Cannonball, a new, free iPad app for Gmail users, is the latest iOS email app that aims to transform the mobile email experience. It does a good job making message organization more visual, but it doesn’t accomplish much more than that.
Cannonball places your personal correspondence in a list on the left of your screen. To the right, you see large thumbnails that represent other types of email, such as newsletters, marketing messages and social-media notifications
(Screen shot: Cannonball Corp.)
It’s a nice way to unclutter your inbox, but the thumbnail images distract from more important messages. It’s not a big problem, and it might be less of an issue if the thumbnails were smaller.
I like how Cannonball places photos of recent and frequent contacts to the right when you compose an email, which makes it easy to select a recipient.
But Cannonball won’t replace either the iOS Mail or Gmail apps for me, for a number of reasons:
* Currently, there’s no iPhone version of Cannonball, and I check email on my iPhone way more often than on my iPad. Releasing an iPad version was the developer’s first priority, because the app needs the larger screen to do its visual-organization thing. But that means users need to switch to another mail app on their iPhones.
* Email management is limited. Unlike with the Gmail app, you can’t mark messages as spam and add labels.
* Cannonball’s settings give you only two options: turn the Cannonball server on, which is selected by default; and reset unsubscribe, which is not. It’s not clear exactly what these options mean, and I found no in-app help.
* The app slips in a “Sent from Cannonball.io” email signature in each messsage you compose or reply to, and I don’t see any way of changing that.
* Sliding left on a message reveals a big red "Delete" button. But in my tests, Cannonball only archived messages. I’m not sure why because I had already unchecked the archive option in my Gmail app, and none of the other email apps I’ve tested force me to archive instead of delete.
If you’re looking to shake up your iOS email experience, consider Skimbox, another new, free app that separates important messages from the other stuff; Birdseye Mail, which gives email the Flipboard treatment; or Mailbox, a popular app owned by Dropbox.