in iOS, iPad, iPhone

Mail Pilot: A Promising Mail Client that trips on its own feet

When Mail Pilot was launched, I was hesitant to drop $15 for the app. Not because I’m cheap, I’m a huge supporter of paying for apps and supporting developers. However, the only way I was going to experience what Mail Pilot was all about was by sending off Hamilton and Lincoln with a hug and a prayer.

Mail Pilot has a similar approach to the popular MailBox app. There are some differences that do make the app a bit more enticing. One of them is the option of adding any IMAP mail account, which is one of the features that has crippled Mailbox since launch. You are also allowed to specify a date you want to revisit an email, set some aside and add messages into lists. The idea behind these kind of apps are that they want us to believe that email is a task application. I disagree with this approach, but I am also aware that lots of people have accepted this.

When you create your account, you are welcomed with a brief walk through of the app. Once you get your emails, you have a few options. Swipe from left to right to “set aside, Review tomorrow, or review in 5 days”. Each option shows up slowly as you slide your finger towards the edge of your device. At the beginning of your swipe, you’ll see the “Set aside” text. If you let go, it will send the email to the “set aside” option. As you continue swiping, the other options come up and the email will go to the appropriate list as you let go of the swipe.

Mail Pilot Slide

One neat feature that Mail Pilot offers over Mailbox is the list feature. You can send and collect related messages from multiple accounts into Lists. You can add your bill notices to a bills list, newsletters to another. You can even combine social media notifications, or centralize messages into lists you have created. Very neat!

Perhaps one of the greatest feature is security. Unlike Mailbox, Mail Pilot doesn’t host your emails. They are using your native email client servers and they just communicate with them. You have zero risk of issues with privacy or concerns over your communication. Your account information, passwords, messages, and contacts are securely stored on your device. All communication occurs between your device and your email service provider with the encryption provided by your email service. Mail Pilot doesn’t store, processes, or accesses your information on any third party server. This is a huge feature that I really applaud. I don’t trust any third-party service having access to my data.

Another great feature that I liked was the reply experience. You reply to an email like you do to an iMessage. You type in a small entry box that grows as your message gets longer. A very welcome approach that I really enjoyed. Mail Pilot also offers intuitive threading, easy forward, full search, bulk actions, tabbed viewing for multitasking, gesture controls, folder compatibility, and fully-integrated Attachments. Add to that iPad support and make no mistake, Mail Pilot wants to play hardball here!

The Problems

On paper, Mail Pilot promises to be a very good email client. But I had some really heartbreaking issues with it. First, each time you decide to assign an email “task” to a specific date, the client creates a folder on your email account with this date. Can you imagine how crazy your mail becomes when you start to see 20-30 folders that were created just because you wanted to review an email on a specific date? This turns your native email folder structure into a mess. I like to keep my folder structure clean and simple .This destroys this approach and something that from the very beginning kills my desire to use the app.

Second, the app crashed a lot. I was using my iCloud and Gmail accounts and it seems that the app had issues with Gmail. It took longer than usual to download messages from the server and when I tried to view attachments on their proudly toted “fully-integrated attachments” feature it crashed constantly.

I also wasn’t very impressed with the look and feel of the app. I realize this is a personal opinion, but Mail Pilot never felt or worked to my desire. It was cumbersome, slow and very crashy.

As much as I wanted to like Mail Pilot, I was disappointed and it really took a lot of self-discipline for me to use the app for 3 days. I wanted to delete it the first night I downloaded it. I gave it a chance and still feel that this app, though not bad, needs more time in the oven. Maybe Mail Pilot will be better in 6 months. But as it stands today, I cannot recommend it. I’m rooting for the developers and hoping that the issues are fixed and that they figure out a better way to use their “review on date” feature without puking on my neat and organized folder structure.



Mail Pilot Sidebar Mail Pilot Inbox with icons

Mail Pilot Reply

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  1. >>They are using your native email client servers and they just communicate with them
    I like this very much. Privacy, as you state is better, but so is service since we don’t have to worry about another layer of servers going down.

    >>You can send and collect related messages from multiple accounts into Lists.
    Mailbox has a similar feature if you continue to swipe all the way left it creates a new label (used as a list) although not sure this was available in the app at launch.

    >>Add to that iPad support and make no mistake, Mail Pilot wants to play hardball here!
    If it is a really native iPad experience then this is huge. I am really missing this with Mailbox

    Good stuff Moe! I will be keeping my eye on this one as I LOVE using my email as my task management system. Never been more productive. 😉

    • Yup, it is native iPad support. I would dare say that if the service worked without crashes and the folder issue, it would be the best iPad mail app available. So close… so close.

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