Mail on iOS and iCloud is Due a Huge Upgrade

Lately I have used iCloud for all of my email needs. At the office, at home, and on the go, iCloud takes the cake when it comes to simple and streamlined email. Email comes in and updates whether I have emails in my Inbox or setup to auto-go to one of my folders (sometimes called Mailboxes) that I keep in my iCloud account. Anywhere I go, I can get to my mail ads-free, and in one of the cleanest easy-to-use apps Apple has ever made: Mail for Mac and iOS.

But the app is not without its shortcomings. The desktop Mail app does everything I need it to, while the online and iOS versions leave a lot to be desired. The predicament is Apple hasn’t included many features that are in the desktop Mail in the iOS Mail. Mail on iOS is the default email app, and that’s not changeable. So if you want to push notifications you have to use Mail, but it’s not going to handle your email as good as it will on a Mac.

Mac power users everywhere are annoyed by the limits of Mail on iOS. Coincidently, after I wrote most of this entry, I listened to the Mac Power Users podcast interview with Merlin Mann where Merlin goes deep into his complaints towards Apple Mail. Each new iteration of iOS addresses some of the users’ complaints, but never satisfies.

Another user that feels sorta how I do had this to say in an article addressed to Mail in a clever way; like Mail were a person that could read his article (I guess it’s really addressed to Mail’s developers). His complaints are targeting iOS Mail:

Instead of giving me ONE inbox where emails from my most important contacts can go, why not just let me setup email rules like I can do with Mail on my Mac? That way, I can set my own rules and you can work on other things. Could these rules just sync with iCloud, or aren’t you two that close?

And signatures for my different emails? Oh, wow, that would be d*** exciting if it was 2005 and I was still using a Windows PC with Outlook. AppAdvice

I don’t know how Android devices handle email, but I’ve heard that it’s satisfactory. I also hear Windows mobile phone users are proud of what Microsoft has to offer. But I’m not going to compare Mail of iOS to these. Frankly, it’s beneath Apple to compete in the area of email clients, and I don’t believe they should match competitors’ email clients. I believe Apple should do things their own way, and Apple’s mail client should be overwhelmingly superior to the competition. Is that too much to ask? I’m not about to use a Windows or Android device simply because the email client doesn’t work for me with iOS. Since this is the case, I just want Apple’s offering to get with the program (I guess that pun is intended).

Therefore I will evaluate Mail for iOS and iCloud on its own lack of merits.

1. Let’s get Mail Rules in iCloud that’s iOS operable

Mail on a Mac handles rules for emails incredibly well once you understand how they’re done. Mail will organize and sort your mail for you, thus eliminating a lot of wasted time and effort sifting through emails the old-fashioned way—like your granny with the latest telegrams and Sears catalogs. After all, one of the greatest shortcomings of a physical mailbox is that the USPS and the mailbox by your street doesn’t know how you want your mail managed. That’s why Mail app Rules are so practical. Chop-chop!

The roundabout way to deal with Mail rules for iOS is to keep one of your Mac’s Mail app open at all times. It can act as a server that sorts the mail for you. This is a simple solution if you own and interface with Mail on a Mac regularly. If you don’t have a Mac in the first place then you’re up the creek. Emails on iOS have to be organized manually, which is the most unproductive way imaginable. It can be done, but it’s a killer waste of time.

2. Give Mail my alias’ signatures

Enterprise users, such as myself, want custom signatures for our different email addresses. If you add multiple Gmail address accounts in iOS and give them all a place in the Mail app then they will each have their very own customizable signature. However, if you use iCloud’s option to create aliases, those aliases cannot have their own signatures. It’s not difficult to understand why this is a major shortcoming.

I use aliases to help sort my emails using Mail app Rules. If a get messages for my Jiving Jackalope’s alias address it will sort for me regardless of the subject line or the sender when Rules are applied. Aliases from iCloud give me email addresses that end in, which I like. Currently, since Mail and iCloud only let you have one signature for your iCloud account, it’s so very impractical to use one signature for emails to all of your regulars: your boss, spouse, friends, and customers. I want to tell Mail what my signature ought to be depending on which alias I use for outgoing mail.

3. Give us Flagged emails in iCloud online

Scott Forstall announced that in iOS 6 they are adding the VIP and Flagged Mailboxes to the iOS app. It’s about time. What users have not noticed though is that iCloud’s online web app doesn’t show your Flagged Mailbox either. All this time I’ve used flagged emails (since 2006) and I have gone without access to them on iDevices, MobileMe, and now iCloud online. When I’m in a bind, getting to all of my email stuff online would be super. At times when it is impossible to get to my own machines I want to quickly get to my flagged emails in the Flagged Mailbox from iCloud online. No such Flagged Mailbox is available at this time.

Regardless of the long-standing shortcomings, Mail will remain my go-to email client, but I want to see Apple raise the bar to greater heights. Rumor has it that Sparrow, the popular email client alternative on the iPhone and Mac, is coming to the iPad. When that happens, I will most certainly give it a test drive in hopes it addresses these points.