Despite the frankly ludicrous number of apps in the iOS app store, it's been difficult to find a truly great email app lately. If Outlook isn't to your liking, it quickly gets tough. The official Gmail app is a joke compared to the Android option, Mailbox is dead and options like Airmail and Google's Inbox are nice, but a bit complicated.
CloudMagic has been an option worth checking out for a few years now. It's laser-focused on simplicity, but there are some powerful features lurking underneath the surface. Today, the app formerly known as CloudMagic is being reborn as Newton. It's still a deceptively simple affair, but there are some noteworthy new features on board like snoozing messages, read receipts and a send-later function. It works on iOS, Android and on the Mac. But it'll cost you: Newton carries a $50 annual subscription fee, something almost unheard of in apps these days. Is it worth such a large commitment?
The high price tag is certainly off-putting, but there was definitely a lot to like in the time I spent testing Newton on my iPhone, iPad and Mac. For starters, you can add just about any email account you can think of. I tested Gmail, a corporate Google Apps account, iCloud mail and Outlook and they all worked with zero issues. And once you create a Newton account, you can easily transfer setting and accounts across any devices you use.
Once the app is set up, it's very reminiscent of using the dearly departed Mailbox. Long and short swipes do different things, so it's easy to trash, archive, snooze or otherwise file your messages. Basically, it's great for triaging your inbox on the go.
People are pretty split on whether snoozing emails is helpful or just screwing your later self; I like using it and am glad to see Newton include the feature. It works just as you'd expect, with options to defer messages to later in the day, the next day, the weekend, the following week and so forth. So far, they've come back into my inbox reliably.
Other new features that are pretty handy include the ability to undo sending an email -- Gmail has had this for a while, but it's good to see it pop up in another mobile app. You can also schedule emails to send at particular times and enable read receipts for your messages, even if the recipient isn't using Newton.
Sender profiles are also handy -- tapping on the sender of a message will pull up relevant details about her from the internet, when available. They're a holdover from CloudMagic, as are the Connected Apps, which let you plug Newton into various other services like OneNote, Trello, Pocket and Evernote.
For me, these are nice features to have, but the most important thing about Newton is that it is fast and efficient at sending, receiving and managing your email. The rest is really just gravy. It's also by far the best email app I've used on the Apple Watch; I can actually archive or delete messages when they come to my watch as notifications, and everything syncs reliably and immediately. The same can't be said for a lot of Apple Watch apps (note that I tested this with iOS 9 and WatchOS 2).
The elephant in the room is the price, and it's a really large elephant. As solid as my time with Newton has been, I just don't think I can justify shelling out that kind of cash. The team behind Newton and CloudMagic before it says the cost will help it continue to invest in building a solid product, cover recurring server costs and help sustain the business to avoid having to sell their product off or shut down entirely. If you look at the fate of some beloved apps like Mailbox and the Sunrise calendar, you'll see just how hard it is to stay around in this marketplace.
Newton's plan makes sense, but I'm afraid it's just going to be too expensive to find the adoption the company is looking for. It won't fail due to quality -- the app is pretty great, and if you use a variety of platforms it's an excellent option, particularly if you value minimalism. But when Inbox is free and I can get Airmail on my Mac and iOS devices for $15 out the door, $50 a year is a real tough pill to swallow. Fortunately for some, at least, the Newton team is giving former CloudMagic users who've paid for that app a free year of Newton. It's definitely worth trying, in that case -- and there's a chance you'll get hooked on it.