Spark For macOS: Could It Dethrone Airmail?

Introduction

As you remember from my review of Airmail a little over two years ago, I hailed it as the premier email app for OSX. But OSX is no more, and there’s a new contender in the ring looking to unseat the champion. Does Spark pack the goods to do that job?

Features

Feature for feature, and even to some extent in the looks department, Spark is almost a dead ringer for Airmail. Now don’t misunderstand me here — Spark is definitely not a clone or a knockoff of Airmail. I put the similarities down to a simple idea: When you do the math right, you get similar expressions of the same correct answer.

But there are a couple things Spark does differently from Airmail, first in its features — where the differences are obvious — and secondly in its design — where the differences are more subtle but no less impactful.

Smart Inbox

Spark offers what Readdle calls a “Smart Inbox” — and the name isn’t just buzz. Spark knows which messages are addressed to you personally and which are “newsletters” — in other words, mass mailed messages that aren’t spam. The Smart Inbox separates the two and prioritizes personal messages at the top so that you see those first.

The Smart Inbox integrates with another feature available across all folders:

Color-Coding By Account

Each account may be assigned a colored label to suit your taste, enabling you to know at a glance which account received any given message. I’ll touch on why this is so convenient shortly.

Built-In Spam Detection/Sorting

One of my biggest gripes about Airmail was that it lacks integrated spam filtering, instead relying on a second, not-inexpensive-in-its-own-right app, SpamSieve, to handle that function.

Spark handles it on its own, and handles it quite well.

Design

Take another look at the way the Spark sidebar is arranged:

Now take a look at Airmail’s:

The difference may not be immediately obvious to everyone, but here it is: Spark’s is simpler, making it easier to read and easer to use. Take special note of where the Spam folder is in each app’s sidebar, and the color used.

While Airmail places it all the way down near the Dock and in gray text on a black sidebar, Spark places it with the other folders and in the same easy-to-read white text on black.

Considering how easily even the best spam detection can result in false positives, this isn’t a minor kindness to the user on Readdle’s part.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Intelligent sorting of non-spam messages in the unified smart inbox
  • Integrated spam detection/filtering
  • Easy to read UI
  • Available macOS and universal iOS incarnations
  • Free

Cons:

  • macOS version not as fully featured as iOS version

Summary

Considering the fact that Spark currently offers more features than Airmail — and does so for a combined $39.99 ($9.99 for Airmail, $30 for SpamSieve) less than Airmail asks for, it looks to me like your email needs have a new champion.

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