iOS 6 hands-on review: The new Mail app

Mail is probably the app I use the most on my iOS devices(s AAPL). It’s where I triage my email and send responses that require immediate attention. I can’t check any personal email on my work computer, so my iPhone is called upon to do some heavy lifting. Up until iOS 6, I’d considered it merely adequate for my needs. Now, it’s moved into not-half-bad territory.

Below is a rundown of my experiences with the new features of the app, which will be available to everyone with iOS 6, which is scheduled to roll out later on Wednesday.

The VIP mailbox

The VIP mailbox is the new feature of Mail that I use the most. It’s a way to flag a contacts as VIPs and have their emails show up in the special VIP section in Mail as well as Notification Center. This is handy when I have my iPhone docked at work and when a VIP email is received, Notification Center will pop up with the preview of the email.

To turn on the VIP mailbox, go to Settings, Notification Center, Mail, VIP. From there you can set how the VIP notifications are displayed.

To set a contact as a VIP, tap on their name in Mail. That will bring up the Sender page, and from there, tap on Add to VIP.

You can then read your VIP mails by going to the VIP area under All Inboxes in the Mail sidebar.

For the most part I’m happy with the VIP flag. It’s a good way to quickly find and read emails from crucial contacts.

Mail Flagging

In Microsoft Outlook(s MSFT), I’m a big fan of flagging items. I’m not big on Inbox Zero, but I use the Mark for Followup flag to tag emails that contain requests I need to act upon. A version of that concept makes its appearance in Mail, albeit just to flag items or mark them as unread. To Flag an item, in the message itself there is a flag button in the lower left-hand corner. Tapping that will let you set flagged or unread status.

It’s not a feature I use every day — fortunately, not many of my non-day job emails are actionable. I have found, however, that it’s a great tool to remind me of a form I need to fill out when I get home. Which reminds me, I have a form flagged.

Easier sending of photos and video

Every Friday night I get together with a group of friends. Usually leading up to this event there is a significant amount of trash talking and sending of mostly juvenile pictures we’ve found on the internet to make our point. Now with Mail, right from the email I’m replying to I can tap as if I’m trying to copy text, tap on the arrow on the right-hand side of the selection pop-up, and then choose “Insert Photo or Video” from there, I can see my available albums and choose an image from there.

What I’d still like to see from Mail

While I like the new additions to Mail, I’m never satisfied. One thing I’d like to see added is creating a calendar event or reminder right from Mail. I know Mail is smart enough to try and create an event if it sees “this Friday” in an email, but I’d like to be able to tap on a button and create an event or reminder with the body of the text included. While unlikely, I’d also love if Mail could see which documents I had in the Cloud and let me send the email from within Mail. This way, if an editor sends me a note asking for another copy of an article, I’d like to be able to reply to that email and send the attachment from iCloud.

Overall, though, iOS 6 Mail has some nice features that should help you be more productive with your mail workflow.