Sparrow For iPhone Is Everything You Could Possibly Want In iOS E-Mail [Review]


Sparrow for iOS definitely doesn't disappoint.
Sparrow for iOS definitely doesn't disappoint.

There are a number of half-baked third-party email clients for the iPhone, but until now, there hasn’t been a real replacement for the iPhone’s built-in Mail app. Sparrow for iPhone finally changes that. It’s crammed full of terrific features that make Apple’s solution look pretty amateur, and yet it’s still incredibly easy to use. In fact, I think it’s just as spectacular as Sparrow for the Mac.

The Good:

The first thing you’ll notice about Sparrow when you open it up is its beautiful user interface. It uses three panes to display your accounts, your folders, and your inbox; and you can slide between them to quickly navigate the app at any time. It’s clean and clear and, although unlike Mail, very simple to get used to.

Sparrow's pane navigation is quick and simple.

You can customize its appearance, too, by specifying how many messages you’d like to see in your inbox, and how many lines of each message you’d like to preview.

As you’d expect from a good email client, Sparrow supports multiple accounts and multiple services, including Gmail, iCloud (MobileMe), Yahoo!, AOL, and more. All of the basic features are there, but it’s also packed full of helpful functions that are sorely missed in the iPhone’s Mail app.

It offers a unified inbox that lets you see all of your messages in one place without having to switch between accounts, and an incredibly useful toggle that allows you to view only those emails that are unread or starred. This is particularly helpful when you’re trying to find that email you forgot to reply to three days ago.

Sparrow has the ability to display unread emails only.

Most of us have more than one email account, and Sparrow allows you to set a different signature for each of them. It also supports avatars, providing a picture of the sender of each of your emails alongside the message. This is accompanied by Facebook integration so that Sparrow can fetch profile pictures from your friends. This is an option I disabled after a few days — no one wants to see John Brownlee’s face every time they open up their emails — but I’m sure a lot of people will find it useful. It certainly brightens up your otherwise boring inbox.

Navigating Sparrow is a real pleasure. When reading an email that’s part of a long conversation, you can simply swipe up or down to read previous messages, and you can tap the little round button in its subject box to mark a message as unread. Tap the little blue arrow in the bottom corner to display your toolbar, which provides the buttons you’ll need to forward, star, archive, or delete the message.

Within your inbox, you can swipe individual messages to display the quick action toolbar, which provides buttons to reply, star, archive, or delete messages, as well as the option to put them into a different folder. Tap and hold on a message to mark it as read or unread, and use the edit button in the top corner to select multiple messages for marking, moving, archiving, or deleting.

The quick action toolbar

When composing a new mail message, you select your recipients before you begin writing. Sparrow automatically learns which contacts your email most and it places the ones you use most frequently at the top of the list. You can also type a contact’s name to search for their details.

Once you get into writing your email, you can quickly switch between accounts by tapping the bar at the top.

Sending images is finally a bearable experience; Sparrow has handled this really well. Instead of having to send them from the Photos app, you can simply tap the paperclip icon while composing a new email in Sparrow to add an image from your photo library or your camera.

Sending photos is easy with Sparrow

There are some advanced options that allow you to customize how Sparrow behaves. For example, you can tell it to always “reply all” when replying to a message, so that everyone included in the conversation gets your reply. You can turn the ‘Archive and Label’ and ‘Reversed Thread’ functions on or off, and you can tell the panel button to go to your folders or to your accounts.

You’ll notice there’s no refresh button anywhere; instead Sparrow uses the “pull to refresh” feature that has become commonplace in iOS apps to let you fetch new messages.

The Bad:

You’ll find, however, that you’re using that “pull to refresh” feature a lot, because Sparrow doesn’t currently support push services. That means new emails won’t arrive on your device unless you go into Sparrow and fetch them yourself. This is a minor inconvenience, and after a few days, you get used to it. It may be more of an issue to you than it is to me, but you’ll be pleased to know that this is a feature that should be coming to Sparrow in the future.

