I like to write emails. In other words, due to my projects and my work as a freelancer, it can happen that I write 20 emails in one day. In order to be able to move through my email inbox as quickly as possible, I need a specific tool. A tool that gives me the opportunity to separate important emails from marketing emails and newsletters. In addition, I want to lose as little time as possible during the writing process. On top of that, this tool should also give me a fast experience. Above all, nothing is more annoying for me than waiting several minutes for an email to be loaded or sent. Therefore I started looking for the fastest email experience. I was on the hunt after the best email app.

Update 19.02.2020: Somehow it feels strange to read through this post, to notice my euphoria about superhuman and to put everything aside now. As of today, I am no longer a superhuman user. The past few months have given me a lot of pleasure because I was able to process my emails every day with incredible speed. Still, I was always torn. I stepped out of the Google Ecosystem recently. I only kept my Gmail address. For what reason? Well, my preferred email client currently only supports Gmail / Gsuite accounts exclusively. I am no longer willing to pay $ 30 a month to use a front end exclusively for Gmail. Especially if the company also allows itself data security and privacy missteps. The overall picture is simply no longer correct. The functions of Superhuman are still unmatched. It is true that they offer the fastest email experience. The intuitive shortcuts enable the user to move through the inboxes at lightning speed and compose emails. However, the above mentioned things predominate for me. In retrospect, I consider the reaction of Rahul Vohra (CEO Superhuman) to the tracking pixel scandal to be wrong. They have deleted the geodata and switched off the pixel by default. Great. However, the user can still switch it on. The victim in the story is and remains the recipient of the email. Because the recipient still has no way to reject the pixel, despite the "fix" from Superhuman. At this point my eyes were opened. Superhuman is no longer my preferred email tool. This allows me to eliminate my Gmail address once and for all. Since I am already a Protonmail customer, I will now concentrate all my email activity on Protonmail. Nevertheless, I am also very curious about what Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson and team are preparing with hey.com. Email must remain private. Tracking pixels have absolutely no business at this point. So you can still read through my journey down below, but disclaimer: I did not find the best email client, I was blinded by features and ignoring privacy. Bad.

My first email experience

I created my first email address with Outlook. At that time, the email service was called Hotmail and you got an @live email address. At that point, I had no idea that there were email clients. I always opened and wrote my emails in the browser. Over time I found out that it is also possible to write emails without the need for a browser using certain software. Without opening the browser and having to log in to any email provider. First of all, of course, I stumbled across Microsoft Outlook. However, I did not understand the reason why I should download software to read my emails on my computer. I had the browser for it. This scenario happened in 2007.

Taking a first look for alternatives

Fast forward to 2020 and I've tested several email apps, both desktop, and mobile. CloudMagic was one of the first. On my first iPhone I found more and more that if I wanted to synchronize several email accounts within Apple Mail, the synchronization got stuck. So I looked for an Apple Mail alternative on the Internet. One app that was suggested to me very quickly was CloudMagic. Several blog posts on the internet entitled CloudMagic as the best email app back then.

Screenshot of an early version of the CloudMagic macOS Email App.
CloudMagic – the best email app back then. Picture via betanews

CloudMagic is dead, long live Newton!

CloudMagic no longer exists today. Although that is not entirely true. CloudMagic is better known today as Newton Mail. Newton Mail is a rather controversial email app. A brief digression with the most important information. CloudMagic already attracted attention in 2013. The service supports both iOS and Android and brought a wide range of support for various email services (Exchange, IMAP, iCloud, etc.). CloudMagic was able to attract a large number of users very quickly. But when the company introduced a subscription model, the turn came. CloudMagic became Newton Mail, got desktop apps in addition to iOS and Android. In 2016, the company asked for an annual subscription of 50 euros.

However, this was later raised to 100 euros. In this way, however, the users were scared away. The company had to close in September 2018. But only a few months later it was said Newton was back. With the same apps and the same subscription model, but at a cheaper price of 52.99 euros. In addition, new updates and functions were also presented. However, Newton was repeatedly caught in the crosshairs of data security experts. Fast Company wrote a whole post only about Newton's Privacy Policy, which they thought was "scary".

