Why Do Apple iOS Mail and Calendar Apps Suck?

Before I get into my rant of the morning, if you have a gluten intolerance, or just want less gluten in your life, we just invested in a company called Nima that can help you.

Today, as I was going through my daily reading, I read Fred Wilson’s Feature Friday: GBoard about Google’s new third-party keyboard app for iOS. I clicked on the link to download and try it and, as it was doing it’s thing, though to myself “why does Apple iOS Mail suck?” And then I thought “why does Apple iOS Calendar suck?”

When I’m using my iPhone, I spend a lot of time in Mail and Calendar. I’ve always been unhappy with Apple’s Mail and Calendar. I’ve gone through using lots of other ones, but in most cases, once the Mail or Calendar app is acquired by another, bigger company, it eventually stales out and vanishes. About a year about I started using Outlook on My iPhone and used it for a long time. I can’t remember what happened, but at some point I abandoned it and switched back to Apple Mail and Calendar.

As Gboard was downloading, I decided to try Gmail and Google Calendar on iOS for a while. I used them when they first came out and they were inferior to Apple’s Mail and Calendar. I tried them again about a year ago and they were good, but for some reason I didn’t stay with them.

I know that if I don’t use something for at least some extended period of time it won’t stick. Some I’m going to try having Google World on my iPhone until at least June 1st. At that point I’ll re-evaluate.

If you have any hints or suggestions, I’m all ears.

  • Hey Brad. Could you be more specific … what does “sucking” mean to you? I feel like I spend a lot of time in the native iOS Mail and Calendar apps. They work fine for me … maybe because I don’t use them as hard as you do? I’ve never tried another Mail/Calendar app because how much better can one of those apps be then what I already have and know how to use.

    • They are slow. I spent so much time scrolling around. The autocorrect is a mess. Calendar alerts from other calendars appear randomly. Attaching things / cutting / pasting is always sloppy. If I delete something by accident I can’t undelete it. When I try to forward something, 50% of the time random emails are suggested and often add another step. Autofind on email address is good, except when it’s not, then it’s terrible. Stuff like that.

      • Brad, I agree with your sentiment about the native Mail and Calendar on iOS. They function minimally. Sorta.

        Sunrise was/is the best Calendar app to my mind. Sorry to see it go. Not a fan of Google Calendar on iOS because it does not behave like Sunrise in view event and creation functions. I’m going to try Airmail because of this thread. Thanks. Still looking for a new Calendar.

        The native Mail does allow for undo but it’s hidden and it does not justify staying on the app. Further, you’ll need to also be OK looking like you’re having a tantrum. Turn “Shake to Undo” on in Settings> General> Accessibility (then it’s currently about 1/2 way down the page). Maybe it’s already on? Maybe you already know of said function. Shake on.

  • I don’t have any problems with the iOS mail client, except that you can only search your locally stored email when using gmail. But this is mostly Google’s fault as they don’t have a search API.

    I tried switching to the Google Calendar App, but it’s lack of notifications for calendar invites makes it a non-starter. Maybe I’m missing something? The only way I see the invites is in email… other than this the app is quite good.

    • This is not true – try using Outlook or any other decent 3rd party email app on the iPhone. Search on Gmail works just fine (not just locally), it’s only the iOS Mail app.

      • I started using the Easily-Do Mail app yesterday. (iPhone only). Pretty damn awesome, and search is nice and fast. Interesting app so far.

  • My favourite iOS mail app is currently Airmail. Don’t use a calendar often enough to have changed that.

  • rick gregory

    Airmail for iOS is awesome. in fact, so is Airmail for OS X. They have a ton os things that cn be customized but the feature Ilike best is the filterable views – for example, unread, from today, with attachments. On OS X those are each one keystroke. On iOS, pull the message list down and they appear at the bottom.

  • Sam

    “in most cases, once the Mail or Calendar app is acquired by another, bigger company, it eventually stales out and vanishes”

    I’m kind of pissed at Apple for letting Sunrise go to Microsoft. Beautiful product that would’ve fit iOS like a glove. Hopefully it can survive integration.

    • I totally agree, Sunrise worked. Maybe, maybe Microsoft won’t F**k it up.

  • I think the issues with these apps aren’t these apps per-se. The core issue is that Apple has lost its way in software.

    Yes, Mail & Calendar are uninspiring – on both desktop and iOS. But when was the last blockbuster Apple software release that made you go Wow? (A long time ago for me.) Photos was better as iPhoto. iMessage is a poor cousin to other Real Time communications apps. And frankly, OS X itself is looking calcified. Apple has completely missed cloud-based innovation. (iCloud is barely a player). I use iTunes only when I must. And so on. (Keynote still makes me happy, but it hasn’t had any innovation in a while.)

