Despite its intuitive features and widespread popularity, Google has a reputation for questionable online privacy and has had security issues in the past. Users who don’t want their private data shared with third parties or to expose themselves to risks should explore some Gmail alternatives.
While Gmail has been the clear choice because of its ubiquity, built-in functionalities (like integration to Google Drive and Docs), and user-friendliness, there are plenty of competitors with comparable or superior services.
For example, many email providers offer similar browser-based experiences and UX/UI features that Gmail users have become accustomed to, while others emphasize privacy and security for a safer online experience.
In this article, we’ll look at the best email alternatives to Gmail and discuss what to pay attention to when looking for an alternative email platform.
Main Reasons To Look for a Gmail Alternative
In all honesty, Gmail has a ton of great features. However, there are serious drawbacks that make many users consider their options for email alternatives:
- Data harvesting: In 2017, Google was caught scanning users’ emails for personal information and using it to serve targeted ads. This practice caused many users to feel that they had no rights to their data, something that the Big Tech company continues to make significant profits from.
- Privacy issues: Most emails contain some type of private communication, so Google working with governmental law enforcement organizations makes many users feel uneasy if they misspeak or share potentially incriminating information. This lack of privacy means that users potentially lose a channel to communicate or exchange information that could be critical of government policies.
- Security issues: As a high-profile target, Google is no stranger to hacks. And despite the company’s image of emphasizing the security of Gmail and its other features, Google isn’t always forthright about discussing these issues, especially if they deem hacks as solely internal issues.
What To Pay Attention to When Looking for a Gmail Alternative
The following are the most important factors you should consider when choosing an email alternative to Gmail:
- Reputation: Pay attention to what others say about email service providers, including the positives and the negatives. Unless it seems like obvious advertisements on blogs or forums (such as Reddit, for example), the chances are that you can get a somewhat clear picture of what to expect.
- Security: Security should be the most important factor when looking at Gmail alternatives. You’ll want to choose standalone email clients and mobile apps versus browser-based email providers, as these tend to be more secure and have fewer vulnerabilities.
- Encryption standard: Encryption ensures that outside parties can’t read your emails. And for the most stringent encryption standards, even the email provider cannot decrypt its users’ emails. Currently, the most secure email encryption standard is OpenPGP, an open-sourced version of PGP that encrypts information client-side and can only be decrypted by the intended recipient.
- Jurisdiction and privacy policies: Ensure email providers are headquartered in countries that respect user privacy. The ideal provider is a company that doesn’t share your data (such as providers with zero-knowledge policies) but also has enough protection to prosecute hackers if they violate local laws. One country that stands out is Switzerland, which is far more protective of user privacy than the United States, the United Kingdom, or Canada.
- Uptime reliability: Anything other than 99% uptime is simply not acceptable in today’s fast-paced world. Downtime can lead to missed emails or unnecessary delays, something that can affect your business and personal communications.
- Storage: If the email provider has archiving capabilities (see below), it’s useful to have a significant amount of storage space to handle large files and attachments. Some free services only offer 1 GB as a standard amount of storage, whereas others offer users 10-15 GB for their free services.
- Integration: Look for email providers that offer protocols that interact with other apps and browsers (think Gmail and Google Drive). Protocols such as IMAP, SMTP, and POP offer users access to encrypted emails from mobile apps and 3rd-party software. This is especially important for users who want a Gmail-like experience to incorporate productivity software, like calendars and scheduling tools.
- Customizability: Look for a Gmail alternative that offers customizability in email templates, functionalities, and add-ons. If you want to incorporate elements such as email signatures for your branding, social media links, and more, be sure the alternative platform offers these features.
- Archive capabilities: A good email provider should offer users the ability to save, organize, store, archive, and search their messages. Pay attention to how long emails are stored, particularly if you use the email alternative infrequently, as some accounts are cycled out due to inactivity.
- Ease of use: Not every Gmail alternative features the same ease of use and intuitiveness from Google’s engineers. When looking for the right email service provider, choose one that doesn’t overwhelm you with complex features or a crowded inbox. In a business context, using a complex email platform may lead to more errors from staff, particularly those that aren’t properly trained on an unfamiliar email platform.
- Spam filter: Spam messages waste your time and eat away at your storage, so choose an email alternative to Gmail that has a system to detect and filter out spam.
- Custom domains: Custom email domains present a more professional face to the world, so look for providers that enable users to create branded emails and multiple domains.
- Anonymous payments: If you’re worried about what banks and other organizations can see from your online activity, some email providers let you use cryptocurrency or cash payments through the mail. Other providers even let users separate their digital payment details from email accounts to disguise the transactions.
- Anonymous registration: To keep your identity private, some email alternatives to Gmail offer account registration that doesn’t require anything more than a user name and a password.
- Importing from Gmail: If you already have a Gmail account and want to make the switch as seamlessly as possible, look for email providers that can import messages and contacts from Gmail.
An Overview of the Best Gmail Alternatives in 2022
Free with supported Apple devices, Apple’s iCloud Mail is an email service operated by Apple.
The company favors intuitive interoperability, so you can be sure that all Apple apps and many 3rd-party apps are supported to create a seamless user experience (such as Calendar app integration).
And like Gmail, Apple iCloud’s platform works with the Mail app on your Mac/iOS devices or MS Outlook on a computer with Windows OS.