Screenshot of the Newton Email App for macOS
CloudMagic became Newton – Supercharged Emailing. Picture via Newtonhq

Moving on to Bluemail

So at the time, I was looking for an alternative to CloudMagic or Newton. Since I was using an Android phone at the time, I was somewhat limited in my search. In the end, I became a Bluemail user. Basically, the app convinced me from the start. I liked the UI because it was very clear. However, since I was using several different email accounts at the time, I finally wanted to synchronize all of them in Bluemail. With 5 email accounts, however, it quickly stalled.

The synchronization became slower and slower. Finally, I had to remove individual email accounts and add them again a few times so that my emails would be synchronized. Nonetheless, this shouldn't be too big an issue. Yet, what ultimately drove me to stop using the app was actually customer support. Since I got in touch with it about a few issues but rarely received an answer, I felt left alone. So I was there again without an email client.

Picture displaying two screenshots of the Bluemail Android App with the Bluemail Logo in between them.
Bluemail – great app, very bad support. Picture via conncet

I thought I have found the best email app

At the same time, I had been using an email app called Spark on my MacBook for a few months. Even if there was already one or the other email app that raised my enthusiasm, Spark played in a different league. It met all of my requirements. All my email accounts synchronized very quickly. The UI was outstanding. Readdle, the company behind Spark, kept introducing new features. It was clear to me that all the functions were straight focusing on boosting the users productivity. Spark had everything. A smart inbox feature, a calendar, a great search function, and reminders.

Picture displaying the Spark Email App on all available apple devices. In chronological order from left to right Apple Watch, Iphone X, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro.
Spark – I thought I found the best email app. Picture via Spark

The only downside and that was a big one for me, there was no Android app. I only used Spark on my MacBook. In spring 2019, however, came the news that I have been waiting for. Spark is finally also available on Android. I was thrilled because I thought that I had finally found the right and also the best email app for me. Cross-platform, fast, great design, and safe. For sure? Well! Spark was increasingly criticized for its privacy policy.

Spark and its flaws

It was found that Spark stores its users' access data on Spark's servers. Sometimes even unencrypted. In addition, the server infrastructure is located in the USA, which is never a good sign for data protection. Many users were also concerned about how an app with such a range of functions can be free. It was therefore assumed that Spark would resell the stored data. Nevertheless, it is now known that all email clients save data on their servers, as this is the only way to send push notifications on iOS devices.

However, it is important to know whether this data is encrypted using OAuth. If so, the data is safe. A Reddit user sent a breakdown of the privacy policy by posting and called not to use Spark for emails. In January 2019, another Reddit user clarified a few things and provided clues as to why Spark is harmless when it comes to data protection. Spark does not use any special data protection methods and acts like any other email app.

So I knew that I could basically continue to use Spark. Still, I had a certain bitter aftertaste. I used Spark until October 2019. But then an app called Superhuman caught my attention.

Email for professionals

Superhuman was the first topic of conversation in 2017 when the service went online. However, the story of Superhuman starts earlier. I signed up for the company's email list back in 2015. In 2016 I received an email from Rahul Vohra, CEO, and Founder of Superhuman, as he was doing user research at that time. Because of my email app at that time, Rahul's email never caught my attention.

Picture displaying an iPhone X and a MacBook Pro both showcasing the Superhuman Email App.
Superhuman – Could this be the best email app? Picture via campaignmonitor

Would you pay $30 a month for reading your emails?

Superhuman has been in the media constantly since 2019 at the latest. The email app became particularly well known through an article in the New York Times. Opinions about superhuman split very quickly. A particular sticking point is the relatively expensive subscription model. A Superhuman user pays a whopping $ 30 a month. For that sum, you would also get Spotify, Netflix, and Apple Music together. However, these three providers will not solve your email problem. In addition, there was a lot of noise about Superhuman as many people felt that the service was very elitist. In brand communication, they only target executives, founders, leaders, and so on. Can't freelancers also have the need to solve their email problems?

