Although still one of the most universal and reliable forms of communication, email is quickly becoming stagnant and in need of a change. Despite it being an undertaking of epic proportions, many have taken up the challenge and new services and apps have started populating our devices and permeating our workflows.
One such app for which I had high hopes was Evomail. It promised exquisite design, innovative features and a streamlined experience. Sadly though, it fell short of the mark.
The Playing Field
I believe that we can categorise this new breed of apps into two broad groups: task orientated email clients and the more traditional, albeit improved email clients.
In the former group are clients such as Mailbox, Mail Pilot or Boxer, which rethought how we deal with email and tackled the problem from that perspective. Emails became actionable tasks — they were either acted upon there and then, or delayed until a later stage. Unfortunately, I was too set in my ways to conform to another’s vision of the ideal workflow, so this didn’t sit too well with me.
In the latter group, we have apps such as Dispatch, Triage and Evomail. While Dispatch and Triage are aimed at making quick work of pruning our inboxes, Evomail is a more full featured email client and just what I was looking for — or so I thought.
The Alure of Evomail
My curiosity was piqued long before Evomail hit the App Store and I eagerly awaited its arrival. When it finally debuted, all I needed to take the plunge and tap “Buy”, was a quick glance at the feature list and the actual screenshots: push notifications, quick access to archive, trash and labels, intuitive gestures allowing you to easy archive, delete or reply to a message, a conversation view, batch editing, and an interface that oozes all sorts of sexiness.
What’s not to love? This, of course, was just the beginning. Since its launch, the developers have added a wealth of additional features and support for iPhone and Android — and therein lies part of the problem.
A Bug Fest
I’ve come to expect that any new app or service is bound to have a few teething issues — little quirks that slipped by beta testers, or that only manifest themselves when the usage and load is considerably larger.
Evomail was no exception. Unfortunately though, the list of bugs was substantial and many of them real show stoppers.
There are two parts to Evomail, the app and a backend service named Evocloud. From what I can gather, this service is responsible for push notifications, gathering analytics and caching:
We do store metadata and on occasion full encrypted contents of your emails on our servers. This isn’t permanent storage, but rather cached contents to deliver a better user experience to you, our customer.
That would be all good – if it indeed provided me with a better user experience. Instead, rather than fetching my emails directly from my service provider, Evomail fetches them from a cache, which on more than one occasion was already stale. So instead of quickly seeing my emails, I’d see old emails trickle in, disappear and then finally the new emails arrived.
Now imagine if you will the following scenario: a push notification dings letting me know I have email. I swipe to unlock, Evomail opens and I’m greeted with the small spinner letting me know it’s “loading more messages”. I wait as patiently as I can until I give up and open another client. View the email and then come back to Evomail to finally see it there, in all its glory — and it’s unread too. Sound familiar? Try deleting and email and then checking in another client, don’t be surprised to find it still hanging around. Evocloud needs fixing!
Buggy UI & Interaction
There’s no point denying it, Evomail is gorgeous. Every pixel carefully crafted to make working with email an enjoyable experience, and it would be so if not for the various bugs.
For instance, the last email in a folder is often partially covered by the batch edit bar, making tapping on it just that little bit harder. Another common occurrence is having duplicate threads in email conversations, or simply not being able to open a message in a conversation.
Another serious bug I’ve encountered on occasions: swiping to delete a message would remove the one above or below but not the intended one. When it comes to viewing messages, things aren’t any better. HTML emails are rendered poorly, often unreadable and on the iPad, switching to portrait mode will simply make the label, postpone, mark read and delete buttons disappear.
It may seem as though I’m being a little too harsh, but the truth is that the list of bugs goes on, and while I’ve reported my fair share of them, I have yet to see signs that those reports are being heeded.
Have They Lost Their Way?
I’ve seen a few indicators lately which make me wonder if the developers have lost their way (or simply changed their strategy mid-way).
When Evomail made its debut in the App Store it cost roughly $4, which I happily paid at the time. It wasn’t too long after however, that it not only went universal as well as free. Had I gotten my money’s worth this would not have bothered me much, but alas that’s not the case.
At the time, the developers assured me that new paid features would soon surface and that these would be made available to those that had already paid. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for them.
If I were a betting man, I’d speculate that the team behind Evomail changed their pricing in hopes of amassing a larger user base so that one of the big players would take note, swoop in and buy them out — a la Mailbox.
Evomail’s tagline, prominently stated on its homepage says:
We believe in email. We believe email isn’t broken, it just hasn’t kept up with the pace of change on the internet. We’re here to fix that.
If that truly is the case then tell me pray: why would they have introduced the snooze feature commonly associated with task orientated email clients? I’d argue that this was not part of the initial design, but rather an afterthought; one made based upon the perceived success of apps such as Mailbox and Mail Pilot.
In the beginning of the piece I stated that part of the problem was the rapid pace at which new features and platforms were introduced. This most certainly wouldn’t be a problem, had this evolution been built upon a solid foundation. Instead, rather than buckling down and fixing the problems that have plagued Evomail since its launch, the team has opted to branch out to new platforms (the experience isn’t any better on Android from what I’ve gathered, too).
Despite all this, I still hold high hopes for Evomail and ardently wish to see it succeed. I would therefore urge the developers to re-focus the attention and energy, getting it stable, fast and fluid before anything else.
Since having writen this piece, the developers have hinted on their blog to an upcoming iOS 7 update. Let’s just hope that rather than a simple coat of paint, we’ll see some real improvements in this new version!