Mobile email must be broken, because everyone’s trying to fix it.
Over the past year, numerous companies — Mailbox, Boxer, Evomail and Seed, to name just a few — have launched apps designed to make handling email on smartphones better and easier. Their argument is that, for a world that’s getting more mobile, it’s hard to do anything but just the basics (read messages, send quick replies) with the mail apps that come preloaded on our phones.
The latest company to try to solve the problem is Acompli. The San Francisco-based startup released its free iOS last week, and it also plans to offer an Android app in the next few months.
Unlike some solutions, like Mailbox, Acompli isn’t about helping you defer messages or reaching the elusive inbox zero. Instead, its goal is to allow you to do more right from your smartphone, rather than waiting until you get back to your desk. Acompli tries to accomplish this in several different ways.
First, it brings together your calendar and email, so you don’t have to switch between two apps to view your availability or schedule a meeting. Second, it organizes all your email attachments and files in a list, so they’re easily accessible and searchable. Lastly, Acompli keeps tabs on your most recent and important contacts, so they’re always just a tap or two away.
All of these features make Acompli one of the most robust email apps I’ve tested to date, but I have yet to make it my main email app. In reviewing Acompli, I really thought about how I use email on my phone — I mainly use it to check for any pressing issues I might have to deal with during off-hours, or when I’m away from my desk for a long time. Usually, I can handle most situations with a quick reply or phone call, and I can already do that with the iPhone’s Mail app, so I didn’t have much motivation to switch to a new app.
But everyone has different mobile email habits. And for busy professionals in need of a more capable mobile email solution, I’d recommend giving Acompli a try.
Currently, Acompli only works with Microsoft Exchange, Google Apps and Gmail, but the company plans to add iCloud support next. After logging in to my Google work account and personal Gmail account, Acompli transferred all my messages, email folders and appointments into the app. New mail often arrived faster than it did on my iPhone’s Mail app.
I should note that Acompli sends your emails, appointments, files and contacts through its own servers to deliver all that data to your device and to make it searchable. Acompli knows that security and privacy is a huge concern, and says that it never looks at anyone’s data, and that all user data is encrypted. But if you — or your workplace — have concerns, you can read their full privacy and security policy here.
The app’s interface is clean, simple and intuitive to use. The inbox view isn’t all that much different from other email apps, but you’ll notice a toolbar along the bottom that provides access to your calendar, files, people and settings.
In the calendar section, you can view your appointments by day or in a list view, and Acompli will color-code them based on whether they’re tied to your work or personal account. It was nice that whenever I got a meeting request, I could just tab over to my calendar to see my availability and respond with a quick reply.
That said, while you can add a new event in the calendar section or create an invite when composing a message, you can’t do so by long-pressing a date listed in an email, the way you can in Apple’s Mail app. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it would be a nice addition, especially in cases where an event has a set date and time. Acompli says it’s working to add this feature in the future.
I did appreciate Acompli for planning meetings on the go. When replying to an email, you will see three small icons at the bottom of the message. When you tap on the calendar icon, you’ll be given an option to Send Availability, and from there you can select the times you’re available to meet and send them to your recipient(s). It’s super quick and easy. If you’re running late for a meeting, you can also send an “I’m running late” note, along with the map of your location, in just a couple of taps.
In the Files section, you’ll find all your email attachments listed in chronological order. Visual cues make it easy to see what type of files they are at a glance (PDF, Word document, images, etc.). You can filter them by type, or manually search for them by sender or file name. This system was so much better than going through my entire inbox in search of a document, and the full list is also accessible when you need to attach a file to a message.
The People section is where I ran into some problems. In theory, Acompli is supposed to surface your most important or favorite contacts in this section, ranked by how recently and how often you email the person. From there, you can view all your interactions with that individual (emails, meetings, shared files), and fire off quick emails to them.
However, Acompli didn’t really get my contacts right. It got some: For example, my bosses and colleagues ranked high on the list. But in reviewing the entire list, I found some names of people who I haven’t talked to in months, while some of my favorite contacts were listed near the bottom or not at all. As a result, this feature wasn’t of much use to me. Acompli said it’s continuing to tweak the algorithm it uses to populate the list, and also plans to add the ability to manually add and remove people.
If the company can fix the contacts issue, Acompli can definitely serve the needs of those looking for a more powerful email solution. It’s intuitive and can help you get more done on the go, while cutting down on the number of apps needed to accomplish your task.
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