Sparrow doesn’t support push notifications, either, but you won’t need them without push support. It’s likely these two features will arrive together

Finally, Sparrow doesn’t support POP accounts, so you’re stuck with IMAP only

The Verdict:

While push services would be very nice, they’re a small sacrifice for all of the features you get with Sparrow. Having to fetch your emails manually is worth the effort when you can enjoy things like individual signatures, avatars, image attachments, simple navigation, and smart contacts.

Its developers claim that Sparrow for iPhone is “designed with love to provide you with an efficient and pleasant mailing experience.” And I couldn’t agree more. Like Sparrow on the Mac, this is the ultimate email client, packed with useful features yet very simple to use. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

[xrr rating = 90%]


Deals of the Day

  • Mike Shyu

    No exchange support, no push = deal breaker.

  • David Hemming

    No POP3 No Push No exchange No sale

  • James Beer

    Oh dear!

  • Postblogs

    Its like saying having no wheels on a car is a small sacrifice :)
    Sorry, no push/notifications, no Sparrow.

  • babdoc

    I’m just as not impressed by the iOS version as the OSX version. No push or notifications is a deal breaker. The native iOS mail app isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good. Plus, since you can’t delete native apps, why would I want a second mail app that’s no better than the one I didn’t have to pay extra for?

  • MacHead

    CoM making a mess in their jeans over this app is laughable… doesnt even tell you when you get a new email!!!! Thats priority number 1 for what email is supposed to do!

  • MacHead

    The reason to ignore the native is because using push notifications will extend battery life as opposed to having the fetch for new mail every 15 minutes. Atleast the Gmail app notifies you when you get new mail.

  • MacHead

    Sometimes I wonder if CoM gets a portion of sales revenue for promoting apps that are clearly not worth buying. 

  • Porkknights

    Can it handle nested labels from Gmail? MacOs version makes navigation cumbersome

  • fortninety

    Four and half stars for an email client that doesn’t do push? Seriously?

  • AdamTro

    Lack of POP makes this app worthless to me. Most of my accounts are POP with my domains. Is there a work around?

  • _rscohen_

    Will there be a version for the ipad?

  • facebook-599332987

    Is there any way to get landscape view? 

  • Barrett Jasper

    Does anyone know how to set Sparrow as the defaul email app so when I click an email link Sparow opens instead of the default mail app? Thanks.

  • mjoecups

    You are embarrassing.

  • David_Crake

    That’s what I’m wondering. Push really isn’t that big a deal to me, but I pretty much need landscape view to work.

  • MacRat

    Use the built in iOS mail client for POP accounts.

  • MacRat

    Get a Crackberry.

  • MacHead

    Nice sentence fragment buddy. Congrats on not making any sense. Why am I not surprised you are a liberal buffoon. Nice to see you have been working so hard to praise the Chevy Volt and Obama BAHAHA! Must be why its production was stopped….Now who’s embarrassing themselves. (see how my sentence was complete and made sense)

  • Shane Bryson

    This is a really stupid headline for the story considering Sparrow doesn’t support push, which is what MOST everyone wants.

  • venasque

    What a silly reply.  We can just stay with the included Mail app instead.

  • MacRat

    No, what is silly are the MBAs who think exchange servers are REAL e-mail servers.

  • morphorod

    I find Sparrow for iPhone to be very similar to the Gmail app for the iPhone. The same complaints that people had about that app (lack of notifications) is the same complaint most people have now. But another good point I read about was raised.

    Apple keeps close guard of background network activity for a reason. Allowing Sparrow or any app for that matter to circumvent those controls may very well open pandora’s box.

    Also, I really don’t like the icon itself. It seems too light. I liked some of the others that they were toying with before they settled on this one.

  • morphorod

    Thats coming a future update.

  • davidk

    What a ridiculous headline.  Everything You Could Possibly Want?  Except exchange support, or pop support, or push support, or iPad version, etc.

    Look i’m not slamming the Sparrow team, some of this is stuff they can’t control (Push) and some is prioritization of features (POP/Exchange/iPad).  It looks like a great V1 app, and worth a look if you don’t rely on those four things.  But EVERYTHING I could want?  No, not really.

