Sparrow for iOS: Mail As It Should Be…Almost [video]

As some of you know, last night the long awaited countdown came to an end. After many months of anticipation and waiting, Sparrow was released to the iOS App Store. Sparrow, for those of you who might not be familiar, is a popular alternative mail app for OSX who’s clean interface and design makes it a simple joy to use. The new iPhone app is no different.

So whats so good about it? Well if your a fan of a gesture based UI, you are certainly in for a treat. Everything is just a swipe or two away. I would compare its basic functionality to a mix of the stock Facebook and Twitter apps,  with its sliding panes and basic structure. These familiar ques make for an easy learning experience during initial setup. Within 5 min I had all of my accounts ready and was receiving mail. Simply put, it works and it works well.

Other fun features include pull to refresh, Facebook integration, a unified inbox, full support for “staring”, flagging, and the option to delete OR archive a new email. Coupled with a really cool implementation of email threading, this would be the mail app of my dreams… if not for one missing feature. As good as this app is, and its very good, it has one fatal flaw.

No “Push” services.

Now, this is not entirely the developers fault, the original version of the app had a very functional “Push” notification framework built right in, but sadly the implantation they had to use is not allowed by apple unless its for a VOIP type app. This is very unfortunate, but I cant fault the apple review team for coming to that conclusion. In a way, I’m proud of them for catching it given their track record recently. They can let a dozen blatant tether apps through the store, but someone tries to introduce something useful and they strike without mercy(Seriously WTF is that all about?!). This isn’t the first otherwise awesome app to be castrated by these rules, and I’m sure it wont be the last. I’m personally hoping some kind jailbreak dev might introduce a plugin on that side of things to solve this problem, but I doubt that will happen.

Is this a deal breaker? Well not totally. There are workarounds. Personally, I turned off badges on my mail app and threw it in a folder. The phone still dings when I get a message, and all is happy. Yes, I don’t get a badge or a preview bubble, but it works for me at the moment. Perhaps someday in the future they will work it out so it can have push, or maybe apple will change their policy on who gets to use what push API for what… but until then… no sparrow push for you, or anyone else.

In conclusion, Sparrow is an amazingly well done replacement. If you can figure out some way around the lack of push, or just live without it, you will love it. Its just great.

Sparrow is available for $2.99 in the app store