For a long time I used the web interface for Gmail on my Mac. From time to time I’d try another email app, but it wouldn’t provide the speed and ease of just using Gmail in a browser.
However, a few months ago, I downloaded Sparrow for the Mac. At first I wasn’t sure, and kept using Gmail a lot, but as time went by, I gradually moved across to using Sparrow as my primary mail client. It’s simple, it’s easy, it fits in well with Gmail accounts, and when I decided to abandon Gmail, I found it made the transition really simple. In summary, I love Sparrow for the Mac.
I’d heard rumours around for some time that Sparrow were making an iPhone version of their Mac app, and for the last month or so I’ve been trying to get a look at screenshots and see if any of the beta testers had reviewed the app. What I saw made me excited - Sparrow for iPhone looked like exactly what I wanted - a simple, elegant iPhone Mail client.
Today the app launched, and so I got my first hands-on experience. It’s not a disappointment. Sparrow is indeed simple both to use and set up, and is beautifully designed, borrowing many of its design cues from the now-defunct Tweetie (which got bought by Twitter, and subsequently ruined). Once you’ve added in your email accounts and, optionally, your Facebook details (if you like having Facebook avatars for your contacts), you’re faced with an inbox not entirely dissimilar from the one found in the iPhone Mail app. However, if you swipe across to the right, you’ll find all of your mail folders and accounts, and if you swipe across to the left on a message, you’re given the option to reply, star, move, archive or delete the message (you can find the same options from within a message by tapping on the tiny arrow in the bottom right of the screen). Dealing with your email is faster and much more simple than before.
Writing a new message is also easier. Tap the tiny ‘new message’ button in the bottom right corner and up pops a list of all of your contacts, which you can either scroll through or search, choosing people to send to, Cc or Bcc. From there, typing the message is done simply enough, and adding a photo takes a simple tap on the paperclip icon. None of the message-writing part is particularly different from any other mail app, but neither does it need to be. The developers have simplified what needs to smoothed in a mail app, and kept the rest as unaltered and familiar as possible.
Sparrow, therefore, gets much right. It’s a great app to use. The only downside right now is getting email notifications. Sparrow attempted a version that used the VOIP multi-tasking to keep the app running in the background (which is not entirely different from how the official iPhone Mail app works) but it was rejected by Apple (unsurprisingly). Sparrow can’t afford to run their own push servers, and don’t want the headache of dealing with the personal information that entails, so as it stands there’s somewhat of an impasse, and thus the app doesn’t push anything to notification centre. I’ve currently got the app in my iPhone dock as my primary mail app, and have left on Apple’s own mail notifications as a bit of a fudge, and it works well enough, but I hope this gets fixed soon.
I think that Sparrow have made an app that’s as close to a perfect mail app as one could hope to expect, and blows competitors out of the water1. The notification issue doesn’t ruin the app for me, but it’ll be great to see it fixed in the near future.
Download Sparrow for iPhone
If you’ve downloaded the app, there’s a nice Tumblr that outlines some of the less obvious features.