Inbox is dead, long live Inbox! Well, despite the love for Inbox by Gmail, it finally ceases to function for the vast majority and will now simply be a relic of email organization likely broken down and scavenged for parts by the real Gmail team.

For those of you out there who were avid users of Inbox, the number of similar email applications or alternatives that can sort, organize and sift through your correspondence are pretty few and far between. Google’s recent track record with killing off popular services is no doubt a concern for many of the ‘currently available’ products besides the core options — and that does include Gmail.

Inbox’s demise means if you are a fan, then you’re essentially perfect fodder for Spark for Android. The reason being: it appeals to the Inbox devotee and has a suite of similar features — plus a few more on top to boot.

It’s worth noting that Spark has made the jump from iOS to Android at this pivotal moment.  Coincidence? We think not. The biggest question though: is this Inbox alternative actually any good?


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Design

Instantly when firing up Spark you notice that the interface doesn’t feel quite the same as every generic email client, but for Inbox users, it will feel eerily familiar. Your notifications are bundled much as they would be with Inbox. Everything feels very organized and well thought through.

New emails are found right at the top. Which is as you’d expect in all honesty, but it feels much more cohesive and as they are completely separate, you feel as though your email client is doing much of the legwork with regard to overall organisation.

Like Inbox, the bundling of emails into pre-determined segments really helps you feel like you’re getting control of each type of email you receive — from promotions to newsletters. Rather than the tabbed view that — I actually quite like — you find in Gmail, the list view is much easier to quite glance at but not all emails are shown.

Spark Mail for Android design

Because you don’t see a massive list, you feel less inundated with information and once your brain gets used to this layout, like Inbox, you can find what you’re looking for much more easily.

Spark has taken many visual cues from other applications and I think that the developers at Readdle have really targetted Inbox perfectly. Aim for a popular but dying product, replicate and then enhance slightly and you’ve got a truly winning formula.

One of the most requested features of any application nowadays is most definitely a dedicated dark mode — because who wants to be blinded by bright white screens late into the evening! Well, the team behind Spark have confirmed on Twitter that an update bringing a native dark mode is coming very soon.

Usability & Features

Inbox was revered by its userbase for the way it organised but Spark for Android takes things a little bit further in some regards. One thing I really liked about Inbox originally was the ability to search for attachments, and it makes the transition to Spark too.

Looking for a PDF or Word document that a specific contact sent you a while back? Well, just head into the search bar and Spark will do the rest. This isn’t exactly a new feature by any means but it’s not always present in many third-party options, so it’s a welcome inclusion.

The search is great at handling natural language too. No need for overly specific search queries or expressions that only work within the email search bar. As someone who receives literally hundreds of emails per day, this is a nice touch. I don’t have to remember the subject line or even the sender, usually, a search for a specific word, product or topic of conversation is enough to get the email thread I’m looking for.

Spark Mail Android custom widgets

We covered the fact that Gmail is finally introducing the ability to schedule emails, well, Spark for Android has that natively too. You can choose from a number of options for sending a composed email so that it gets pushed at a better time or more preferable date.

These schedule settings can be tweaked so that scheduling to send ‘Later today’ within the app can default to say 3 or 4 hours from the point at which you press the schedule button. I am a huge fan of this addition as it takes away the kerfuffle of always needing to put an exact date and time to schedule emails ahead of time.

Like Inbox, you can set reminders or snooze emails to come back to later. Like scheduling, you can tweak these to set your own preferences. It works in exactly the same way and is great if you often forget about pressing or upcoming tasks.

Customisation makes Spark in many ways a better email client than Inbox ever was. You can tweak your sidebar to your heart’s content. It doesn’t allow you to create new email bundles but you can move, add and remove sidebar options for easier management and control.

Spark Mail team collaboration Inbox alternative

I personally adore the ability to add widgets to the top bar. You are currently limited to adding just the two widgets here, but it beats the solitary ‘pinned emails’ option that is only available within Inbox. You can increase this limit to four widgets if you prefer a sub-menu style at the bottom of your application — this is much better for reachability in my opinion.

Spark is marketed as a proper ’email client for teams’, doing so by allowing you to create drafts with fellow co-workers before sending to a client for instance. I can see this being a powerful collaborative tool for those in sales or similar fields where collaboration is more pronounced.

Verdict

Fans of Inbox should hopefully love Spark for Android. It offers much of what made the deceased email app so popular. I can’t say I was a heavy user of Inbox as I would often dip in and out every so often. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand how Inbox users feel. As an avid Sparrow user on my original iPhone 4, I understand how it feels to have a beloved email client simply killed off.

It might not be perfect, but with updates and a few more tweaks here and there, Spark for Android could be the very email client to carrying the Inbox baton a few laps farther. You can download it directly from the Google Play Store and enjoy your email again.

We’d also love to hear your thoughts, are you going to stick with Inbox with workarounds until it eventually ‘truly’ dies? Or have you tried Spark already? Hate it or love it? Got a decent Inbox alternative of your own? Let us know in the comments section below.

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