A great experience for email users on the iPhone, and an absolute bargain at £1.99.
Sparrow For iPhone is an email client whose developers think has what it takes to tempt you away from Apple’s built-in Mail. Sparrow was first introduced on the Mac, designed for use mainly with Gmail, but Sparrow on the iPhone can be used with any email account supporting IMAP, which includes Gmail, iCloud and pretty much everything else. However, it doesn’t support POP or Exchange.
Setup is easy and also asks if you want to connect to a Facebook account, to add pictures when you receive email. Again, this is a very simple and speedy process.
You’ll quickly find that once set up, Sparrow is very easy to get to grips with. It’s nicer-looking than Mail, with three main panes – one for your accounts (you can have as many IMAP accounts as you want), one for your folder (including Inbox, drafts, and so on) and one just for Inbox. As a result, navigating between them makes life plain sailing. Email threads look great, and you can see all the messages in a thread simply by tapping at the top of an email.
Sparrow makes use of swiping gestures, so you can add stars or labels, or mark either messages or whole conversations as read, just by swiping. Navigating threads is also done by swiping up or down. And if you want, the app uses long presses on single messages to mark them as read or unread. There’s also some other useful shortcuts, such as the ability to tap at the top of an email to have it sent from a different account.
Our favourite feature, though, is how Sparrow handles sending attachments. Unlike Mail, you can attach images from within Sparrow itself – you don’t have to do it from the Photos app. Unfortunately, there’s no ability to attach other files as yet. And, of course, there’s no option in other apps to use Sparrow as your default email client for attachments. As yet, that feature doesn’t exist in iOS, and we doubt Apple will implement it either.
Sparrow isn’t perfect, and the biggest thing it lacks is support for push email and push notifications. This means, at present it can’t download your email in the background, or notify you when you have new mail on the server to collect. How much this matters to you will depend on how much you rely on getting email instantly.
However, if having a better feature set and nicer interface for using email is more important to you than instant notification of new mail, then Sparrow is an excellent option, even though you have to pay for it. It’s slick, packed with useful and easy-to-use features, and makes ploughing through a bunch of email a much more joyful experience.