  • Vincent

    Add NO ROTATION to landscape, to the list of deficiencies versus default Mail app.

  • Daniel Hertlein

    MIght be possible for jailbroken iPhones in the future, probably not otherwise. 

  • Daniel Hertlein

    Not understanding all teeth gnashing over lack of push and pop since the native app does do push and can’t be removed even if you want to. 
    If you have the sort of job that requires you to be constantly chained to email you could just rely on notification center to keep you on top of things in exactly the same way as you do now. Or, if you just really like seeing that red bubble with the number of messages in your inbox, you could just leave the native app where it is on the task bar and keep Sparrow off to the side. 
    Personally, I’d much rather have multiple signatures than push. And $3 for an app as elegant, feature rich, and easy to use as this one is a steal in my book. It really does make the native app seem clumsy and counterintuitive. 

  • Daniel Hertlein

    “You are embarrassing.” is not a sentence fragment, it’s a sentence. “Why am I not surprised you are a liberal buffoon.”and “Now who’s embarrassing themselves.” are both questions and should each have question marks at their ends. 

  • MacHead

    In what world is you are embarrassing a sentence? Embarrassing is a transitive verb so it requires both a subject and an object. You are embarrassing yourself. Thats a sentence, because it has a subject and an object. Get off your knees for Joe Cups. And my iPhone self punctuates. I dont have time in my day to worry if the phone uses the wrong punctuation. Im busy working paying for you two libtards to collect handouts you dont deserve.

  • Daniel Hertlein

    I was just trying to collect on a bet that you’d respond within 5 minutes, blame your own grammatical and sentence structuring transgressions on a mechanical device while also claiming that you were too important to worry about such things, bring politics into the conversation for no reason, and resort to gay slurs. You’re right about my politics, although the fact that I can afford to blow $3 for an email client that doesn’t do push means that you probably aren’t likely to be paying me handouts any time soon. Or not. 
    The next bet is how long you can go without paying someone to do a full-fledged background check on everyone who defended this app because your time is just that valuable. 

  • Dinnie Lim

    Tried it out on a friend’s phone. Lovely interface, well-designed. I especially loved the fact that you can attach photos within the app itself unlike the Mail app where you have to exit and send from the Photos app.

    The only reason why I am not getting it now is because of the lack of push mail. That is almost a non-negotiable for me. As long as they fix that I am buying this, even if they raise the price.

  • MacHead

    3 bucks to a spendulous liberal is nothing! Especially when my taxes bought it for you! Im sure you love that Gubment check! 

  • Vlad Weber

    Apps are what is needed to make your smartphone smart and unique.Im fond of app creating and find it really helpful to use site like Snappii where i can build apps in minutes.

  • KJ

    I’ve downloaded Sparrow on my phone and have been liking it. And…well, I’ve been using the Mail app itself as my “push notification” for mail.  I mean, I moved it to a back page but it still makes its noises, and I know there’s mail to be read.  What I feel I miss more is the badge on Sparrow…
    Also, I jailbreak and use LockInfo (and love it). LockInfo handles notifications for mail…in an awesome way.  For text messages, LockInfo allows us to specify which app we want to use (for me, it’s BiteSMS, of course)..maybe we can get LockInfo to allow us a preference on mail apps, and the notification is handled by them.  Feel free to pass this genius idea onto LockInfo peeps. ;-) 

  • enderwiggin21

    Its like saying having no wheels on a car is a small sacrifice :)
    Sorry, no push/notifications, no Sparrow.

    Seriously?  You think that’s a valid analogy?  So without push/notifications Sparrow cannot physically get your mail, at all?  The same way a car without wheels cannot physically do its job of driving you from A to B?

  • enderwiggin21

    Nice sentence fragment buddy. Congrats on not making any sense. Why am I not surprised you are a liberal buffoon. Nice to see you have been working so hard to praise the Chevy Volt and Obama BAHAHA! Must be why its production was stopped….Now who’s embarrassing themselves. (see how my sentence was complete and made sense)

    Except that “Now who’s embarrassing themselves” is a question, not a sentence.