Depending on your mail application of choice, and on the amount of email you have to go through every day, managing your email messages on your iPhone can be either a chore or a smooth experience. There are quite a few great apps for email that have been released lately like Outlook (which Khamosh reviewed in this entry), or Google Inbox that do mostly a great job, especially if you receive tons of emails.
The latest entry in mail apps for power users this time is Spark (free App Store), an app developed by Readdle, a company that is mostly known for document management apps.
Personally, I don’t have to deal with a heavily cluttered inbox that often, which is why CloudMagic is my favorite mail iPhone app. But after using CloudMagic for a few months, I wondered how this simple, streamlined app would compare to Spark.
Important Note: If either iPad or Apple Watch support is essential for you, know that CloudMagic supports both, while Spark does not (yet) offer iPad support.
Let’s compare the two of them.
Design & Usability
I usually consider design one of the most important aspects of an app. Design of course, is not merely how an app looks, but also how it feels and how the choices made while creating it make an app’s layout and navigation easier to understand and use.
In this respect, few mail apps (if any) can match CloudMagic’s implementation. The app sports a simple layout for messages, which are labeled by account using thin color stripes.
Swipes from right to left display the options for marking a message as unread, archiving it or deleting it. If you swipe in the other direction you’ll reveal all your accounts, letting you navigate any of them in more detail.
From the app’s message list screen you can also flag/star messages with a single tap.
Messages themselves render fast and well. Conversations are grouped and any specific message within it can be read with just a tap. CloudMagic also emphasizes the reading experience by proving a clean message screen with no icons or menu bar interrupting the flow of the message, leaving all menu options accessible at the top of the screen.
While Spark is nowhere as simple as CloudMagic, the development team behind the app deserves some recognition for making the app simple and appealing despite all it can do.
Among the many innovations that Spark brings to the table is the different message list viewing options. One of these is the traditional list view we have all come to expect from mail append that lists messages in chronological order.
The other, much more interesting view is called Smart Inbox, which sorts messages and displays them by relevance, with personal messages at the top, then notifications and then newsletters and similar ones.
Another great addition is how you can personalize several of Spark’s actions, including what the different swipes do.
Another couple of nice added features are the app’s widgets (which are what Spark calls its tools) and the way you can manage quick replies and signatures by simply tapping or scrolling through options respectively.
One little caveat though: While these features are a welcome addition, they take some on-screen space even when reading your messages, which can slightly disrupt your reading experience.
In addition to all of these, Spark also adds calendar integration like other apps that target power users, although the calendar doesn’t show detailed entries at a glance. Instead, you have to tap on a particular day to see your events, which kind of goes against the convenience of adding a calendar in the first place.
Search & Performance
Interestingly enough, both Spark and CloudMagic pride themselves in providing great search.
Search in CloudMagic is pretty straightforward and always accessible at the top of your message list.
Type something and the search results appear immediately, although it takes time to show all search results if you have a large inbox. And if your search is too ‘broad’, the app prompts you to select a specific account to better narrow down your results.
On Spark though, the search function reaches a completely new level, offering users the ability to use natural language (just like Fantastical) to perform your searches. So simply typing “messages with attachments” for example, will show you those messages.
In my experience, this feature worked flawlessly. So well in fact that I now kind of miss it on other email applications.
In my time with both Spark and CloudMagic, I got used to some neat features of the former, which I honestly didn’t expect to at first.
I am not entirely a fan of ‘pro’ mail apps, since most of them seem to add countless features and different approaches in the name of achieving email sanity. But Spark’s background customizability and crucially, its smoothness and speed, makes you forget you are using a pro solution for your email.
If you are looking for a simple and more ‘pure’ email app that sports great design and gets things done, then CloudMagic is the one you want. But if you don’t mind adding a few extra layers of complexity in order to get a few extra (and quite awesome) features, then Spark might prove a pleasant surprise for you.
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