Earning some bad noise

In addition, a tracking pixel that users didn't know about was the biggest nuisance. Superhuman had implemented a tracking pixel that allowed the email writer to determine exactly when an email was opened. So far nothing new. Marketing emails have been doing that for years. But Superhuman's tracking pixel went one step further. Because it also showed the email author the location of the recipient. Not the address, but the location was limited to the state. The Internet then exploded. There were advocates of this technique, but the opponents definitely outweighed it. Former Twitter VP Mike Davidson wrote a blog post on why Superhuman is spying on you.

Rahul Vohra then spoke up with a blog post. Superhuman then deleted all of the geospatial data they had collected up to that point. In addition, they also removed the geolocation from the tracking pixel.

The read receipts that resulted from this tracking were switched off by default. So someone who wanted to know when their sent emails were opened had to activate these read receipts manually.

I wanted to form my own opinion about Superhuman

Aside from all the attention Superhuman got, I still wanted to try the app. Users who have been using it for some time rave about the app. And the few screenshots I saw also made a very good impression. So I went to the Superhuman site to sign up. But then the first setback. The app is invitation-only and has a waiting list. After a short research, I found out that this waiting list already had 200,000 people by October 2019. However, if you get a referral from a Superhuman user, it is possible that you can skip the entire waiting list.

The most personalized onboarding

The reason why Superhuman is only gradually adding new users to the platform is as follows. Superhuman wants you to process your email faster than ever. Superhuman uses keyboard shortcuts that allow you to move through an inbox super fast. The user no longer has to take his fingers off the keyboard because a mouse is not needed to use the app. In order for this usage relationship to be adapted to the user, each individual user is "trained" by a 30-minute zoom conversation with a Superhuman employee. Superhuman is characterized by this onboarding. It gives the user an incredible feeling when a company takes 30 minutes for you to explain the product to you.

I am hooked! Did I found the best email app?

First I also thought that Superhuman is a very elitist product. Still, I wanted to try it out. I write a few emails a day and usually get three times as many. It is important for me to move through my inbox as fast as possible and sort out which emails are marketing and which actually need my attention. I would also like to be able to sort my emails. If there are emails that need my attention at a later time, I would like to put them in a folder and receive notification later that these emails are still open. After all the blog posts I've read and all the videos I've watched, I thought Superhuman could do just that and much more.

Jumping the waitlist

I got in touch with an existing Superhuman user via Twitter (Brendan if you are reading this, I am extremely thankful for your referral) who was so friendly and gave me a referral. It only took a few minutes and Superhuman got in touch with me. As a first step, I had to fill out a survey about my personal email workflow. After that, I apparently qualified to actually become a Superhuman user.

Next, I had to make an appointment for my onboarding. Shortly before I wanted to confirm the appointment, I learned that Superhuman does not offer a trial. On the day of onboarding, the specified credit card will be charged with the monthly fee. I thought for a moment and finally decided that it would be worth the $30 for a month to test it. So I confirmed the onboarding appointment and was full of anticipation.

UX on another level

Onboarding gave me an experience that I have never experienced before. A zoom call with a stranger. A situation that feels very familiar after just a few minutes. Seu Mei was my contact person in the course of onboarding. First, she wanted to get an idea of my current email workflow. She was particularly interested in how I treat read emails, how I mark emails that still need my attention, and how I move through my email inbox. She made notes. Finally, we jumped straight into the Superhuman app. It was the first time that I saw the app live on my MacBook. Because the activation only happens in the course of onboarding. I was immediately impressed with the UI. Minimalist and clear. Everything had its place.

Artwork showing a grid of the Superhuman Email Inbox Zero images and in the middle of the picture is a Screenshot of the Superhuman Email app itself.
Clean, minimalistic. and elegant. Picture via globelnews

The master of shortcuts

Then it started with the feature for which Superhuman is ultimately known. Shortcuts that make the email experience super fast. Seu Mei showed me the most important shortcuts and then let me try them out directly. I was amazed at how quickly I could move through my inbox. In just a few minutes I had processed most of my unread email. Seu Mei also showed me the so-called "Split Inbox" feature. This enables the user to create a sender as a new inbox. This means that all emails from this sender go to a specific inbox. Very useful if you know which emails need more attention and I receive them in a separate inbox. The same feature is also pleasant for newsletters. So I can create my own split inbox for newsletters and add all the newsletters I receive.

