App

Developer: Readdle Technologies Limited
Price: $7.99/£7.99 per month [Free 7 day trial]
Size: 343 MB
Version: 3.0.6
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Spark Mail

We reviewed Spark Mail 1.0 way back in 2015, which aptly reflects its status as an elder statesman of the email app scene. We’ve always rated Spark for its powerful, intuitive approach to inbox management.

Now developer Readdle has launched Spark 3.0, and with it a fresh take on the same problems. It’s still got a simple vertically scrolling inbox, and it’s still got an integrated calendar function, but some of the specifics will be quite unfamiliar to you. (Unless you’ve tried HEY Email, whose ‘reinvention’ of email involves some similar features).

The inbox sorts emails according to perceived importance

The latest version’s key innovation is to completely rearrange the order of your emails, which is a daring-bordering-on-sacrilegious move. Emails are broadly arranged by timeframe, with today’s emails given priority at the top, followed by yesterday, then the rest of the week, and so on. Within those sections, however, Spark Mail gets creative.

Mails that it deems to be from real people bubble to the top, while less essential emails like Newsletters and Notifications are shunted to the bottom of the pile. Not only that, but the latter categories are nested together, almost as if they were two big chat threads minimized within your inbox.

Low priority ‘Newsletters’ are nested together in their own section

As with any other such AI-driven email triage tool, it’s far from perfect, and a fair number of ‘real’ emails will be demoted. Thankfully, using the ‘mark as Priority’ button in one such email will correct that for all emails from that source, and will subtly but clearly highlight the current message to boot.

You’ll need to use the app beyond the week-long free trial to be sure, but Spark Mail should get better at making these decisions on your behalf over time.

New senders can be instantly blocked or accepted

There are also a couple of provisions to help reduce visual clutter in your inbox. Hit the tick button on an individual email, and that email will be hidden within your inbox unless another message is added to the thread. You can view these ‘done’ emails at any time but hitting the tick toggle at the top of the inbox.

Elsewhere, you can also Mute conversations, which will prevent your phone from lighting up every time someone responds to a sprawling thread whilst still maintaining its position in your email stream. We also liked the gatekeeper feature, which highlights new senders in a carousel at the top of the inbox, ready to be quickly accepted or summarily blocked.

Mark emails as Priority to send them to the top of your inbox

One of Spark’s main issues is its very uniqueness. If you’ve been using email for decades, accepting a completely new approach that can literally disappear emails and arrange them in an unfamiliar order can be quite a lot to get used to.

There’s also the sticky matter of payment. After an initial 7-day trial, you’ll need to stump up $8/month (or $60/year) to continue using its full suite of features (priority email, gatekeeper, thread muting, and more). If you’ve lived with email as a free, fundamental part of online life for decades, it’s a big ask. But if email is important to you, it could very well be worth the outlay.

It’s also worth noting that Spark is still a great mail client even if you don’t pay for the extras – anyone who already used Spark 2.0 will find all the stuff they liked before still included in the free iteration. Multiple account support, calendar integration, cross-platform, smart notifications, send later, message reminders, and more. All that the newly-designed Smart Inbox we mentioned earlier, making it a very good option for free, or an exceptional one for paying customers.

There’s a handy integrated calendar function

If you’ve finally reached the end of your tether with the email sprawl, and are willing to commit to a new approach, Spark 3.0 could provide the salvation you’re seeking.

Spark Mail 3.0 - big changes for the veteran email app
A bold new approach to email that isn't afraid to trim the fat
The Good
  • Gets the fundamentals just right
  • Novel handling of inessential emails
  • Effective gatekeeping feature
The Bad
  • Auto-sorting isn't perfect
  • The full package ain't cheap
4.5Overall Score