Above all else, the Apple iPad is built for checking email. And sure, Apple’s own Mail app can handle all of the basics, but what if you want something more?
Whether you want your email to be more social or you just want a prettier interface, these mail apps are all capable of enhancing the email experience on your iPad.
Boxer by Taskbox
$9.99 (currently on sale for 99 cents) Universal
It may be hard for most folks to even consider paying $10 for an email app when Apple Mail is included with your tablet, but Boxer is well worth the consideration. Like many of the other apps here, it has a bright and clean appearance, with colorful contact icons. It also has a swipe interface similar to Mailbox and MyMail.
Beyond those surface similarities, you’ll find an extremely fast and powerful email app that might make you completely forget about Mail. You can view all of your messages in one inbox if you like, or go down to Accounts at the bottom to see them individually. If you’re using Boxer with Gmail, you can see top level folders such as drafts, sent mail, all mail, etc. but not every single label you’ve created. All folders are shown for Exchange accounts, however.
When viewing the message list, you can swipe to the right to archive or delete, or to the left to view the Actions menu or create a To Do, depending on how far you swipe. The Actions menu offers eleven choices, from “liking” the message, sending a quick reply from a list of scripted choices, applying a label, marking spam or unread, sending it to Evernote, or using the SaneBox service to unsubscribe or snooze an email. The choices may sound overwhelming, but they are well marked and organized.
When you open an individual message, you’ll find that the Actions menu is in the top right corner of the screen, with icons below to reply/forward, flag, label, archive, or trash the message. If you need to create a To Do related to the message, one tap on the address bar allows you to set a due date (today, tomorrow, next week, or a specific date), add a priority (from one to five), or add an assignee.
If you want to see all of your action items at once, you can use the Dashboard to see the emails you’ve turned into to dos or assigned to someone else. The settings menu offers a surprising number of options, including which screen is displayed when you start the app, social media accounts management, customizable quick reply templates, and much more.
At the current price of 99 cents, Boxer is a no-brainer. If you’re not yet convinced, there is a free version available that you can use with just one of your email accounts (but not Exchange), custom signatures, quick reply templates, and a secure passcode feature.
At first, you may not think that this does anything more for you than Apple’s default Mail app, but after you start poking around under the hood, you’ll realize that first impressions aren’t always right. The first thing you’ll likely notice is that CloudMagic supports just about every email account you’re likely to have. Unlike most of the email apps covered here, CloudMagic works with Microsoft Exchange, in addition to Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook, iCloud, IMAP, and even Office 365.
The next thing you’ll notice is that CloudMagic is really fast — searches are much faster than in the built-in Mail app, and the document viewer functionality is also much faster. The controls are minimal, but easy to understand, and pop-up help shows up when appropriate. Tap on a star to mark a message as important, but as the pop-up help tells you, you can also tap and hold on that star to set a reminder to come back to that email in a couple of hours or the next day.
The last major feature is the Cards framework. CloudMagic integrates with popular services such as Pocket and Evernote, plus more professional tools like Salesforce, Trello, Mailchimp and zendesk. Sender Profile is another handy card that offers background information on the sender from a variety of sources, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
CloudMagic is deceptively simple, but there’s a lot of power under the hood. Particularly recommended for corporate users with Microsoft Exchange accounts who also use Salesforce or Zendesk — the ability to add sales leads and/or create support tickets is extremely powerful.
If you’re the ultimate social (networking) butterfly, then you definitely need Cloze. More of a social-networking app than a pure mail app, Cloze aims to unify all of your relationships into one handy place. By adding your email account, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you end up with a hybrid of them all. Get an email from a business contact– You can tap on their name in the header and get one-touch access to their LinkedIn profile, send a text or call the person, check out their Facebook or Twitter posts, or even just jot down a few notes for the next time you meet.
You’ll also find a Cloze score, which is based on six unique aspects of your relationship to that person: Dormancy, Frequency, Responsiveness, Privacy (one on one interaction), Freshness, and Balance. It’s an interesting concept, especially when paired with some of the other features. Instead of organizing your email by inbox, labels, or folders, you’ll see categories such as Key People, Social Mentions, Life Events, and even Losing Touch — reserved for those people you haven’t communicated with in a while, and with whom you are in danger of, well, losing touch.