Latin for “secure message,” Tutanota lives up to its name and serves as an excellent Gmail alternative for privacy-minded users. Based in Germany, Tutanota offers a free end-to-end encryption open source email platform with plenty of features
Contrary to other email providers, Tutanota uses its proprietary encryption with “forward secrecy” that’s incompatible with other email service providers and cannot be used with 3rd-party apps. This may seem like a limitation, but Tutanota remains one of the most secure email service providers regarding privacy. Despite its security, Tutanota is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux desktop apps, as well as Android and iOS.
The basic features are free to use. Tutanota’s premium plans for personal use start at €1.20 per month, and business packages at €2 per month – all with plenty of features like email templates, autoresponders, and more.
Best of all, Tutanota’s email systems run only on renewable energy, so you know you’re protecting the environment and your personal information at the same time.
Zoho Mail is full of features designed for small businesses and personal usage.
Similar to Google Drive’s integration with Gmail, Zoho Mail comes with the Streams and Zoho CRM features. Like any CMS, Streams enables users to exchange files easily, add comments to email threads, assign tasks, and much more. On top of that, the CRM feature offers everything you need to maintain the best customer relations. And for those that require top-tier security, Zoho Mail provides end-to-end encryption on all messages.
Try Zoho Mail’s ‘forever free’ plan with 5 GB of storage per user, a 25 MB attachment limit, and access for 5 users (enough for a small business). Zoho’s storage and productivity tools cost just $1/user per month.
Based in Switzerland, ProtonMail is designed with security and functionality in mind.
It features end-to-end and zero access encryption, which means that even the team at ProtonMail can’t access your private emails. ProtonMail also features self-destructing messages that are automatically deleted after a set period.
And to top it all off, you can open an email account on ProtonMail without providing any of your personal information. All you need to sign up is a username and password – an optional recovery email feature is also available if you want, too.
ProtonMail’s free account comes with 500 MB storage and a generous limit of 150 messages per day. Upgraded accounts starting at €4 per month include more storage space, premium customer support, and custom domains. And if you’re looking for total security, try the Visionary account for multiple user support, unlimited emails, and ProtonVPN.
Like Apple iCloud above, most Microsoft and Hotmail users likely already have an Outlook.com email account. What makes Outlook such a good Gmail alternative is the fact that it mirrors all of Gmail’s features on Microsoft’s extensive list of products.
First, enjoy 15 GB of storage space, 5 GB of OneDrive storage (similar to Google Drive), and free web versions of Office 365 apps like Excel and Word. Secondly, Outlook is perfect for integrating with other productivity apps, such as a calendar and to-do lists (and plenty of 3rd-party apps). Last, the max file size for sending emails is 34 MB, exceeding Gmail’s 25 MB maximum.
The only catch is that free Outlook users won’t receive encryption and security protection unless they upgrade to a Microsoft 365 account ($69.99 /year for one person; $99.99/year for a family). That said, these plans are extremely generous, increasing mail storage to 50 GB and OneDrive storage to 1TB with no advertisements.
Belgium-based Mailfence has been around since 1999, which means you can rely on their services versus some fly-by-night Gmail alternatives.
Mailfence offers OpenPGP encryption but goes a step further by enabling this encryption for non-OpenPGP users. Plus, you can set an expiry date if you’re worried about your communication falling into the wrong hands. Mailfence also accepts cryptocurrency payments for additional privacy.
Beyond email, Mailfence’s free accounts provide a calendar, a contacts app, and 500 MB of document storage. Free accounts start with 50 MB of storage for email, so the real functionality comes with paid accounts.
Germany-based Mailbox.org offers a great all-around email service that’s ad-free and secure. Mailbox.org’s email and productivity suite are fully integrated with nearly all Gmail features you’ve come to expect, but with added security.
Accounts can be purchased via cryptocurrency or mailed cash payments for absolute security. Plus, Mailbox.org uses full PGP support for encryption and supports third-party mobile email apps via secure protocols. And for reassurance, this email provider stores all data in at least two separate servers to preserve your information should a disaster occur.
Bear in mind that Mailbox.org is not a free email tool, but it does offer a free 30-day trial. However, basic plans are inexpensive, starting at €1 per month, with more expensive plans providing additional storage and more features.
As you can see, Germany boasts many great Gmail alternatives, and Posteo is no exception. However, what separates Posteo from others is that it is entirely self-financed, meaning it has no obligation to compromise its users in favor of outside stakeholders or investors.
OpenPGP encryption is Poster’s main feature while simultaneously supporting the IMAP protocol. This means that users can access their email on all devices. And for added security, payment and registration can be made anonymous.
Basic accounts offer 2 GB of storage space, a calendar, an attachment browser, and many more features.
With two decades of providing email services, Norway’s Runbox has been a front-runner for ease of use and is chock full of features you would expect from a private email provider.
Runbox allows users to create up to a hundred aliases to create different email addresses, which is perfect for anonymity in various settings. Encryption is also important on Runbox’s platform, utilizing end-to-end PGP encryption, which requires some technical knowledge to set up.
Even more fascinating, Runbox uses renewable hydropower energy to power its operations, making Runbox the right choice for the ecologically-minded.
Try Runbox with its free trial and a 60-day money-back guarantee on their paid subscription plans.
As you can see, there are plenty of options when choosing the best Gmail alternative. While Gmail offers a fairly comprehensive email platform, choosing between providers with comparable email features is no easy feat. Nevertheless, by reviewing the info in this article and then experimenting with email providers, you can gain a broader sense of your options to fit what you’re looking for.