I have never been a fan of Apple’s Mail, either on the Mac or especially on iOS devices. I used it early on when, in OS X, it was the only (obvious) option, but, once I shifted to Gmail, I used (and liked) the Gmail interface. It’s not particularly slick, but it’s functional and easy. I especially like Gmail’s columns / categories (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums). I have more email addresses than I care to admit forwarding to one Gmail address, so those columns provide a good baseline of organization.

I avoided Apple’s Mail on my phone and iPad from when I first got them. I was on Gmail, liked its web interface, and so just used it via iOS Safari. I would see on the App Store, in MacWorld, through various promotions, different mail clients that tout greater efficiency and organization over Mail. I tried a number of them but found them too slick, e.g. swipe slowly to archive and quickly to trash (I archived a lot more things than I wanted). I did like some of the organizational tricks (at least a couple had a feature that would redeliver a message at a future date, say the agenda for a meeting that isn’t for another week, and CloudMagic has a version of this (see below)) but not enough to override my familiarity with Gmail.

I heard about CloudMagic (can’t remember where) and, as I’ve done with similar email clients, gave it a shot, figuring that I would not take to it any more than I did the other clients I tried. But, a month or so later, I have conferred on CloudMagic the ultimate compliment: I have replaced Safari with it in the dock on my phone; it is now, with Messages, Phone, and Calendar, among the Big Four.

CloudMagic presents a relatively straightforward interface (and I will say at this point that it does not maintain Google’s columns / categories, even in a sidebar-way like Gmail presents on iOS Safari; the linearization of my inbox isn’t great but, since I don’t use any phone client for hard core emailing, I can get past it). Messages appear with a search bar above, the account name / label above that, a compose button at upper right, and a menu button at upper left: clean and straightforward.

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The menu button brings up a list of folders / storage that mimics whatever your account has. The settings button is at the bottom right of this menu.

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There is one swipe available: trash, archive, and mark read/unread (whichever it is not). I do wish (and I have looked, though might have missed it) that there is a preference or setting that could customize these choices; I’d much rather a file option than a mark read/unread option, but I can live with that. I appreciate the simplicity of the approach, rather than the perhaps more common and more heralded fast swipe / slow swipe for different options.

The star function is a common one and you can of course isolate based on your starred messages (as well as your inbox, which I use, and your unread messages. Tapping and holding the star, on the other hand, brings up a delay option whereby you can hold a message for a fixed period of time. I would like to see a few more options here but this is a handy feature for organizing email (if a bit unintuitive being hidden behind the star).

The lock screen and out-of-app functionality of the app is adequate, if not perfect. Messages of course appear on your lock screen if notifications are enabled and a swipe to the left allows archiving or deletion (a swipe to the right takes you to the app). The only potential annoyance to this (which might, I admit, not be unique to CloudMagic) is that messages will not actually archive or delete without inputting your passcode or fingerprint (if enabled), which makes the process a bit less efficient. Other messages in the same group of notifications, however, can be deleted without reauthenticating.

More useful is the functionality of notifications when using the phone. They appear at the top of the screen and a swipe down allows for archiving and deleting.

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I think I’ve covered the range of at least basic functionality of CloudMagic. I’ve been using it consistently for at least a month now, which is about three weeks and six days longer than I used any other iOS mail client. And I no longer use Gmail via Safari on my iOS devices. I still do (via Firefox or Chrome) on my Mac; there is a CloudMagic app in the app store, but I’m not sure it’s $20 better than the web-based Gmail interface. But I recommend the iOS app, especially if you are a dissatisfied (Apple)Mail user.

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