I never thought I’d be saying it, but Microsoft’s Outlook is the best email app you can download right now.
I’ve tried a lot of email apps for my job, but what I love most about Outlook is that it manages to bring an uncompromising email experience into the modern age. There’s hardly anything you can’t do with Outlook, and yet this powerhouse of an email app still features a striking interface that’s bristling with helpful features.
Most importantly, Outlook works seamlessly with Gmail, which is what most of the world uses. It also works with Exchange, iCloud, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, and Office 365, so most people can make the transition pretty painlessly.
All the most modern features are there: You can now swipe to archive, delete, or re-schedule an email to return to your inbox at a later time, and the app’s built-in calendar makes sending your availability to people a cinch, and you don’t have to hop between apps.
Outlook can also help you get rid of the clutter with its Focused tab, which triages your inbox so all your important emails go to one place. The rest of them go into the Other tab, which is still accessible from the main screen. I have the feature turned off since I inherently mistrust my phone making those decisions for me (I’m always afraid of missing an important email), but my editor Jay Yarow has used the feature and hasn’t seen any important emails slip through the cracks.
Want to only see your unread emails? Outlook’s Quick Filter button makes it easy to filter between flagged and unread emails, and you can also choose to only see emails with files attached.
There’s even a dedicated Files tab that shows you all your attachments and files on your device and emailed to you, and a similar People tab that shows you who you’ve been emailing recently so you can jump right into composing a new email without searching through your contacts.
I’ve been using Outlook for a week now, which is usually when I begin to realise the limitations of other email apps like Google Inbox or Mailbox that are seeking to reinvent how we use email. Those email apps may indeed be the future, and Mailbox holds a special place in my heart for its sheer beauty and handiness for whittling away at your inbox — but for most users, it’s too much too soon.
Email is one of those areas where radical change to the experience can cause headaches, stress, or missed meetings, and Outlook wins out against its competitors because it’s currently the perfect combination of new features and familiarity.
Apple’s own Mail app is still the best integrated email app for iPhone users, but I found myself missing the extra feature and depth to the email experience that Outlook brings to the table. Gmail is still stuck using the same bogged down actions to deal with individual emails, Hop and Inbox are too alien for many users, and Mailbox makes it tough to deal with a clogged-up inbox in one swoop — it’s perfect if you check your email obsessively though.
Finding a runner-up is tough, but I think Mailbox deserves the title due to its elegant design, emphasis on keeping an empty inbox, and how nicely it integrates with the Mac version (I love being able to send an email from my phone to Mailbox for Mac when I’m out and about and know an email requires a more in-depth response).
But Outlook still edges it out as my daily driver, and it’s comforting to know I can accomplish anything I would on my desktop email client from my phone. Outlook even makes that process faster with some of its smarter features like the Calendar, Files, and People tabs.
Of course, it’s important to remember that Outlook is essentially just a re-branded version of email app Acompli, so my praise should really be aimed at the Acompli team that was talented enough to make a product that attracted Microsoft’s eye. Microsoft reportedly paid $US200 million for Acompli back in December, but if that means a return to email superiority, I’d say it was a smart investment.
You can download Microsoft Outlook over at the App Store, or see what using the app looks like in action in the video below.