Monday Musings: App Recommendations

monday musings
Photo Credit: Ian Baldwin

Monday Musings is back and we’ll be doing things a bit different for this one and all future ones. With my newsletter, Pop Culture Hustle, being similar to what this initially was, I wanted to switch things up. So these will now have themes each Monday and focus on one topic. This week, I have some app recommendations to share.


This recommendation can be used on the web or on mobile devices. My device of choice to use the app on is my iPad. It’s perfect for reading some articles. At this very moment, I have over 100 articles saved to Instapaper. Basically, I have a lot of catching up to do. It’s hands down my favorite read it later service.


My podcast app of choice. It’s only available on iOS, so my apologies to any non-Apple users. I support the app and developer, Marco Arment, by paying $1 per month for the app. It’s a small price to pay for an app that I use on a daily basis and usually for quite a few hours. I listen to a ton of podcasts and can’t imagine using any other app to do so at this point.


This is my email app of choice right now. I’ve tried so many of them including Airmail and Polymail. While the others have features I like, this one has been the most consistent for me. It’s a nice, clean look and I can easily sort through all of my emails.

Spark Launches iPad Version

Spark iPad + iPhone
Spark has just released an iPad version of the app, just in time for Mailbox to be shutting down. When Spark first launched for iPhone, I reviewed it here and it looked like a very promising replacement. Now Spark is on two platforms and they’ll likely begin working on a Mac version, which is something I definitely need and I’m sure many others do as well.

The app has been making some minor changes since it’s launch last year, along with a few big ones. You now have the ability to choose between a few background colors if you weren’t thrilled about only have one choice. The iPad app runs just as smoothly as the iPhone app and the sync process has been great. With the iPad app comes the addition of a widget that pops up on the left side, allowing you to view a calendar, attachments, and more. You can customize it to your liking and add more personalized options.

There seems to always be work that needs to be done with email clients and Spark has some competition now with Outlook and Airmail being some favorites and Polymail is a new app that is currently in alpha, waiting to be released. Spark is in a great spot right now and it will be interesting to see what they come up with for the Mac app and how they improve on iOS. You can get the app here.

App Review: Spark


Spark is a brand new email client for iOS. The app is made by Readdle (Calendars 5, Documents, etc.) and has a lot to offer. Some of the main features are Smart Inbox, integration with other third-party apps, and the ability to use the share sheet and extensions offered in iOS 8.

Smart Inbox
Smart Inbox is the most upfront feature of the app. It will separate your emails into Newsletters, Notifications, an more with the use of cards. This shows a nice split between the various types of emails and allows for you to easily distinguish them. You can also view all of your email accounts at once or one by one and Smart Inbox will function in the same way. It will also learn which emails are important to you and only send you notifications for those emails if you wish. The settings offer a good amount of personalization. You can have notifications for all emails, smart notifications for only those you care about, or no notifications at all and you can customize them separately for each email account. There’s also a handy switch at the top of the app to quickly switch between Smart Inbox and Inbox. I’ve greatly enjoyed the Smart Inbox feature, but do still have all notifications on since I have only used the app for a handful of days.


The usability of the app is fairly simple. The app utilizes swipes like those that were introduced in Mailbox and later in Apple’s Mail app. The swipes will archive, delete, pin, or snooze emails and you can change the swipes in the settings based on what you want as a long or short swipe and if you want to swipe left or right for that specific action. When you are in your inbox, there is a spot for widgets in the bottom right next to the compose button. When you hit that, options will come up to archive or snooze, and yet again, these can be customized. I found that the gestures were snappy and you could swipe through your emails quickly. The app also learns more than just what categories to place your apps in. As I began sending more emails with the app, it began suggesting signatures for me to use based on what I would frequently type since I had yet to set up signatures for any of my emails.


App Integrations/Extensions
This is by far one of the biggest features for me. For whatever reason, Mailbox and Apple’s Mail app do not offer access to any other apps or the share sheet that has become a prominent feat in iOS 8. The app will integrate with Readability, Instapaper, Pocket, Evernote, OneNote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. I did find the lack of integration with to do and calendar apps a bit disappointing, but having access to the share sheet solves that problem for me.


I touched on this a couple of times already, but Readdle did a great job with making Spark cusomizable. You can customize the Sidebar, Widgets, and Swipes from the Personalization screen. You can get to it from the bottom right of the sidebar, much like the compose and widgets in the Inbox. This is a huge plus for users because not everyone will want to have the same standard settings.


Overall Impression
I really enjoyed using the app, but I may wait to make it my main email client until it has the Mac version to go with it. I often find myself only sending quick replies on my phone and deferring to my laptop when a response requires more thought or typing. The extensions and app integrations are by far the best feature for me since my current mail client, Mailbox, does not have them. I hope the wonderful people at Readdle will have the app extended to the other Apple platforms soon to give a great all-around experience with email. I look forward to seeing how the app progresses since it’s a great 1.0 version. You can grab the app for free here and if you’re interested in an even more in-depth review, check out Federico Viticci’s over at MacStories.

**Note: I did not cover the Apple Watch app portion because I have not been using email clients on my watch.