Android Email Sucks

Written 14 years ago by Mike Cardwell

The email client for Android is a bit naff. I have my own IMAP server for my email and I connect to that from my G1. When I receive an alert on my phone that I have email waiting, it is actually quicker for me to ssh in to my server from my G1 using ConnectBot and then fire up mutt, than it is to use the built in email client to read it. Even when I’m connected via a decent WiFi connection. When I click on the account that I want to view in the email application, it takes about 10 seconds before I see a list of mail folders. I then click on “Inbox” to view the messages within, and it takes another 20 seconds or more before I get a list of the mail. Connecting to my own IMAP server on a Nokia E90 running Symbian was a joy in comparison. If I view an email in the email application, and then exit, it should only take a few seconds for me to be able to go back and read that same email. Not the best part of a minute.

There are problems with the app, other than its frustratingly slow behaviour. There is no option to download new mail in the background so it is there waiting for you when you go into the app. There should be “Download full message” or “Download only headers” options. There should be a “Download only last x days” option. There should be support for the IMAP IDLE extension. You should be able to set it to monitor for new email in folders other than the Inbox. Also, when listing folders, Android lists all of them in a single one-level list, yet I have a tree like folder structure with multiple levels, so it should be displayed that way. Mobile email clients have been supporting this sort of stuff for years. Why doesn’t Android?

To top it all, after I received the 1.6 firmware update the other day, the email client has become very flakey. Pretty much every time I use it, I click on a message or a folder and it just hangs for 15 or so seconds before I get a popup telling me that the app has timed out and asking if I want to continue waiting, or force the app to close. If I tell it to continue waiting it springs back into action straight away.

Email is an important feature for phones nowadays. Android should have very good IMAP support. It doesn’t. Why?

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