Apple’s platforms come with an array of built-in, 'stock' apps, but we’d be lying if we said that Mail is one of the ones we don’t jettison early when setting up a new device.
Whether we’re on iPhone, iPad, or Mac, Apple’s Mail app feels sluggish, and while it has some neat features and gets better with every release, we still keep coming back to the best alternative email apps.
While there are plenty of options, we’re focusing on Spark today. The app is intended to help you get through your inbox more quickly than ever, with a focus on integrating multiple services into the app, as well as additional “power level” features.
There are plenty more reasons to check out Spark, including customizable quick actions and quick replies, iOS and iPadOS widgets, and scheduled send (something Apple is adding to Mail in iOS 16, iPadOS, and macOS Ventura), but here are some of our favorites.
Get to know the Smart Inbox
Spark works through your email inbox before you even got to it, with a “Smart Inbox” ensuring that your newsletters, product updates, and notifications from web services like Trello or YouTube don’t prevent you from getting through the messages you have from friends or colleagues.
Simply tapping the toggle at the top of your inbox converts your Inbox to a Smart Inbox, bringing your important emails to the top and categorizing everything else by category.
You can customize those categories within the settings menu, too, so you can keep any of them free from the “smart” filtering.
Use it as a calendar app
While we’re still likely to use a bespoke Calendar app like Fantastical, Spark does offer its own view for adding appointments.
Simply tap the date in the top right corner of the app to transition to a refreshingly clear calendar view. You can respond to invitations in emails within Spark, too, and having it just a tap away while you’re in an email makes it much easier to coordinate availability with colleagues.
Once something is in your calendar, you can access the likes of Google Hangouts and Zoom just by tapping the link within Spark, too.
Integrate with other services
Spark offers integrations with a wealth of services, including huge sites like Trello and Asana, as well as more device-focused options like Things 3. This means you can create new tasks for yourself, or for a team, in just a few taps.
Perhaps more importantly, though, this takes a lot of the rigmarole out of attaching files to emails since you can connect directly with cloud storage platforms like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, and even iCloud Drive. That can shave minutes off a workflow – particularly on iPad where file management can be cumbersome at the best of times.
Use natural language search
If there’s one thing Apple Mail is incredibly slow to handle, it’s search requests. Thankfully, Spark is not only faster, but smarter, too.
Tapping the search button on any email folder triggers a search, alongside recent queries as well as the option to save certain filters. Results appear almost instantly, too, and users can store email in Smart Folders to appear with a specified search term.
You can also use natural language search, letting you search for things like “PDF files from Daryl sent in the last week” to narrow down your results, while attachment titles and links can also form search queries. That means searching for “Invoice number 25” will find the file within the email that it was included in.
Collaborate on email with the Teams feature
Collaboration within email has been a tricky thing for teams to manage in the past, but Spark makes the process easier by allowing for multiple authors to contribute within a team.
This works in a process closer to Google Docs editing than anything else, with an integrated instant messaging solution to allow users to discuss changes in private.
This ties in with a series of team-focused features, including Shared Inboxes, as well as customizable email templates. Users can even set up templates that pull data from external sources, with Spark able to pull in elements like sales figures and pricing to ensure the most up-to-date information is sent.
Finally, Spark lets managers delegate email to team members, allowing for smoother workflows from shared inboxes and removing the need for constantly forwarding emails to colleagues to reply to.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.
- Daryl BaxterSoftware & Downloads Writer