What’s a good Android email client?

I’ve been carrying Android phones for the past few years after a long period of self-imposed exile on the Firefox OS, Windows Phone and Nokia ice floes. My choice of Android over iOS is less a religious choice than a frugal choice: to get a well-resourced iPhone would cost me $1000, and it’s almost impossible for me to conscience carrying around something that costs that much in my EDC bag. By contrast, my Nextbit Robin cost me $299, and while it’s rough around some edges, at that price I can treat it less like an expensive totem and more like a disposable appliance.

What might yet force me to buy an iPhone, though, is the seeming lack of a capable email IMAP client for Android.

The world’s gone Gmail, it seems. At least the world outside of me. And so there seems to be little development happening for Android on creating an email client with the high standards of something like Spark for iOS.

And believe me, I’ve tried them all.

My needs, I would have thought, are simple and easily-realized: I need is an IMAP client that’s reliable, elegant, and that handles IMAP folders and email attachments without flakiness.

All of the clients I’ve tried–Gmail in IMAP mode, Microsoft Outlook, Blue Mail, TypeApp, K-9 Mail, Alto, Aqua Mail–fail to tick at least one of those boxes.

And so I’ve ended up using Fastmail app that’s provided by my email service provider. It’s not perfect: it’s sluggish, has an awkward UI for deleting messages, doesn’t support sharing images from the Android share sheet, and has unusual auto-correct behaviour when composing. But it’s reliable, elegant in it’s own quirky way, and has reliable handling of IMAP folders.

But given that at least half of my email handling is done with my phone, I pine for something better.

Any recommendations?


Andrew Morrow's picture
Andrew Morrow on January 23, 2017 - 17:40 Permalink

When at home on my Motorola G3 (that I bought on your recommendation) I just use the included client and can read and send email about as well as my clumsy fingers can manage.
Now that I am vacationing in Mexico I find the sending function blocked by Openwave and have had to subscribe to a VPN service for the second year to fool the smtp server.
Oddly enough it works well on my old Mac running Snow Leopard and the Android, but for the life of me I cannot hack my way through the Sierra Mail set up which insists the smtpa.bellaliant.net server is "offline" and Connection Doctor says check your identity in the setup (email address and password). All the settings are the same in all three devices, but the latest and greatest Mac OS is not as helpfull, along with BellAliant who blithely say the there are spammers in Mexico.

James Ramsay's picture
James Ramsay on January 24, 2017 - 00:24 Permalink

I was reasonably happy with Cloud Magic until it simultaneously changed it's name (now Newton) and business model (now subscription, beyond what I would be willing to pay.)

Recently broke my backup (Windows) phone. Went back to Android for 1 week with world's shittiest hardware, Wiley Fox. Cheap, really unusable. But was again hating the Android experience, as well as the hardware. Bought a new Windows Phone as my iPhone backup. Happy (and constantly surprised about it.) Why did you drop Windows?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 24, 2017 - 09:05 Permalink

I was using a Nokia Lumia, a free developer phone running Windows Phone, and found it oddly compelling. But then it fell below the line of those Lumias that received Windows Phone updates and I abandoned it. 

James Ramsay's picture
James Ramsay on January 24, 2017 - 10:25 Permalink

Similar to me. My Lumia WinPhone proved not to upgrade past WP8. That's when I returned to iPhone. But for the new backup phone went to for a new Lumia with Win10. Understand there are heaps of user data issues with Windows, but I do like the visible experience, hard and soft.

Ton Zijlstra's picture
Ton Zijlstra on January 24, 2017 - 06:12 Permalink

I use K-9, Peter. What box doesn't it tick for you? My usage of mail on my phone is fairly limited: I only use it for first triage (star, ignore, dump) while en route, and to check if there's anything urgent. I use IMAP to connect to 3 accounts (my main private, my main business, and Gmail as back-up.) (I also use Protonmail as back-up alternative).

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 24, 2017 - 09:03 Permalink

I had set on K-9 as my client, and used it successfully for many months. Then I upgraded to Android N and it stopped working reliably: it would stop retrieving messages until I quit and restarted it, leaving me with the impression that I had no new email when I did. This might be more a fault of Nougat than K-9, but I couldn’t bear it.

Charles Tassell's picture
Charles Tassell on January 24, 2017 - 19:39 Permalink

Mail Droid isn't terrible. It's not exactly pretty, and the config layout is more of a maze than an example of (even bad) UI design, but it works well with IMAP and it's pretty feature complete.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 24, 2017 - 20:19 Permalink

Installed now and evaluating. Thanks for the pointer, Charles.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 28, 2017 - 11:48 Permalink

I’ve been using MailDroid for the last 5 days and I’m very happy with it. It appears to be rock solid with syncing, and the UI is pleasantly configurable. Thanks again for recommending it; you may have saved me from iOS.