The first ever e-mail was sent by the American, Ray Tomlinson, in October 1971. Fast-forward several decades and e-mail has developed into one of the most used internet services in the world, but are its days numbered? Will instant messengers and social media render e-mail useless for the digital generation? Current figures provide information, as well as a glimpse into the future of e-mail.
Gmail, the e-mail service developed by Google, has been the largest free, ad-financed e-mail service in the world since 2012. Gmail is easy to use, simple to connect, usable on a wide variety of devices, and, thanks to Google, accessible practically everywhere. But not everybody is a fan of the American company. Plus, there are some Gmail alternatives that can easily keep up with the search engine giant’s e-mail service. But which functions do these alternatives offer, and to what extent do they differ from Google’s e-mail service?
The best Gmail alternatives
Whether personal or professional: countless messages are sent every day on different channels. In 2017, around 269 billion e-mails were sent and received per day across the world.
A good e-mail service is characterised by the ease with which is allows you to send and receive data, messages, and images – preferably at any time and from anywhere. Data security is also an important point of concern for most users. After all, very private information – including applications, bank information, or account data – is sometimes sent via e-mail. Ease of use is also a major factor for the success of a portal that can set the e-mail service apart from its competition.
In the following sections, we’ll first briefly discuss Gmail as the top e-mail service provider so that we can then discuss the most interesting Gmail alternatives.
Gmail has been the most-used e-mail portal worldwide since 2012. The e-mail platform from the search engine giant is pre-installed on almost every smartphone and can be linked directly to other accounts – for example, YouTube.
One big weakness of the Google service is its poor data security. Even the general terms and conditions of the search engine service have shortcomings that make it possible to pass on user data. For example, according to the Gmail terms of service, the provider is allowed to search through user e-mails for ad-related keywords. Due to this problem, Gmail has received low rankings in security assessments.
|POP3 + IMAP4||Data protection concerns: forwarding of user data, inadequate privacy regulations|
|Pre-installed on Android smartphones|
|Good spam filter|
Outlook.com is the new Hotmail, and combines the functions of numerous Office services from Microsoft. Previously, Hotmail was Microsoft’s e-mail service as well as part of the program bundle Windows Essentials. In 2013, Hotmail was replaced by Outlook. E-mail addresses from Outlook Express, Windows Mail, or Windows Live Mail can be easily imported on Outlook.com. The online platform also provides 15GB of storage and an available mail collector (software for collecting address books and e-mail addresses).
Another benefit of Outlook.com is that you can import contacts from social networks such as Facebook.
With Outlook, you can only have one primary e-mail address, but can establish up to 10 alias addresses. By contrast, Gmail only allows one address per user that can used to create up to 30 alias addresses for free.
The storage space and size of attached files are also similarly large for both Gmail and Outlook. Both mail services offer around 15GB of storage and allow you to send file attachments up to 25MB in size. Via OneDrive, you can also send multi-gigabyte attachments with Outlook.com
You can use Gmail on almost all devices – such is not the case for Outlook: Outlook only functions with Android and iOS. Gmail can also be used with a Windows phone.
|Free||Relatively outdated software with poor synchronisation|
|POP3 + IMAP4||Data protection concerns: forwarding of user data is possible|
|Local software or browser software||Mobile support only for Android and iOS|
|No personalised ads|
If you use the paid e-mail service Posteo, you can rest assured that your confidential information will never be seen by a third party. This is because with Posteo your data is protected by comprehensive encryption and two-factor authentication (TOTP). Saved data can also be encrypted. Beyond that, Posteo allows you to create an e-mail address without providing any personal information.
With a cost of only one Euro per month, Posteo is a very affordable alternative for securely sending your data. The “green” e-mail provider encrypts all data in your account: from the calendar to addresses and images. Posteo also uses 100% green electricity from Greenpeace Energy.
