Spark 1.6 Review - iOS Email Program

Spark Logo
Spark. Readdle Inc.

Spark is a well thought-out email program for iOS and Apple Watch that helps keep you productive in a delightful manner with smart twists like an intelligent inbox, snoozing and awesome signature management.

Not everything is perfect, though, such as Spark’s classifying mail, and even Spark’s so effective interface could be improved here and there.

Pros

  • Spark offers helpful categorizations automatic and notifies only for important messages
  • Email signatures are automated in most helpful a helpful manner
  • Includes smart folders based on fast, natural-language search

Cons

  • Reclassifying emails and adding links to Reading List is a bit cumbersome
  • Exchange ActiveSync and POP email accounts are not supported in Spark
  • Spark cannot continue searches at the server level

Description

  • Spark lets you access multiple IMAP email accounts on iOS (with a particularly easy setup for popular accounts such as iCloud Mail, Gmail and Outlook.com while POP and Exchange ActiveSync accounts are not supported).
  • A more intelligent inbox groups newsletters and transactional emails. (You can change the classification manually.)
  • Personal emails and flagged messages are separated for heightened attention.
  • On iOS and Apple Watch, you can have Spark notify you only about new personal and important emails in addition to disabling or enabling notifications altogether; background app refreshing has Spark do that even when not open.
  • Snoozing emails is easy in Spark. Snoozed messages disappear from the inbox temporarily (and for a specified time).
  • Snoozing as well as deleting, archiving or marking emails read are all actions you can assign to swiping gestures in Spark.
  • Integration with services such as iCloud Drive and Dropbox let you save and attach files from and to online storage. Spark can open many file types inline for viewing.
  • In addition to plain text, you can make use of basic text formatting (boldface, italics and underline) in emails you send from Spark.
  • Integrated read receipts let you know, optionally, when your emails are opened.
  • Spark automatically recognizes the signatures you use and lets you switch between them by merely swiping when you compose emails.
  • Quick replies let you send one-tap answers from both iOS and Apple Watch.
  • Spark email search lets you use both keywords and “natural” language to find emails fast. Search terms can be saved as smart folders which automatically collect matching emails.
  • Personalization options for Spark include views collecting attachments or messages recently opened.
  • You can also add a sheet showing your calendar (which you can use to create events). For times and meeting invitations detected in emails, Spark offers setting up events with ease.
  • Spark supports iOS 8+.

Difference, if but by a bit, makes interesting, and interest, of course, can make all the difference. Let's say an email program gets you interested in managing your inbox; you actually read all the insightful content coming your way, you do reply to emails in time (and succinctly), you effectively complete the tasks contained in all those messages, and a lingering cloud pregnant with guilt gives way to the open sky blue and zero. Your life could be awesome—even more awesome, I mean!

Like Your Email Signatures Again

"Like your email again" is Spark's promise, and there are indeed many things to like about this iOS email program.

One of the best is one you will not initially notice: Spark automatically identifies and sets up email signatures; when you compose a message, you can flip through all those signatures just by swiping. A simple and practical joy to use, this way of ending emails saves time almost every time. Why, though, is there no way to change the order in which signatures come up for swiping?

Speaking of swiping: with long and short swipes both left and right, Spark offers configurable actions quickly reached for each email (including deletion, changing read status, archiving, flagging and snoozing—to which we will get—, marking as spam and saving to services).

Just How Smart Is Spark's Smart Inbox?

Where you swipe is, of course, the inbox. Spark includes a classic inbox that lists messages one atop the other and sorted by date. Like many email services and programs, Spark also offers to sort with more smarts, though: it breaks out unread messages from the rest, and the unread it can sort into notifications, newsletters and, most importantly, personal mail. You can also add a section for flagged messages, and configure the groupings to suit your needs.

Spark is not all precise about assigning emails the proper category and, unfortunately, moving emails between sections is cumbersome. Still, the way Spark groups mail makes sense and draws refreshing attention both to new and important messages and to those at risk of being forgotten.

Snoozing Mail to Clean the Inbox

For the emails you do want to forget… for a while, Spark has a tool up its sleeve, too. You can "snooze" messages so they are hidden from the inbox but automatically return at a time you pick. Just a swipe or tap away, snoozing can help you keep your inbox clean and focused, though it can also degenerate into another routine of procrastination, of course.

Sometimes, you may find yourself at the other end of an email not answered. Spark includes read receipts that work without effort. When the recipient opens the email (and has remote images enabled), a small graphic is downloaded. This lets Spark know the email was seen; Spark will let you know via a notification, and through a special folder that lists all your read receipts. (Of course, read receipts are optional, though disabling or enabling them for just a single message is a bit cumbersome.)

Fast Search and Smart Folders

Back at the inbox, Spark offers search that is both fast enough and easy to use, with keywords and email addresses auto-completing as well as a sense for "natural" language ("emails from last week that contain attachments").

Unfortunately, what is true for messages in the inbox (or any other folder) is also true for search results: there is no way to select and act on a group of messages. (One exception are Spark's collections in the smart inbox, where one tap lets you make the whole bunch read.)

What you can do with searches, though, is save them as smart folders. Shortcuts to these can appear in Spark’s side or top navigation bars for easy reference.

Email Account Support in Spark

If you set up more than one email account in Spark, your inbox collects messages from all accounts, of course. Like so much in Spark, this setting is easily configurable, though, and you can separate categories by account, for example, or exclude certain messages from particular accounts.

Adding the most popular email services (including iCloud Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Outlook.com) is easy, and Spark supports manual IMAP and Microsoft Exchange setup for others; POP-only email accounts do not work in Spark, though. Spark helpfully lets you set up alias addresses, so you can use multiple email addresses with one account; you cannot specify different sender names or outgoing SMTP servers for aliases, though.

How Spark syncs settings—including the accounts you have set up—using iCloud across devices is exemplary.

How Spark Deals with Attachments, Links and Your Calendar

In addition to your email accounts, you can connect Spark to cloud storage. This way, you can save attachments you receive to your favorite and most-frequented place (Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, etc.). Spark supports files moving the other way, too: it’s easy to attach files from any of your cloud drives.

Naturally, you can also attach images from (or save images to) the Photos app, and while Spark does open most attachment types right away, it also integrates with all your iOS apps. In those apps, you will find Spark in the share menu for easily attaching files, too.

Speaking of integration, Spark knows about many useful ways to deal with links (from sharing by mail to adding them to Readability or Evernote), but adding to the Safari reading list is a bit out of the way and Spark offers no way to see where the link will take you…

Spark can access your calendar, too, and display it right atop your email. Adding events from messages is easy as well, though Spark offers no simple way to suggest times for a meeting in a new message.

Quick Replies, Both on iOS Devices and on Apple Watch

Back in the messages you read, Spark does suggest something itself: a few quick repiles you can send with one click. The choices—Thanks, Like and Smile—seem a little less than ingenious, but with a little more smarts these rapid-action emails could be helpful. In full emails you type, you can make use of basic text formatting (such as bold face and italics).

On Apple Watch, the quick replies you can send with a few taps are a little more useful, and you can dictate full replies as well. Of course, Spark on Apple Watch can notify you of new important emails and lets you read messages.

What is usually helpful on the bigger screen is how Spark groups messages in conversations and hides quoted text. Longer messages are shortened, though, with an extra tap required for the full view; this view can break mobile formatting and show you the message designed for desktop computers or tablets. What’s more, you have to scroll down to where you tapped View full message

(Updated June 2015)