Android Application Review: MailDroid

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Email quickly moved from something of a novelty to something essential. And whilst there are many ways of keeping in touch with people, from calling, instant messaging, video calling and SnapChat, many of us still rely on our email accounts to keep up with at least certain aspects. To this end, there are many different email clients available for the variety of mobile devices that are on sale around the world. If you are using an Android device, you might find that the Gmail application built into the device is good enough for your needs especially now Google have allowed third party email accounts to be set up as part of the Gmail application. Android has also shipped with a standard email application and for several years now, has included the ability to connect with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.

However, Google’s applications are designed to cover most needs, most of the time. The Gmail application is great but there are times when you may want a different email application and here’s where Maildroid comes into the scene. MailDroid has been around since 2009 and is a pure device to server email client; in other words, the application running on your device creates a socket, or connection, and communicates directly with the email server your email is located on. Some other email applications use a third party server in the middle, aiming to benefit from an element of cloud computing but adding an element of risk into the equation (as it is another layer of security to consider). MailDroid also includes integrated sMIME and PGP encryption (and there’s a free cypto plugin available for download). These two points are linked: sMIME is designed for end-to-end security and putting a third party server in the middle of the email connection, even for the purposes of checking messages for malware, would be illogical. This can have important security considerations as it places the emphasis on checking for malware at the device side of the equation rather than relying on your email provider.

The application has many features, including IMAP idle support, which is a push-email feature that many providers support. IMAP idle essentially allows the application to open a socket to a server and then wait for something to change before pulling in the changed data. In use, MailDroid proved to be quicker at receiving my Gmail compared with the stock Gmail account on all of the Android devices I tested the application on. Other features include support for Microsoft Exchange 2003 and later, cloud storage services, calendar integration (IMAP, POP3 at present with Exchange support coming soon), a password to launch the application and an optional, spam filter plugin.

So far, so good: MailDroid has a comprehensive list of features, but how does the application look, feel, handle and perform? The developers have included a number of features designed to make the application easier to live with, including a theme engine where the user can change the color combination used. This can be for aesthetics – you might prefer one color combination over another – or perhaps for battery life reasons when used with a device equipped with an AMOLED screen and dark colors or even black use less power. You can change settings such as the split screen view in portrait and landscape orientation, which is designed for tablets but works well on large screen smartphones. Conversation view for email threads is an option, too, which is great news for those of us who don’t like our emails grouped in conversations.

I’d like to take a moment to write about the custom rules section of MailDroid as this is a simple but very powerful. These rules allow you to set a custom notification for emails from a certain contact or containing something in the Subject field, which makes it easy to be able to spot those vital emails that you need to do something with. Whilst the custom rules are not as comprehensive as say Microsoft Outlook, they are not designed to be.

MailDroid also includes comprehensive connection management settings: you can specify if the application is to regularly connect with a given email account over the WiFi or cellular data networks and change the frequency. This means that you can tell your device to only occasionally check email when working over the cellular connection but to frequently check, or use IMAP idle, over WiFi, in order to stretch the battery life. This is the sort of attention to detail that shows the developers have considered how best to tune the application to suit individual customers and devices.

MailDroid is clever, then. It also handled every single type of email account I tried, although for a modern email application this should go without saying. So is it fast in use? The answer to this is a definite “yes” both for receiving emails and working within the application. The device typically receives my Gmail a few seconds quicker than the native Gmail application and sends messages as quickly that I can tell. It doesn’t matter if I have a custom rule set up or not, MailDroid is still fast.

There does appear to be a small compromise when it comes to battery life as for the same email workload, MailDroid appears higher up in my device’s battery usage statistics screen. However, whilst MailDroid appears to use more battery than Gmail, the difference is relatively minor and in the context of how much battery the screen uses, immaterial.

In use, MailDroid is fast and responsive in context of the device in question. I tested the application on a variety of devices covering new and old, flagship to entry level. MailDroid worked fine on a device with 512 MB of memory and on a tablet with 2 GB of RAM, it ran beautifully too. It may come loaded with features, but it runs on a 2015 entry level device very well.

MailDroid is available as a free, ad supported version and a pro version, supported by buying it in the Google Play Store. As I’ve already written, there is an optional spam plugin, which is normally free to try for three weeks and then $0.99 a month, or $6.99 for a year. However, for users wanting to go for the spam plugin, this is free for a 21 day trial, but specifically if you sign up for the year (which you can cancel at any time) when you come from this article, you will get 6 months. Access the Spam plugin as an in app purchase in Settings -> Spam Plugin.

To wrap things up, MailDroid is supremely configurable depending on device circumstances and supports a huge number of different email accounts. It runs well on all manner of device from entry level to flagship and can be customized to suit how you want your email application to look and feel. It may be especially useful for those of us wanting to keep our work and personal emails segregated, or who want fine control over how email is handled.

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