Inbox by Gmail Alternatives: 5 Free Email Providers You Should Try

There are plenty of options for secure, easy-to-use email

Screenshot of the Inbox by Gmail web version at inbox zero.

Google has called time on Inbox, with the service closing for good in March 2019. Fortunately, there are plenty of feature-packed Inbox by Gmail alternatives out there.

Gmail: Best for Those in the Google Ecosystem

Screenshot of Gmail inbox on desktop browser.

What We Like

  • Smart Replies.

  • The ability to snooze emails until later.

  • Confidential mode for private, disappearing messages.

What We Don't Like

  • Separate app required for reminders.

  • No email bundles.

If you're making the switch from Inbox you may be familiar with some of the benefits of Gmail. However, before closing Inbox for good, Google imported some of its best features into Gmail.

It's now possible to snooze emails until you're ready to deal with them. Additionally, Smart Replies can automatically suggest short responses, while Confidential mode allows you to send disappearing messages which can't be copied, forwarded, or printed, making them ideal for transmitting private information. 

The once dated interface has undergone a design refresh, too, making it quicker and less cluttered. As Inbox was developed on top of the Gmail service, it makes Gmail the most hassle-free alternative to Inbox; there's no account transfer, re-registering for websites, or updating your contacts with a new email address. 

However, not every feature made its way over from Inbox. Gmail won't bundle your emails into categories like travel or finance, and you can't pin emails either. Google suggests starring your messages instead. One of the most notable lost features is the Google Assistant integration for reminders, which you could view through Inbox. Google would prefer you used their recently refreshed Tasks app or Keep to store reminders, which are viewable in a pane on the right-hand side of Gmail alongside your Calendar.

To start using Gmail all you need to do is select Switch to the new Gmail in Inbox, and download the Android or iOS app. Gmail works with most desktop email clients, so if you decide the web interface isn't right for you, there are still plenty of ways to access your emails. 

Mailfence: An Alternative to Google's Productivity Suite

Screenshot of Mailfence's Compose Email window.

What We Like

  • End-to-end encryption.

  • Support for Two-factor authentication.

  • Calendar, contacts, and cloud storage included.

What We Don't Like

  • Excessive limitations on free accounts.

  • Private key held on Mailfence's servers.

  • Encrypted email can only be sent to recipients using Mailfence or OpenPGP.

Mailfence is a security-focused, encrypted email service developed by ContactOffice, the creators of a suite of office software by the same name. This connection works in Mailfence's favor, as users get a calendar, contact management, and cloud storage as part of their email account. This makes it a compelling alternative to Google's Gmail, Calendar, and Drive offerings.

However, unlike Google's generous 15GB of free storage, Mailfence only offers 500MB of email storage and 500MB of document storage for free. Those limits are increased up to 20GB for email and 24GB for documents for the top-tier Pro plan. 

One of Mailfence's key strengths is its end-to-end encryption, meaning nobody but you and the recipient can read your messages. 

The company also displays its commitment to security by enabling Two-Factor Authentication. As all data is stored on Belgian servers, it's subject to EU data laws. including GDPR, and only a Belgian court can force the company to release private user information. 

Free users are limited to just the web client, while paid users get access to POP, IMAP, and SMTP, as well as Android and iOS ActiveSync support. Unfortunately, there are no dedicated mobile apps, with the company providing a mobile-optimized version of their site instead.

ProtonMail: Encrypted Email on Web and Mobile

Screenshot of the ProtonMail inbox on the web.

What We Like

  • End-to-end encryption.

  • Open-source cryptography.

  • Encrypted mobile apps for Android and iOS.

What We Don't Like

  • No IMAP, SMTP, or POP3 support.

  • Modest storage limits for both free and premium accounts.

ProtonMail is a secure, end-to-end encrypted email provider developed by researchers at CERN in Switzerland. You can access ProtonMail from any web browser or through their Android and iOS apps. Unlike many similar services, ProtonMail offers this all for free, while premium accounts add more users, more storage, and higher daily email limits.