People are also linked together; a former coworker might be grouped with other people you also worked with at the same company, based on email addresses or Facebook relationships. You can also import groups/lists from Facebook if you’ve already organized everyone there.
Cloze isn’t necessarily for the email-addicted, but it is very useful for those who want to take a more social view of their inbox.
Gmail by Google
If you’re a Google groupie, this is the mail app for you. It mirrors the browser version of Google’s mail service in every way, save for a more compact (and darker) user interface. The five main categories — Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums — appear in a vertical column to the left, with your messages to the right. All of the icons are the same, though unlabeled, but even if you’re new to Gmail they aren’t all that hard to figure out.
The search functionality is speedy, and you can star, archive, and label your messages just as you can in the browser version. The app also supports multiple Gmail accounts, which is handy if you happen to have work and personal or individual and family accounts. The accounts are kept separate and identified by your personal image (if you’ve chosen one), and switching between them takes a single tap on the screen.
Mailbox by Dropbox
No email app roundup would be complete without mentioning Mailbox. It was so popular when it first launched that it became fashionable to tweet and post about your place on the waiting list. The popularity is completely warranted though — there’s no faster way to deal with a mountain of email and reach inbox zero with a minimum of fuss.
The secret is the smart interface that allows you to archive or delete, defer or create a To Do with just a swipe to one direction or another. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a remarkably fast way to deal with your email. If that isn’t fast enough though, Mailbox can help you get to inbox zero even faster by archiving all of your messages, all except unread, or all except starred.
Mailbox can integrate with Dropbox to make it even easier to manage and send attachments, and you can also use either Safari or Chrome (if installed) as your default browser.
The only downside is that Mailbox works only with Gmail and iCloud accounts. Otherwise it’s a great way to manage your email, especially if you have more coming in than you can reasonably handle.
Molto by Perion Network
If you want a pretty email experience with some added functionality, this is the app for you. Once you add your mail accounts, you’ll be presented with a Flipboard-style view of your messages. Profile photos can be pulled from Facebook and displayed with incoming emails, and color icons and company logos (as appropriate) appear on your other messages.
Everything is light and bright, but Molto isn’t just about pretty graphics. One of the coolest features is the live preview for every message on the screen. If you see something you want to read more of, you can scroll through the message right there in the inbox, without having to open it. If you do want to see the whole message on a single screen, you can expand it to a fullscreen view with a single tap.
There is also a Photo Inbox for Facebook users, which gathers all of the new photos your friends have shared in one convenient place. A single tap enlarges the photo to fill the whole screen and includes the caption; you can also like or share the photo straight from Molto without actually having to open the Facebook app on your iPad.
Performance is impressively fast, and this is a great app for casual users who have Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook/Hotmail, AOL, or iCloud accounts. The app also works with IMAP and POP3 accounts, but unfortunately doesn’t play well with Microsoft Exchange.
MyMail by My.com
This has a simple, clean interface that combines several of the features found in the other email apps in this roundup. You’ll find that MyMail uses colorful avatars from Facebook to highlight messages, your contacts, etc. It also has the familiar swipe interface; swipe any message to the left to get an icon bar with controls to mark a message important, bookmark it, label it, mark it as spam, or delete it.
The search feature is much faster than the built in Mail app, and also includes helpful filters to allow you to search for the sender, recipient, subject, or all text in the message. While you can add Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook, AOL, and POP3 accounts, it doesn’t work with Microsoft Exchange accounts. There were also a few formatting errors here and there in HTML messages, but nothing too bad.
MyMail does have some unique features, such as the ability to set quiet times for each email account separately, which is very handy for turning off your corporate email when you’re home with your family in the evenings, and for turning off your personal email notifications during the day when you’re supposed to be working. You can also filter messages by type, such as those from social networks or flash sale sites, or set up your own custom filters.