Spark — Simply Better Email
These days, Email has been having one of those existential crises that is usually reserved for the fat molecules present in eggs ("Am I healthy? Or am I a part of an unhealthy item of food? Why am I stuck in this yellow goo?", you get the idea). It still forms an important part of our everyday lives — professional and personal, but it's generally considered so 1990s, that "I'll send you an email" is the new "How many Tazos do you have?". I, however, continue to believe that email is about as essential as a smart phone. It follows, therefore, that the choice of email client is extremely important.
There’s a good chance that as a regular reader of Beautiful Pixels, you’ve already settled onto your email client of choice. Over the last three years, there have been numerous email apps that have entered and exited the game. A few have stuck around and with continuous, frequent feature updates, they each do a splendid job of handling your email today. Spark — a fantastic email app from the great folks at Readdle has been around for quite some time now and has already garnered some attention. It's a Readdle app, so you'd expect that it'll look great, and will be packed with features. And boy, does it deliver. Spark is beautifully designed, with fast and fluid animations, swiping actions and snoozing (RIP Mailbox), undo send, easy to access widgets that grant quick access to your pinned or snoozed emails, tight integration with services like Dropbox and Evernote — the whole nine yards. It also has Inbox by Google-esque Email Sorting, smartly placing incoming emails into silos like 'Newsletters' or 'Notifications' (which you can conveniently ignore, if you so wish, by switching to the traditional 'Inbox' view). The app refers to this as 'Cards', with many more options on the way.
It has everything you'd expect of a modern email client, but one of its stand-out features for me is the Natural Language Searching. Think Fantastical, but for email – I can enter something like 'PDFs from <insert name here>', and it'll go through all my email to find any email with a PDF attachment, that has been sent by <insert mail here>. That's not all – Spark can even search for emails that contain links. Remember that really long article your friend sent you about how some Editors of websites don't give their writers 3D-Touch enabled phones and what a travesty that is (based on hypothetical situations, of course)? Well, simply search for 'Mails with links from Kindred McSpirit', and voila! There's the email. It's an absolutely amazing feature, and Spark has the best implementation of search I've seen yet in an email client.
Readdle's Apps have always been excellent iOS citizens, and Spark is no different. Now that iOS 10 is out, Spark has wasted no time in adding functionality that takes advantage of Apple's new APIs. Chief among them, and definitely my favorite, is the 'Quick Reply' functionality in the Rich Notifications that iOS 10 brings. Simply put, you can drag down (or 3D-Touch) on a notification, select 'Quick Reply', and shoot off an email as if it were an iMessage. Of course, it's only usable when the received email is short, since the Notification Preview will only load a portion of the email. Nonetheless, this is one of those fantastic features that Spark has, that actually makes me, as they put it, love my email again.
For you Apple Watch owners, Spark also has a lovely watch app that’s already been updated with watchOS 3 features, such as Dock and Scribble support. Although I haven’t tested this myself, I have heard Preshit sing merry songs about it.
Spark really is an amazing app, but there's one thing that's preventing me from giving Readdle all of my money (more on this later) – There's no Mac App, yet. And that is really a deal breaker for me. Yes, making a Mac app takes time and there have been whispers about a beta out there, so that’s some relief. But as Mailbox taught me – if you use advanced features like Snooze, you have to have the same app across all your platforms. Simply put, email providers like Gmail don't offer these features, so apps like Spark use server-side hacks to provide these advanced functionalities (in this case, by making functionality-based folders in your mail server). Unfortunately, no other app can use the emails in these folders to provide the same functionality. If you're all in with the 'Post PC' paradigm, Spark is already the email app for you. If, however, you still prefer a computer or laptop to write your emails, you'll have to wait till the promised Mac app makes its appearance. Personally, I'm opting to wait it out with the much more feature-rich and pro-user oriented, but sadly still buggy, Airmail.
There is, however, a surprise in store — Spark is FREE. That's right… You can use it without any Buyer's Remorse. I continue to be astonished at how Readdle manages its finances – Apps like Spark and the fantastic Documents offer amazing functionality for FREE. The developers have said that further functionality (such as new Cards) will be paid for. Let's see how this, umm… develops.
In the meantime, if you're still using Apple's Mail app or the official Gmail app, you owe it to yourself to take Spark for a spin. Once you start using the features Spark has to offer, I doubt you'll go back. Unless, of course, like me, you like the clickety-clack of a good, old-fashioned laptop/desktop keyboard.
Spark is available for Free on the App Store.