clutter that plagues our inboxes by prioritising the most important messages. And it succeeds with bells on. 

I found that, without fail, Astro Mail sorted urgent missives into the Priority folder – even ones that would otherwise be miscategorised. The rest of the emails are grouped together into an “Other” folder, where they can be perused at a more leisurely rate.

Setup is done via a chat with Astrobot, instead of the usual field-filling, which is a nice touch. But it’s not the last you’ll hear of Astrobot: like pre-malfunction H.A.L in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Astrobot is awaiting your command at all times.

Simply click the robot head at the bottom of the screen to wake up the metal tike. There are then hundreds of voice and text commands, such as “Clean out inbox clutter” or “Snooze until…”, that are designed to make your life easier. It’s like having Alexa, but without forking out for an Echo device.

All of this – when combined with more common or garden features such as connected apps, customisable swipes and a well-designed calendar – adds up to perhaps the cleverest email app out there.

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail: Hop Email (Android and iOS)

Alternatives to Inbox by Gmail

No, not the terrible Easter film. While other apps aim for security or intelligence, Hop Email has a need for speed. That doesn’t mean that emails will arrive more quickly, but that you’ll be able to access them more easily – and stay focused on the work that really matters.

That’s reflected most obviously in the design: click on an email and, instead of complex email chains, you’ll be given SMS-style speech bubbles. Attaching photos, files or even GIFs to an email works in the same way as Facebook Messenger: simply select the option from a toolbar at the bottom of the screen. It’s a great idea that saves time and adds interest, but it takes some getting used to if you’re a traditionalist.

Hop has three so-called “superpowers”: the aforementioned “beautiful formatting”, “instant visibility” and “collaborative, shareable” workspaces. The second is particularly neat: once your email has been opened by the recipient, a small green icon will appear next to the sent message – making excuses impossible.

Other useful features include a set of automatically generated “lightning replies” (usually mundane stuff such as “Thank you!” or a thumbs-up emoji), the ability to view all attachments from a contact at once, different channels (see screenshot above), separate spaces for different email accounts and encrypted emails.

If the idea of making email more like social media brings you out in a cold sweat, Hop isn’t your cup of cocoa. If, however, you like the sound of its more unusual tools (and GIFs! In emails!), I thoroughly recommend that you give it a try.

Do you use a different email app? Let us know via the comments below or social media and we’ll add it to the list.

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Max Figgett

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