A Sparrow in the Hand is Worth Two on your iOS Device… Or Not

Sparrow iPhone from domleca on Vimeo.

Sparrow, a mac mail app, was back in the news last week with the introduction of their iOS version. When last I was wrestling with my email workflow (yes, I have an email workflow, because it’s all getting too damn complicated), I was contemplating moving off of mobileme/icloud because it doesn’t run consistently on my different macs running different OSes and pointed all of my accounts to my gmail account. So for a couple of weeks I tried using the Sparrow app on my mac and it was way better than using the web-app and I could do the labeling of emails based on topic and sender instead of artificially storing my email into folders that may or may not work. That worked for a couple weeks, then I ran into a problem where I couldn’t send using my work-icloud account and had to use the mac’s mail app for the day, then I decided to go back to the mail app until I could work what wasn’t working.

So, the native mac mail app doesn’t do the gmail label thing which I was steering towards. But the native mac mail app does at least one thing that Sparrow and others don’t seem to be able to do: I can take a message from the unified INBOX and store it in any folder (mailbox) on any of my accounts. So a message that came in from my gmail account, after I’ve sent the reply, I can drag the message to my FSO students folder. The Sparrow app on the mac & iOS only permits me to store the message on the server/folder/label where the message came in from. It’s less convenient, but it does force me to decide where I’m going to store everything. This especially comes into play when Apple looks for $40 for 25GB of mail storage in the next several months… ack.

So, I had to purchase the iOS version of Sparrow and give it a spin. The interface is just different enough to be a bit confusing. Settling on the notion that mail that I received from my gmail account was going to be stored/archived in gmail, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to label the messages because you can’t label a message while viewing it, but only in the inbox-list view. Ack. That took me about an hour to figure out. Once that was done, I think I’ll continue the gmail only experiment. One thing to note is that the current iOS version does not do push mail, meaning that it doesn’t poll your inbox in the background but only grabs messages when it’s the primary app running in the foreground. That’s inconvenient to have to launch the app to know if I have new mail, but it’s not a deal killer, because when I’m away from my macs, I’ll just run through my steams (mail, twitter, Facebook) when I have an idle moment. So, not a deal killer for me. We’ll see. The experiment continues.

One Comment

  1. Jason Spencer

    Great post, Joe! I have to admit, I still haven’t found the *killer* or complete app for mail. I had high hopes for many, and I’ve purchased a few that are now starting to make dents in my wallet.

    However, I have located one app on iOS and another on OS X that seem to work well for me. It should be noted that I still spend the bulk of my day inside the GMail website, but I do need to use other mailboxes for a reason.

    For iOS, I have started using an app called Sent by And a Dinosaur. I’m actually a little concerned, because I can’t locate it in the iTunes store, and all of my searches link to an app not available in the US Store now. It’s possible Google has gotten in the way, but with only a few shortcomings (no Push and I’ve had forwarding of attachment issues). Colored labels is certainly one of my FAVORITE features of it. Read some more here: http://appadvice.com/appnn/2011/11/quickadvice-sent

    As for the desktop, I’ve found that Postbox (http://www.postbox-inc.com/) is one of the best replacements of the OS X Mail native app that blends Google functions such as labels and even important tags. I still have a few issues with this app, and it’s not cheap, but it does come with a 30-day trial and that’s usually enough to decide it it’s what you want.

    As for Sparrow, I’ve used it. I’ve just never been able to really get the GMail experience I prefer with it (iOS or Mac OS). I’ve paid my money for it, but I’m just not a fan.


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