The App Store is great, but sometimes Apple's apps are cool too

App Store on iPad
App Store on iPad (Image credit: iMore)

The App Store is filled to the brim with some amazing apps. The best on any mobile platform, without a doubt. Developers big and small, with huge teams and single people. They all make iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS what they are today. Apple might not do a good job of telling anyone, but without third-party apps and their developers, it wouldn't have the platforms it has today.

But sometimes, just sometimes, Apple's apps are cool too.

I say that because alongside my recent switch to iOS 15, I also decided to take another look at Mail on iPhone and iPad. I've used numerous third-party apps in the past including Spark, Despatch, Newton, and some I'm probably forgetting. But with iOS 15 bringing Focus to Apple's platforms and a newfound wish to dial down on notifications, I thought I'd embrace Mail's lack of push capability when using Gmail and make the switch.

So far, I'm liking it. It still has the annoyances I remember, like automatically moving to the next message and marking it unread as soon as you archive the previous one – if anyone knows how to stop that, hit me up — but I'll survive.

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This also got me wondering about what other Apple apps I should be trying out. I already use Safari, but what about Notes? I know some people swear by it, but can it compete with my mixture of Drafts and DEVONthink? Probably not the latter, but the former? Perhaps. That might be the next one I test out.

Weather is one app I'm going to give a try thanks to its integration of Dark Sky data and new notifications for when it rains. If that works as well as Dark Sky — and it should, it's using the same data — then I'm. CARROT Weather is one of the best iPhone apps around, but that might have to go as well.

I'm not expecting to end up running an iPhone with stock apps and nothing else, of course. Reminders isn't going to replace OmniFocus any time soon although I know that's another app that's seen big improvements in recent years. Could Podcasts replace Overcast? Can iCloud Keychain replace 1Password?

Who knows. Let's just deal with Mail for now and see how we go!

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • Honestly, Apple Default apps still lacks some features BUT (a big one) the features their apps lacks doesn’t justify, for me, to pay ~$300 yearly in Notes, To-do, Email services anymore. I moved back my Notes from Evernote/Notion to Apple Notes. From Todoist to Reminders. From 1Passwords to Apple Keychain and Bitwarden Free. From Hey to Apple iCloud Mail.
  • There's definitely a financial aspect to it, for sure.
  • I think that there is a method to Apple’s way of thinking. Since they get a 30% cut of all app sales I think that apple purposely waits to update certain apps so that they can first bleed app sales. With he updates that Reminders has received puts it on par with many of the top paid to do apps out there. For example with all the hoopla surrounding Fantastical 2 they are lacking a key feature when it comes to sub tasks. Even the default Reminders app (now) has that. In terms of the others I have always ended up coming back to the because it just worked better with the Apple Ecosystem. There are things that do enhance it (the mail app) but you have to tinker in the shortcuts app to make it happen. But if Apple beefs up their default apps right out the gate this can harm their App Store revenue. I’m not saying that I like the idea but I guess for them it’s just business.
  • Curious what you're doing with Mail and Shortcuts! Tell me more!
  • I'm fully in the Apple ecosystem and that's why mail works better for me.
    On my apple watch, only the stock mail app separates my mailboxes so I can differentiate what messages go where. Also, only the mail app gets notifications for subfolders. Spark does not do that. From my iMac, I have tons of rules for mail that go into effect immediately on all of my devices. For me, my iMac is always on so I never have an issue with mail. On my iPad, through shortcuts, I make email templates that include attachments that work flawlessly and it also shows on my iPhone. Spark mail rules do not sync across devices unless you use iCloud mail rules which are a joke. When making rules for spark you have to do it per device., overall functions the best within the Apple ecosystem.
  • Mail: " automatically moving to the next message and marking it unread as soon as you archive the previous one..."
    ==> This!
    Exactly what prevents me from using the stock mail app.
    I don't understand why they don't fix it(yes I consider it a bug), and I don't understand how anybody can live with that.
  • I use the Mail app daily. I rarely archive anything, I just leave things in my Inbox until I am done with it. But I have no problem archiving things, and the next message in the inbox is not affected. Yes, it moves to the next message in the Inbox, there is little else it can do. But it does not become unread. Tested on iPhone and iPad, both on 14. Is this an iOS 15 issue?
  • That's curious. I remember it doing the same the last time I used Mail which was probably iOS 12. But then again, my memory isn't known for being great so we could do with someone else chiming in here! 😆
  • The mail app has been hot garbage since IOS13. It amazes me apple cannot figure out how to get the mail app to work right (like actually show the emails when they come not hours later) when no other mail app has this issue. I go back every few months to see if they fixed it, but low and behold they still cannot figure it out..
  • If you're using Gmail, the lack of push isn't Apple's fault in this instance. Google removed push support for the Mail app a few years ago.
  • I get that, but why does every other email app the mail comes immediately and the mail app is the only one that struggles? I have no issues getting emails in a timely fashion with outlook, spark, etc. Blaming it on Google for apple's poor mail app ain't gonna get it done when other apps work perfectly fine.
  • Spark etc route your email through their own servers so they can handle the push aspect. Depending on your privacy preferences, that might not be something you want to do. Businesses likely wouldn't. Apple isn't going to offer the same thing for obvious reasons.
  • Which is fine, just saying an email app that you have to open the app to see email is pretty pointless, hence why unfortunately I won't be using the stock mail app.
  • I’ve been doing the same slowly over the past year. Notes in place of Evernote, Reminders instead of Toodoodle. This summer as part of iOS 15 testing I’m giving Keychain and Podcasts a look I don’t spend a ton on subscriptions, my motivation is better control over my data and privacy. I would use the stock mail app in a heartbeat it it supported the share sheet.