Cmd + K = <3

Therefore I can clean up my inbox directly by assigning the emails that need my attention to their own inbox right from the start. So Superhuman convinced me from the start. The "most powerful" shortcut from Superhuman is Cmd + K. This opens the "command center" of Superhuman. You can compare this with Mac Spotlight or the Alfred app. This shortcut gives you your own control center where all functions come together.

Screenshot of Superhuman's Command Console
Superhuman's Cmd + K is all you need. Picture via mobilespoon

I was excited. Personally, I wouldn't call myself the power user that Superhuman describes on their website. Nevertheless, I compose and receive a few emails a day accordingly. Still, Superhuman had an immense impact on my productivity. Since I already paid for the first month, I thought I would put the app through an everyday test.

The only setback

A small setback to my euphoria was the fact that Superhuman is currently only available for macOS and iOS. Since December 2019, however, it has been clear that Superhuman is working on an Android version. Nevertheless, when it will finally find its way into the Google Playstore is still unclear. So my test focused on the two existing versions for iOS and macOS.

Update 19.02.2020: I still think that all of the above saying about Superhuman is true. Their UI/UX is great, it simply is. The way they are forcing you to use shortcuts to give you superpowers is also great, simple as that. But those features do not compromise ignoring data security and privacy. Fullstop.

Why I think Superhuman is the best email app It isn't

After the first month with Superhuman, I could confidently say that Superhuman is the best email app in my eyes. The overall package of functionality and design is just right. I am also willing to pay for a tool that makes my work so much easier. Superhuman is putting a lot of attention to details. The Design is clean, minimal, and just elegant. After trying a lot of different email apps, Superhuman simply built the most beautiful inbox.

But it's not only about looks, but also about the feel. Superhuman is definitely the fastest email experience I have ever had. Remeber when Paul Bucheit, the creator of Gmail, set the 100ms rule for every interaction? Well, Superhuman decided to cut down as low as 50ms. Coming from any other email app you instantly feel how much faster Superhuman is.

Screenshot of the Superhuman Email App UI displaying a list of Emails.
Shortcuts everywhere! Picture via capiche

Productivity Powerhouse

All the features implemented in Superhuman are aiming at improving your productivity. Superhuman is shortcut-optimized to give the users the power they need to move and navigate through their inbox twice as fast as usually.

Superhuman wants you to save time, by organizing your emails. One top of that, with features like reminders, send-later, undo-action, social-media integration, and much more, Superhuman gives you the power and control over your emails.

My current email workflow stack

So Superhuman is not 100% integrated into my workflow, as Spark did, for example. Still, I prefer Superhuman over any other email app. The fact that the app is not yet available for Android also forces me to answer my emails primarily on my MacBook. I am currently doing the following. When I'm on the go, I occasionally check my emails on my Android smartphone using Spark. As I'm gradually trying to tear myself away from Google, I also want to be able to do email without the Gmail App. At the moment I only stick to my Gmail address, otherwise, I managed to find an alternative for all Google services that I used. In a blog post, I explain in detail how I took the step away from the Google Ecosystem.

As soon as Superhuman supports further email services and is also available on Android, there is no going back to any other email app for me.

I do not count myself among the elitist circle described by Superhuman. Basically, I don't feel addressed by this either. As long as I use an app and it actually has an impact on my workflow, the product pays off for me.

Get a referral

If any of you are also interested in using Superhuman, just send me an email and I will be happy to send you a referral. Please do not forget to include your email to which I should send the referral. As already mentioned, Superhuman is currently only available for Gmail and Gsuite accounts. Further email services are planned.

To summarize: I have found the best email app I did not

Personally, I can now say that I have found the best email app. Even if it has little quirks, it still fulfills my only productivity problem. Because this was the way I treat my emails. Superhuman was my salvation for this and brought my productivity back again.