If you own any kind of Apple device, you’ve probably created (and used) the Apple Mail client. In fact, if you combine all iterations of Apple Mail, it turns out to be the most popular email client in the world.
Strictly speaking, Gmail leads the charts with 27.8 percent of the market share, but the Apple iPhone is close behind with 27.6 percent of the market share.
Add in Apple iPad mail, which also utilizes Apple Mail, at 8.5 percent, and other versions of Apple Mail, at 7.5 percent, and you have the dominant email platform worldwide—probably because it’s automatically available in all Apple devices.
But how exactly does Apple Mail work, and how does it compare to Gmail? Most importantly, if you have an Apple device that relies on Apple Mail, should you continue using it or switch over to Gmail?
In this article, we’ll compare Gmail vs Apple Mail so you can decide which email platform better suits your needs.
Table of Contents
Gmail vs Apple Mail and iCloud: The Basics
Let’s start by explaining what Apple Mail is, and how it compares to Gmail at a high level. Officially, Apple Mail (usually an app simply called “Mail” on Apple devices) is an email client intended for devices with iOS operating systems. It relies on SMTP servers for sending messages, POP3, Exchange, and IMAP for message retrieving, and S/MIME for encryption.
You can find Apple Mail in app form on almost any iOS device. It comes preconfigured to support many other email providers, including (interestingly) Gmail, Outlook, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail, and of course, iCloud—the email service most commonly associated with Apple Mail.
It’s worth noting that Apple Mail is an email client, while Gmail is considered both an email client and an email service. This difference will become clear as you read more about the differences between Gmail and Apple Mail.
As you might suspect, Apple Mail and Gmail have a lot in common, including:
- Send, receive, and inbox management. Both Gmail and Apple Mail work the way you would expect a modern email client to work. You can draft, send, and receive messages, and manage your inbox with all the basic functions you’ve grown to know, including marking emails as read or unread, organizing them, and deleting them.
- Available apps. You can access Apple Mail on any Apple device, and you can access Gmail on desktop or any mobile device. While you’ll have to go out of your way to download a Gmail app on an iPhone, it’s certainly available.
- Message composition. Composing a message is a similar experience across both platforms. Regardless of whether you’re using Gmail or Apple Mail, you’ll be able to customize your message with different fonts, different formatting (like bold and italics), and various attachments. That said, attachments are a bit more complicated to include on certain devices, like iPhones.
- Contact integration. Both email services allow you to conveniently manage, organize, and call upon your bank of contacts. Start typing any name, and you’ll get a suggestion for the email address you need.
However, the email platforms diverge from here.
Gmail vs Apple Mail: Appearance and Usability
Let’s start by taking a look at the appearance and usability of Gmail vs Apple Mail. Because there are so many different versions of each app, we’ll make broad observations and specifically compare the mobile apps of each service.
Both Gmail and Apple Mail are very intuitive. You’ll mostly use the same gestures and techniques to manage your accounts; for example, you’ll be able to swipe left to delete an email from your inbox. If you look at an iteration of the Gmail mobile app and the Apple Mail mobile app and remove all branding, you might have trouble telling the difference between the two.
However, Apple Mail has a few advantages and disadvantages in the realm of usability. For example, Apple has introduced the concept of “3D touch,” which allows you to press down hard on an iPhone screen. With 3D touch in Apple Mail, you’ll be able to call up a preview of a given email. This is a feature that the Gmail app can’t equally match.
That said, Apple Mail also has some limitations; for example, it’s much less intuitive to include an attachment on the iPhone app. Without an attachment button, you’ll need to click and hold on the body content of an open email to include something like an image.
It’s also worth noting the power of Apple Mail notifications. With the Gmail mobile app, you’ll get notifications according to your settings (usually an alert whenever you get a new message), and you can turn on notifications for your Google Chrome browser as well. Apple Mail offers something similar, with a key advantage; you’ll be able to set different notifications for your different email accounts.
For example, you can set alerts for your work email, while keeping your personal email silent (or vice versa). You can also control how often you check for new mail, disabling periodic checks if you prefer to check your email manually; this is useful if you check your email too often, or if you’re frequently distracted by notifications.
Gmail vs Apple Mail: Organization
When it comes to organization, Apple Mail offers something unique; the ability to host multiple accounts from different sources, segmented in a single app.