    I understand that Apple needs to tread a careful line between being an open platform for other developers vs. squashing them with a category-killer. BUT, that’s a smokescreen argument for my underlying fear that they’ve got NO software leadership.

    But Apple’s iPhone / hardware revenue and profit tsunami has caused it to forget that users use software to accomplish a task, on hardware optimized in design, ergonomics, price & value, to run that software. Without software vision, there is no innovation.

    This is sad for me; I’ve been a vocal Apple fanboy / evangelist for 20+ years; it has always produced computing products that were technically visionary, and a pleasure to use. If Apple isn’t going to be this leader in the future, who is? I actually have growing background angst for my mid-to-long-term computing future.

  • David Parker

    Apple isn’t and hasn’t ever been a software company. Everything they do is a way to push towards more hardware sales. Mail, Calendar, and Maps would have Steve rolling in his grave.

    • I agree, but only partially. I think at his core, Steve combined three drives:
      + Amazing software drives adoption. Early MacOS, NeXT View (which became OS X), and iOS were all software innovations from which major changes in computing as we know it arose.
      + Users don’t want commodity hardware on which to run the software. Just like Sun Microsystems, he knew that making the hardware removed all kinds of adoption complexity, and allowed innovation in the software (bitmapped displays, mice, etc.)
      + Fully-integrated systems offer a chance for more gross margin from each customer. Selling software is find at 95% margins, but the actual DOLLARS was lower than selling HW + SW.

      Steve built stuff people wanted to use that was amazing, and sell it via an “integrated computer system” business model. BTW – this mentality (if it remains) is probably why they’ve missed the cloud wave.

  • Readdle’s Spark for email … Fantastical for calendar …. Never looked back …. though still looking forward to improvements … But with the general consensus in other comments … It depends how hard you are pushing the apps …

  • Rob Larson

    I like “inbox” by google and google calendar for IOS. much better than the native IOS apps.

  • I’ll just leave this here for your Saturday morning chuckles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oht9AEq1798

  • Scotty VG

    They all suck. I have done the same dance for years between Apple Mail/Calendar, Google Mail/Inbox/Calender and Outlook for iOS. The problem I find is that every time I switch I notice a small key component to my own organizational system that renders the new system useless. I usually go back to Apple by the end of it all with a grunt thinking “Well at least it sucks a little bit less…” There needs to be some kind of unification around the personal organizational patterns for every user. Like for example why can I flag in multiple colors on OS X mail.app and not on iOS mail. Who develops that kind of crap??? Google, bless their hearts is making steps in the right direction with Google Inbox, but again there is no ability to sync my systems with other programs without using their webapps… The whole calendar/reminder/mail ecosystems need an overhaul.

  • They do indeed suck.
    I use the google apps because whilst the UI isn’t the best they are very very reliable and google understands latency better than anyone else.

  • felixc

    I’d also expand the discussion to why Mac OS Mail and Calendar suck as well. For a company with so many resources, it is getting embarrassing that the core apps aren’t better.

    For example, I use gmail via both web browser UI and Apple Mail. And inevitably I always end up back in web browser.

  • Scott

    I think Mac OS Mail is awful. I personally don’t worry about the IOS version. It is really amateurish and reinforces the stereotype that Macs are for play and PCs are for business. It really is confounding why there aren’t a few versions to choose from like, basic, student, power user….I hate to admit that I really like Outlook 2016.

  • Greg Bulmash

    Apple is a hardware company that grudgingly makes software. They haven’t gone the extra mile on their software since someone made Final Cut good enough to lead the industry (though they eventually remedied that).

    Apple doesn’t need to make great software. They just need it to be good enough to avoid crushing those sexy hardware laurels they’ve been resting on.

  • Victor Muthoka

    I actually just decided the same thing, last week. I’m hoping it’ll be better coz I spend a lot of time googling & it’d help me save time from switching between app & safari when I have to.

  • great question. I concur. iCal is so bad I might have to switch to an Android phone.

  • Scott Parsinen

    So I read most of the “this sucks” posts. Did I miss a solution? I have 8 email addresses that are mixed Gmail, iCloud, etc and it would be awesome to have ONE easy calendar for all of them. Kind of a LOTR one ring. Did anyone ever find this? Or is that the punchline? There’s no such animal?

  • Ashita Achuthan

    @Brad- I think we underestimate the force of habit and inertia in making the switch. So even though Google Calendar on IOS is far, far superior to the native Calendar, I find myself using that over Google Calendar (even when they are on the same screen).

  • I switched to Inbox about 3 months ago and it has been fantastic, best mobile client I have seen. The desktop app for inbox is not there yet, so I stick with gmail on desktop.

  • Aashay Mody

    I’m a fan of Inbox by Google, which has some of the features of Mailbox (Dropbox) which I used before they decided to shut it down. Another good one to try is Polymail, which is currently in beta.