I’m using Outlook again on my iPhone and iPad. It’s the latest in a series of email clients I’m evaluating to replace Inbox, which Google is discontinuing. I used Spark for about four weeks and took pretty detailed notes, then switched to Outlook. This isn’t the first time I’ve used Outlook on the iPhone; I used it in 2015 until I learned to love Inbox. It’s interesting to revisit it after those years, and I’ve taken some notes to share about that.
In a nutshell, I think Outlook is the frontrunner for the best email app on iPhone and iOS, but not so on Mac. Here are a few of its strengths:
- Design. Simple, clean, light, uncluttered, refreshing. It’s been updated since I used it last, I think.
- Unified inbox across several email accounts.
- Swipe actions to snooze and archive emails.
- Built-in calendar; it can replace both Inbox and Google Calendar. It lets you respond to invitations from the inbox, and shows whether there are conflicts with no need to look at the calendar itself.
- Nice for privacy-focused users like me: handy one-touch unsubscribe for bulk mailings, ability to turn off external images, permits using Safari instead of the embedded browser like Google’s apps, which is just a tracking tactic on Google’s part.
- Fast and reliable; doesn’t crash, doesn’t freeze, opens quickly.
- I can customize notifications the way I want.
On the other hand,
- It lacks a Mac/desktop client that I like. The iOS client is not from the same lineage as the desktop application; it’s a company that Microsoft acquired and renamed Outlook. I used the desktop Outlook app in a previous life and I don’t prefer it.
- The “focused inbox” has the same downsides as Spark’s smart inbox, and I disabled it.
- The calendar works really well but was initially annoying because about 40 of my coworkers’ calendars were shown on it. Just because I have access to a calendar doesn’t mean I want to see it. And they came back about two or three times. Calendar invitations show up on my Withings Steel HR hybrid smartwatch as simply “Outlook Calendar,” without details.
- Email search is slow. Maybe Inbox and GMail use a search feature that’s not available to third-party clients.
I have a few more email apps I want to try before I decide, but there’s no rush. Outlook is keeping me in business in the meanwhile.