Why You Should (or Maybe Shouldn't) Switch to Edison’s OnMail

Privacy or convenience? Pick one

Key Takeaways

  • Edison’s OnMail is a smart email service that helps to organize your inbox.
  • OnMail works with pretty much any existing email account.
  • Edison says OnMail is "privacy-focused," but its web app tries to connect to Facebook.
A closeup of Gmail on a smartphone.

Yogas Design / Unsplash

Email is in the middle of a midlife reinvention, and apps like Edison’s new OnMail are the Harley Davidsons enabling it.

Edison describes OnMail as an "ad-free, privacy-focused, and modern email service." It joins other new players like Hey and the forthcoming Big Mail. Like those other email services and apps, OnMail rethinks email for today.

The OnMail app is the most conventional of this new wave of inbox wranglers. Its biggest feature, however, is one you won’t really see: Importing all your current email accounts to put them in one place.

"We think privacy is still a major concern when it comes to using email today," Miranda Yan, co-founder of vehicle-search service VinPit, told Lifewire via email. "Email is a prime target for hackers, and with the escalation of cyber crimes like phishing, it should be made more protected."

What Is OnMail?

Instead of opening up yet another email account, like you have to do with Hey, OnMail works with your existing accounts and email providers. In this way, it is more like an email app in that it just pulls on your Exchange, Gmail, iCloud, and other email accounts, and shows them to you. The difference is that OnMail also indexes all that email, so it can apply its smart artificial intelligence (AI) features.

Like Hey, OnMail starts with screening senders. Instead of letting anyone with your email address dump their crap in your inbox, you first have to click Accept Sender before their emails are allowed.

The other neat part of OnMail is that it automatically parses your incoming emails, and intelligently presents the information found therein. For instance, a flight booking will be shown as an info card, like this:

Flight info in OnMail.

OnMail

Why Should You Choose OnMail?

OnMail’s biggest attraction is its ubiquity. It’s available on iOS and Android, and can be used in your web browser. It also can work with email from Gmail, Outlook, AOL, Hotmail, and any generic IMAP account.

It’s also free, with 10GB storage and a 100MB file-attachment size limit. Paid accounts increase these limits, and add options like custom domain support.

If you like the look of OnMail’s smart AI features, but don’t want to (or can’t) leave your current email provider, OnMail is a solid choice.

Why Should You Avoid OnMail?

Here’s reason one to avoid OnMail: the iOS app includes these “inspirational” images and slogans.

Inspirational messages on OnMail.

OnMail

Joking aside, there are several things to consider before granting OnMail access to all your email. For instance, a year ago, an update to the company’s Edison Mail app contained a bug that exposed users’ email accounts to others. Users reported getting access to email accounts that had nothing to do with them.

Another Edison scandal involved the company scraping users’ inboxes, anonymizing that information, and using it to sell products to financial, e-commerce, and travel companies.

OnMail is a new app and service, but it may use your data in similar ways to the old Edison Mail client. The current version of its privacy policy is up-front about these uses.

If you open OnMail in Safari on your iPad or iPhone, and use Safari’s Privacy Report to see what’s what, you’ll discover that OnMail attempts to contact Facebook and Google, among others. Here’s the screenshot:

Screenshot of the Edison Mail privacy policy.

OnMail

For an email service that describes itself as “privacy-focussed” in the very first line of its launch blog post, that’s a worrying discovery.

Trade-Offs

In the end, you decide how private you want your communications to be.

"Email privacy is my number one priority, even more than cost and features," Caroline Lee, co-founder of secure e-signature service CocoSign, told Lifewire via email.

"I use my email account primarily for business purposes, so I have to protect it from cyber threats such as social attacks."

If you really want to lock your communications down, use the Signal messaging app. If you value smart features over privacy, then go with an email app that processes your data in return for selling what it gleans from that data. And if you care about communication security, you should probably avoid email altogether.

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