For example, let’s say you have a Gmail account, an iCloud account, and a Yahoo account. If you have an Apple Mail app, you can sync up all these accounts at once, viewing your inboxes separately or together and getting notifications from all three simultaneously. This is a huge advantage if you’re used to juggling multiple email accounts, and need a high-level view of all of them on the go.
Of course, Gmail offers something similar; you can sync other email accounts with Gmail, collecting all your email information in one place. However, it’s a bit trickier to distinguish email messages from different accounts in the context of the Gmail app.
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Gmail also offers a few unique organizational features that make it preferable for organization-conscious individuals. As you’re well aware, Google is the King of Search, and its Gmail apps include a dynamic and thorough search function. With it, you can quickly and easily filter all your emails and find exactly the message you’re looking for.
In Apple Mail, searching is a bit more tedious. Additionally, Gmail offers a number of unique tools you can use to improve your personal organization; for example, you can separate your incoming emails into Category tabs based on their content, and you can mark emails with importance markers, stars, and other designations.
If you’re interested in learning more about the organizational tools within Gmail, be sure to check out our guide on the topic.
If you want to manage many accounts with a single app, it’s hard to beat Apple Mail, but the sheer number of organizational tools in Gmail make it too impressive to ignore.
Gmail vs Apple Mail: Addons and Extensions
We also need to talk about the addons and extensions available for both Gmail and Apple Mail. If you know where to look, you can find a handful of extensions to improve Apple Mail on your Mac; for example, there are third-party apps that can change how your email attachments appear, improve your contact management, or introduce new keyboard shortcuts. But on iPad and iPhone, modifying the traditional Apple Mail experience is much more challenging.
By contrast, Google welcomes third-party integrations, extensions, and add-ons that transform the traditional Gmail experience. For example, there are integrated third-party apps that can give you detailed analytics on your email account usage. There are tools that can automate some of your email-related tasks, and provide you with more functions you can use in the course of your work. And if you include Google Chrome extensions, there are a variety of user-friendly interfaces that can make it easier to navigate both your email account and the web.
If you’re interested in learning more about the apps, add-ons, and extensions that make Gmail incredible, we’ve listed our 54 favorites here—and that’s just the beginning. Chances are, your favorite project management and communication apps all offer some kind of Gmail integration.
Needless to say, Gmail has the advantage here. It’s much more customizable, much more open to other platforms and apps, and therefore has more versatility for the average user.
Gmail vs Apple Mail: Security and Reliability
Both Apple Mail and Gmail have a strong reputation with regard to security, but there are a couple of considerations you’ll need to bear in mind if you’re comparing the security of the two. First, Apple Mail is an email client that connects to different email accounts, so it’s not the only variable you’ll need to worry about with regard to your email security. For example, if you have a Yahoo Mail account connected via Apple Mail and there’s a massive Yahoo email account data breach, your data could still be vulnerable no matter what kind of security standards are in place at Apple.
That said, Apple Mail relies on S/MIME for end-to-end encryption, so it’s one of the most reliable mail apps available.
Gmail also has this option. In addition, Gmail has a few optional security features, like two-factor authentication; with any message, you can require a recipient to enter an SMS code to verify their identity. You could also cause the message to self-destruct after a designated period of time. Either way, all you’ll have to do is click the lock-and-clock icon at the bottom of the email composition window to access it.
Apple and Google are two of the most popular and reliable tech companies in the world, so neither security nor reliability are concerns with either Gmail or Apple Mail. You can consider this category a tie.
The Bottom Line: Should You Choose Gmail or Apple Mail?
In some ways, it’s unfair to compare Gmail and Apple Mail because they serve somewhat different purposes. Additionally, it’s possible to hybridize the two; you can keep a Gmail account and use the Gmail desktop app for the majority of your email interactions, while including your Gmail account in your Apple Mail app for when you’re on the go. Additionally, Apple Mail is technically an email client, rather than an email service; Gmail is both an email service and an email client.
That said, Apple Mail and Gmail both have pros and cons, as you might expect from any competing email platforms. Apple Mail’s ability to keep all your email accounts organized and its 3D touch-based previews make it ideal for mobile users with intensive needs, but Gmail’s versatility and range of search and organization is hard to top.
By itself, Gmail has everything you’d ever want in an email service, so that’s what I’m going to recommend; if you like Apple Mail, or if you’re used to Apple devices in general, you can still use your Gmail account in tandem with Apple Mail.
Be sure to check out our other posts comparing Gmail with popular email providers!
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.