By killing the Inbox, Google leaves many users with no comparable alternative, even though it claims that Gmail has the same capabilities as the failed client. Readdle uses it as an opportunity to bring Spark, its popular email client, to Android in hopes of filling the void left by the death of the Inbox.
I have been using Spark on my Mac for a while and I am very happy with the way it combines advanced features with an intuitive interface and how it is designed to improve productivity. I’ve spent a lot of time with its Android counterpart, and here’s my idea of what it brings, what it’s missing and whether you should replace it with your Inbox – or your current email client.
The Inbox’s top function was its ability to group emails into categories so you can focus on important messages and read newsletters when you have a few minutes. Spark wants to help you do just that by automatically grouping your emails based on their content, with the most relevant. However, unlike Inbox, Spark will only display the first few lines of the message, instead of cleverly analyzing key information such as flight information, shipment tracking or photos and displaying it directly in your inbox.
Spark wants to save you time, so if you are the type of person who flips through your inbox without opening each item, you will appreciate the option to mark all messages in a category as read in one go. Also, with productivity in mind, the app will help you get through large email threads by hiding previous messages under a convenient “View History” section. Thanks to this handy feature, the app will automatically crop text to remove previously mentioned emails, which can be annoying when reading messages. Finally, you can pin messages for quick access to them thanks to a shortcut, so you never have to look for them again.
What I like most about Spark is the small add-ons it offers compared to other customers, while still looking neat. These include the ability to snooze emails for hours or even days to help you focus on the more important things in between. You can even choose to be notified when it’s time to see it again, or just reappear in your inbox. Likewise, the software helps you remember things when you can: It automatically reminds you to keep track of messages you have sent for a while that have gone unanswered, so you can chase people who have not yet responded.
Also, if you have insomnia and want to send emails at 4:00 am, Spark helps you hide it from people: A handy feature lets you write emails but schedule them to be sent later, so so that users do not notice you write to them at disrespectful hours. Finally, the app makes it easier to find emails than ever before, thanks to a machine that understands natural language: just type “pdf from last week maximum” and it will show you all the messages that Max sent you last week contain PDF attachments – this is Comfortable. Although the above features look great and some are even more advanced than the Inbox could do, I have to admit that they are mostly useful for work-related communication.
Talking about business-related issues, Spark makes working with your colleagues a breeze. First, it allows you to privately comment on a message and even attach files without being seen outside of your group. It can also create a shared link with your coworkers to direct them to an email outside of Spark.
Finally, the app allows groups to write messages together, just as you would in Google Docs, which is much simpler than sending a draft and collecting comments from people. These go beyond what the Inbox could do, but, again, I only see them as useful in a work environment.
Spark is one of the most customizable email clients. You can change the items in the side menu to include any section or folder you want, and even split it up and down. It also offers free widgets, which are quick access shortcuts to your folders. Also, all scan moves are editable to suit your preferences, so you can quickly mark items as read, delete, archive, move, pin, or snooze.
Most importantly, it allows you to personalize how notifications work by choosing to display a full preview of the message, limiting it to the subject or simply the sender’s name. You can also mute notifications from people not on your contact list or turn off newsletter notifications. What is very powerful is the ability to set these separately for each email account you use, because notifications from your business and personal email accounts do not have to follow the same rules.
On top of all that mentioned earlier, Spark has some other great features that make your life easier. It supports multiple signatures and allows you to switch between them while composing a message. Also, if you are concerned about your privacy, you have the option of restricting access to the application with an additional password or biometric information, which ensures that only you can see your email. Finally, as a multi-platform application, everything is synced from one device to another, including messages, reminders, and account settings on hold, making it easy to manage email on both your computer and phone.
Although Spark has a lot to offer, it’s not perfect and there are things the Inbox used to do better: Google’s experimental client organized messages into clearer categories. It was also easier to access what mattered with the disabled app than with Spark, as the latter only shows the first lines of a message instead of a preview of critical information.
If we focus exclusively on Spark, I’m surprised that the mobile client does not have a calendar module like the PC app. It’s not necessarily a deal break, but having it all in one Mac simplifies scheduling appointments and events, and I wish I had the same ease on my phone. Also, because the application is quite comprehensive and customizable, it may take some time for people to get used to the way it works and adjust it according to their needs. Finally, both Mac and mobile apps do not have a dark theme, which would be a nice addition given how popular night functions are these days.
Overall, Spark is a powerful email client that can do much more than traditional applications. It is packed with amazing features that focus on increasing productivity and making it easier to manage business emails. It is similar to Inbox in that it wants to help you prioritize your mailbox and simplify email management, but given its advanced capabilities, I see it more as a business application than as my personal email management.
Can it replace the Inbox? It depends on what you used it for. Probably for many users, who will appreciate the similarities, while others will not be satisfied with Spark’s strong focus on business features. I personally like using it on my Mac, but I will stick to Gmail on Android for now. My personal emails are much simpler than those of my work and I do not need such a powerful application on my phone for everyday use.