While email programs, such as Apple’s Mail and Microsoft’s Outlook apps, receive much attention, less conversation commonly occurs surrounding the backend email engine. Here are recommendations for the best email technologies for iOS, iPadOS and macOS users.
Apple iCloud Mail
Freelance workers and small business owners that require only basic email service may well find the iCloud email address included with an Apple iCloud account meets all their needs. If you don’t require a custom domain (such as firstname.lastname@example.org) and can operate using an @icloud.com email address, iCloud can fulfill professional email requirements.
In fact, iCloud Mail offers iOS, iPadOS and macOS users several advantages. The web-based app is easy to access and use. Heavy DNS routing and configuration responsibilities are managed behind the scenes by Apple. The burden of registering, maintaining and configuring a private domain are eliminated. Mail is stored offsite and automatically synchronized between devices. Adding an iCloud email address to Apple’s Mail app, whether using an iPhone, iPad or Mac, is as easy as configuring an email account gets—especially considering Apple provides the option for automatically enabling the email account within its Mail app when associating an iCloud account with an Apple device.
Gig workers and small business operators should appreciate how the simplicity and reliability iCloud mail provides removes all the previous mentioned headaches. The resulting time and resources that are freed up can instead be invested in growing and maintaining their actual business.
Many professionals are sticklers for commonly accepted standards. As a business owner responsible for managing HR, among other functions, I can confirm the majority of candidate resumes frequently seemingly list Gmail email addresses. Technology professionals have long been comfortable using and sharing a Gmail address, which has become a kind of de facto standard.
Google, of course, does a great job presenting, routing and maintaining its Gmail platform, for which free accounts are available. Google also offers professional versions that add custom and secure business email, additional cloud storage, video meetings and more, starting at $6 per user, per month.
While Gmail accounts leverage advertising, for which some privacy concerns are commonly surfaced, individual operators and small offices that require only basic email, and who wish to take advantage of the cache a Gmail address possesses, will be well served using a Gmail account with iPhones, iPads and macOS. The Gmail accounts can readily be loaded within Apple’s Mail apps across those devices, and (as with Apple iCloud accounts), the web app works well and Google manages backend tasks that ensure mail remains reliably synchronized across multiple devices.
POP3 and IMAP accounts used to be among the most commonly used backend email platforms. When registering for a private domain name, POP3 and IMAP accounts were often bundled with the subsequent domain registration and web hosting services plans.
While many POP3 and IMAP options remain available, these technologies are falling out of favor. POP3 requires sometimes intricate configuration within each email client app, such as Apple Mail, and synchronization between devices can be a bear. While IMAP typically resolves mail synchronization issues across multiple devices, when configured properly, often the DNS registration and server settings must be specified by the business owner.
Increasingly, as sole proprietors, small offices and medium-sized organizations seek to focus time and energy running their businesses instead, there’s decreasing tolerance for continuing to fiddle with POP3 and IMAP accounts. Though they remain an option—especially when bundled with a private domain registration and hosting plan—those iPhone, iPad and Mac users still using POP3 and IMAP technologies should consider moving to more contemporary platforms. In some cases, large hosts have begun migrating users to Microsoft 365, for example, so the days of POP3 and IMAP may already be numbered.
Microsoft 365 Mail
It’s tempting to describe Microsoft 365 as the Cadillac of backend email platforms. Professionals can use their private domain, while Microsoft manages the heavy back-end DNS administration and email server operations that permit synchronizing email, calendar information, contacts and tasks across a variety of devices. Cadillac comparisons may imply premium expense, and Microsoft 365 is a bargain, all elements considered.
With pricing plans starting at $69.99 a year for personal plans, and $5 per user, per month for business users, justifying a Microsoft 365 subscription is no chore. In addition to including web, mobile and desktop versions (depending upon the subscription edition) of popular and ubiquitous Office apps including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Microsoft 365 subscriptions are available that include Teams for coordinating communications and video meetings, OneDrive for cloud storage and SharePoint for collaboration.
Considering Microsoft’s working aggressively to maintain competitive versions of its Office apps for iOS, iPadOS and macOS, and because downloading and installing these apps on these devices is free and straightforward, it’s hard to make a case for not using Microsoft 365. The days of Microsoft and Apple butting heads is over. Microsoft 365 mail alone justifies Apple users subscribing to the service; the additional apps and services are icing on the cake.