Inbox by Gmail was primarily a web-based service but worked well with desktop software. In contrast, ProtonMail's encryption means it can't support IMAP, SMTP, or POP3. Until recently, this meant its users were limited to just the web or the company's mobile apps, but ProtonMail has released Bridge, a beta product for paid users which decrypts emails locally, enabling support with a limited range of desktop clients.

ProtonMail also makes it easy to send encrypted, password-protected messages to anyone, even if they aren't a ProtonMail user. This feature is similar to Gmail's Confidential mode, except even the company can't view your messages as they are end-to-end encrypted. ProtonMail is an excellent choice for the privacy-conscious as it's servers are based in Switzerland. The Swiss have some of the strongest privacy laws in the world, making it one of the best secure email services

Their webmail interface is open-source, and they have plans to open-source their Android app and remove reliance on Google services. To further protect your privacy, ProtonMail doesn't require any personal information for you to open an account and doesn't keep any IP logs so your location, ISP, or internet traffic can't be tied to your account. 

Outlook.com: Microsoft's Best Gmail Alternative

Screenshot of Outlook.com Focused Inbox at inbox zero.

What We Like

  • Minimal and uncluttered interface. 

  • Tight integration with other Microsoft products. 

  • Sweep feature makes it intuitive and simple to set up filters. 

What We Don't Like

  • Confusing product branding between Microsoft email clients and services.

  • No option to connect third-party email accounts on Outlook.com 

Outlook.com, formerly known as Hotmail, has undergone some significant upgrades over the past few years. Designed to compliment Microsoft's Office Online, Outlook.com is a powerful alternative to Inbox and Gmail.

Outlook.com is not the Office product Outlook. Outlook.com is a redesigned webmail client operated by Microsoft. Outlook is a desktop and mobile app designed for accessing email and can be used with third-party email providers. 

The experience is similar to Gmail, including a calendar, the People hub for contacts, and integration with Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage. Just as with Google, Microsoft offers up to 15GB of storage for free, which can be upgraded to 50GB with an Office 365 Home or Personal account. 

Outlook.com incorporates other Microsoft products too, including Office Online, Photos, and Skype. Although these are separate products, they can all be accessed from the web mailbox. When taken together, they create a full productivity suite which can be accessed for free from nearly any device. 

There are some unique features like the Immersive Reader, which fills the page with just one email for easier reading. Microsoft has added some email management tools too, like the Focused inbox which filters your most important mail, and files the remaining messages in the Other inbox. Outlook.com also automatically adds important events like travel plans, bill payments, and package deliveries into your calendar based on information gleaned from your emails.

Edison Mail: Mobile Smart Assistant-Powered Email

Edison Mail Android app screenshot showing the inbox with the burger menu visible.

What We Like

  • Edison's smart assistant helps manage emails and provides travel and shipping updates.

  • Emails can be bundled by category. 

  • Speedy search across multiple email accounts.

What We Don't Like

  • Mobile only with no option to access features on the web.

  • Privacy Policy allows Edison employees to read your emails to train the Smart Replies feature. 

Edison Mail is a smart email mobile app available for both Android and iOS that replicates many of Inbox's standout features.

Many of Edison Mail's features are designed to simplify the mobile email experience, such as a single, unified inbox for all your email accounts. That doesn't make it unique, but its implementation is simple, uncluttered, and efficient. To help you find messages when you need them, Edison Mail searches locally on your phone rather than in the cloud to speed things up. 

As with Inbox, you can snooze messages, send smart replies, and unsubscribe from mailing lists with one tap. Their Security Assistant will alert you if your account is compromised in a data breach, while Smart Notifications permit fewer notifications by muting specific senders. 

Google Assistant was closely integrated with Inbox, and Edison has created their own, less-powerful assistant to replicate some of the features. The assistant can categorize and bundle emails together, prioritize frequent contacts, and give you travel and shipping updates. 

Unfortunately, these features come at a cost to your privacy. Edison has to train their algorithms with your data, but this is done manually by their employees, who can read your emails, covered under the company's Privacy Policy. The collected data is anonymized, aggregated, and sold to third parties interested in e-commerce trends. However, Edison does allow you to opt-out of this and delete any stored data.