Astro acquired by Slack—are all email apps doomed to failure?
First Sparrow, then Mailbox, now Astro. ☠️
One of my favorite third-party email apps, Astro, is being acquired by Slack. I'm not entirely surprised, but I am disappointed. Astro had the smoothest email experience since Sparrow, in my opinion. They really nailed a great email UX, even if the Astrobot sideshow was a little strange:
Are all email apps doomed to failure?
I don't think so, but there are a few things I can think of that make it difficult to build and profit from a third-party email app:
- Lots of folks seems fairly happy with the standard email applications on their devices (whether that's Mail.app on macOS, Mail on iOS, Gmail on Android, etc).
- What makes an email experience better for one person might make it worse for another. I use my email like a to-do list, but many people do not.
- Having full-blown read & write access to someone's email is a very private matter, and in many cases a dealbreaker for would-be users of third party email applications. Unfortunately, it's difficult to provide additional functionality across devices without controlling email at the source (though not impossible).
- Typical funding/VC issues: building a cult-classic email client requires time, and recent attempts seem to have been fueled by overly-ambitious 💸-funded companies (/hottake).
Where to now?
If you're dissatisfied with the default email apps you have to choose from, what are your options? There are quite a few, here's a short list:
- Airmail – A popular option with everything but the kitchen sink. I found the extensive feature set led to a bit of a laggy experience.
- Edison – Somewhat of a sleeper, I hadn't heard of Edison until I started writing this post. I'll be trying it on mobile, while for desktop I've moved back to:
- MailMate – A keyboard-focused, configurable, and minimalist approach to an email client.
- Mailplane – A heavily Gmail-focused wrapper for Gmail on macOS. Should be your first choice if you use and love the Gmail UX but want more OS integration.
- Polymail – A nice email UX, but seems to be focusing on teams, and requires piping your email through their servers. They are a YC-backed startup and I personally would be cautious about a future acquihire.
- Postbox – Like Mail.app++. A traditional UI with some great power-user features.
- Spark – Nice UI across macOS and iOS, but a bit too sluggish for my liking.
The Sweet Setup did a much more thorough review of some of your options, as well.