Ditch the iPad email app? 5 fearless alternatives worth considering

May 7, 2013

The right choice will depend on your needs, preferences, and organization’s server configuration. For example, if your company uses Google Apps then Mail Pilot, Evomail or Gmail will be optimal choices. If ActivSync is the tool of choice, then Mail+ or Touchdown will be the best alternatives.

Another matter to consider before hitting the purchase button is that a third-party mail app will always be at a slight disadvantage (unless this changes in iOS 7). Most apps that include an e-mail function will default to the Mail app, which could mean a major frustration if you have only configured your third-party app of choice.

Nonetheless, the apps reviewed here are well worth your consideration as innovative examples of the rapid effort to rethink the inbox.

Mail Pilot

The most recent entry into the crowded email space comes from a duo who recently finished up college at West Virginia. Mail Pilot ($14.99) works with Gmail, IMAP, iCloud, and other services in an effort to deliver a minimalist and task-oriented solution to email.


The goal of Mail Pilot is to reconfigure the inbox into a manageable to-do list, with each message first arriving as an “incomplete action” until it gets your attention. Given that for many the inbox is a default to-do list, it makes for a smart rethinking of how to organize email.

Mail Pilot has one major downer however: no push notifications. Apple requires that mail apps process messages on a third-party server in order to support push.

Mail+ for Outlook

Anyone using Exchange will find a lot to like with Mail+. It integrates the core features of an Exchange account into one application: mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. This means one can quickly access these instead of having them spread across separate applications. 

The interface is consistent with the iOS design scheme for a polished look. A universal app for $5.99, you will also get the iPhone version to get a consistent look across your devices.


The interface gets the most attention with Incredimail. Messages are large and immersive on the iPad screen. Incredimail is also one of the few free alternatives and also also allows for multiple IMAP accounts, so it could be the main hub for all email.

While it is rather consumer focused, Incredimail offers the best piece of email eye candy among the alternatives.

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TouchDown has long offered an ActivSync solution for Android devices, which is badly needed given the subpar stock email app.

Priced at $19.99, TouchDown provides deep integration with Exchange services. The calendar uses color coding to make events much easier to spot.

The developers recommend checking with your IT department to ensure ActivSync is enabled, otherwise that $20 won't be well spent.


Google has incrementally built a strong iOS version of Gmail that power users will like. While many of the alternatives offer some innovative features, those (like myself) that rely on Gmail’s system of labels and rapid search of the archives will be drawn to Google’s app.

Also, those who live in Google’s ecosystem will enjoy the capability to have links flow into Google Maps, YouTube, and the Chrome iOS apps.

For the watchlist: Mailbox

One of the most popular new mail apps this year is Mailbox. Its system of swiping a message to instantly categorize it for later action created so much buzz that Dropbox acquired the company earlier this year. While Mailbox is currently just on the iPhone, the developers have recently promised that its appearance on the iPad will be soon.

When this happens it will definitely be one to check out as it allows one to swipe away messages for later review, archival, or deletion.

Unfortunately it only works with Gmail, but that too is scheduled to change.

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