A few months ago, I switched back to the default iOS Mail app (as seen on my home screen) after using third-party email apps for a while. I’m not an email power user (I don’t snooze my emails for example), so Mail is good enough for me.

There are a few things, though, that would make Mail more useful for email users of all levels and would help Mail better fit in the modern iOS ecosystem. Here are four easy things and one more advanced thing.

1.) Safari View Controller

When I tap a web link in an email, instead of Mail kicking over to Safari, the link should open right inside Mail using Safari View Controller. Perhaps this could be an option in Settings that is turned off by default so less tech-savvy users don’t have to know about it, don’t have to use it, and don’t have to be confused how to get back to their mail when they open a link in Safari View Controller.

Safari View Controller

2.) Returning to the inbox after acting on a message

Currently, when I’m viewing an email and I delete it or file it away to an archival folder, I’m shown the next or previous email from my inbox. I don’t necessarily want to act on it or mark it read (and then have to immediately mark it unread), so I would like an option to go back to my inbox after acting on a message. Perhaps this could be an option in Settings too.


3.) Account avatars

To help in quickly browsing an inbox, Mail should show avatars for each email in the list like each contact has in Messages. The avatar would be useful to visually process who the email is from.


Currently when viewing an email, an avatar appears in the header information along with the from and to details. This avatar should be in the list view as well.

Message avatar

Additionally, while senders who are saved in Contacts use the image I have set for them, senders not in Contacts should use the domain’s favicon (if the email is from a company) or even the sender’s Gravatar instead of the sender’s initials as it works now (unless neither are available).

4.) Share sheet

For whatever reason, email messages can’t be acted on with the share sheet. I can share websites from Safari, notes from Notes, and locations from Maps, but why not emails from Mail?


Not that I want to send my email to someone through the share sheet, but I might want to share it to another app. For example, if someone sends me a link to an article or video, I may want to send it to Pocket to view later. Currently, I have to tap the link, get kicked over to Safari, save the thing to Pocket with the share sheet, close the Safari page or tab, and go back to Mail. A Safari View Controller would save a few steps here, but being able to use the share sheet right in the email would save even more.

5.) Rules / smart inbox?

This one I realize could be considered more of a power-user feature, but I feel even casual email users could benefit from this too. While avatars for each email in the inbox list would be a small change to aid in triaging email, a smart inbox would be a big change. This could be something as simple as having the ability to set up rules which would work like they do in desktop email clients: if an incoming email matches a rule or set of rules (for example if it’s from a particular sender), it gets filtered to a particular folder.

But perhaps this could also be something more advanced like what Spark does: emails are grouped into predefined categories so more important emails are together at the top, and less important ones are together at the bottom.


Mail already allows setting up VIPs, so perhaps one of the categories is VIP emails, another is other non-newsletter emails, and another is newsletter emails. There’s already some newsletter detection happening since Mail offers a link to unsubscribe, so at the very least why not group all the newsletter emails together so they don’t have the same weight as emails from friends and family. And if friends and family have their own MailChimp newsletters they’re sending me (or the automatic grouping missed something), there should be a way to mark the email as a particular type so it gets grouped correctly in the future.

A full modernization of Mail should also include the ability to snooze emails, create and save smart searches, and set email to send at a later date, but these five things would be a good start to making Mail more useful for both casual and more advanced users.

Mail feels like it’s good enough for many iOS users—me included—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. I hope a new version of iOS brings some updates to Mail so parts of the app don’t feel so, well, mailed in.