“An e-mail inbox with Posteo saves energy, CO2, and nuclear waste, and conserves resources. Our reserves are invested in ecological projects through the Environmental Bank.” – Posteo, Source: posteo.de/site/nachhaltigkeit (link in German)
With an overall rating of 1.4, Posteo achieved first place in the Stiftung Warentest comparison assessment in 2017. Especially in terms of data security, Posteo far outdoes the e-mail service Gmail. On the other hand, Gmail has a slightly more user-friendly design.
|Reliable data protection||Paid (ca. 1€/month)|
|Non-personalised accounts possible||Less user-friendly than the famous competition|
|Extensive encryption options|
|Operated with 100% green energy|
Though Yahoo Mail had some difficulties getting started, the mail portal can now easily keep up with the best Gmail alternatives. Like many other alternatives to Gmail, Yahoo is also usable on various iPhones as well as Android and Windows devices. Contacts can easily be imported from social networks – Yahoo even provides an impressive 1TB of storage space. The service also offers a manually configurable spam filter and a chat function with which you can receive SMS messages.
As opposed to Google, Yahoo allows its users to send e-mails with very large attachments. Through Dropbox, Yahoo Mail can send attachments up to 2GB in size. For those who needs lots of storage space and would like to send and receive larger amounts of data, Yahoo is a good choice. Gmail offers more functions for organisation and daily planning, though.
|Free||Extensive ad tracking|
|Massive storage space||Display ads can only be disabled for ca. $35/month|
|Good connection to social networks|
|Very large file attachments possible|
One of the top e-mail providers since its high-profile launch in the 1990s, AOL Mail remains a popular alternative to Gmail. The service is available for free with the creation of an AOL account. Mobile access to AOL Mail is available for both Android and iOS users via the AOL App, or through the browser. Users can add their buddies into AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) chat service directly through their inbox.
Storage space on AOL Mail is unlimited, but attachment size is limited to 25MB. The e-mail service also has integrated spam filters and protections services. AOL Mail has a very user-friendly design, and provides unlimited customer support to its users.
|Free||Attachments limited to 25MB|
|Unlimited storage space|
|Spam filters protect inbox|
GMX, like Outlook.com, also offers a mail collector as an extra. Beyond this, GMX features a sophisticated anti-spam module with which you can scan incoming messages for viruses or trojans. The e-mail service uses various backup services to secure and protect data.
In comparison to Gmail, GMX’s unlimited storage is rather impressive. Attachments can be sent in sizes up to 50MB without requiring any compression or outside services. In terms of security, GMX impresses with its end-to-end encryption.
|Good spam filter, antivirus|
Overview of the Gmail alternatives
|Outlook||15 GB||25MB (via OneDrive up to 10 B)||Free||Ja/Ja||Medium||Mail collector|
|Posteo||2 GB||50 MB||1 € / month||Ja/Ja||High||Provider uses green energy|
|Yahoo Mail||1 TB||25MB, via Dropbox up to 2GB||Free||Ja/Ja||Medium||SSL encryption|
|AOL Mail||Unlimited||20 MB||Free||Ja/Ja||Medium||Chat service|
|GMX||Unlimited||20 MB||Free||Ja/Ja||High||SSL encryption|
For the free Gmail alternatives that don’t already offer unlimited storage, additional storage space can be acquired with paid extensions. Both individual add-ons as well as extension packages with additional extras are available.
Most alternatives to Gmail are characterised by high levels of data security. This is because Google’s general terms and conditions allow the provider to read e-mail content. But Gmail isn’t the only e-mail service with questionable data protection.
If you’re looking for a free alternative that guarantees better data protection, then switching to one of the providers discussed in this article could be a logical move. Some of the free versions offer fewer functions – for organising appointments, for example – and a relatively small amount of storage, but this can usually be solved with a paid upgrade. The paid service Posteo boasts particularly high levels of data security, in addition to its green business practices. Gmail may earn points when it comes to user-friendliness, but if you place more value on the security of your data rather than the ease of your use, then alternatives to Gmail can hardly be overlooked.