A new iPhone (s aapl) app called reMail gives iPhone users the email archive search functionality available in applications like Gmail and Outlook. reMail is priced at $4.99 until September 1st ($9.99 after that date). The creator of reMail is Gabor Cselle, who has previously worked on Gmail at Google, and who was the VP Engineering at Xobni, an Outlook add-on which has previously been reviewed at WWD.
The iPhone does have Spotlight search already built-in, but Spotlight has a limitation. It can only search what is stored on your phone. For an email account, this means that it can only search a couple hundred messages, not the account’s entire archives. And how often is the email you are searching for one of the most recent two hundred? In my case, the answer is rarely.
reMail works by connecting to your Gmail or other IMAP-enabled email account. It downloads the entire archives of the account onto your phone, making it searchable in the app. reMail suggests leaving your phone on a WiFi connection overnight to download mail the first time. I was impressed it recognized my Google Apps email address as a Gmail account and connected to it without a problem via the app’s Gmail protocol. In my experience, other applications can’t always do that (including Google’s own). reMail currently only supports usage with one email account.
Unlike Spotlight, which only searches headers and titles, an email’s entire content is searchable in reMail. The app also allows for more advanced searches than Spotlight does. For instance, exclusion searches are possible, as well as “OR” searches, and searches limited to terms in only an email’s header or body (header:term, for instance). Auto-complete suggestions are made as you type your search.
Once an email has been located, it can be replied to or forwarded using the app’s email client.
One aspect of reMail is its greatest asset and its greatest weakness at the same time. Because the app downloads the entire archives of an email account onto the iPhone for archiving, searches are faster than using similar tools such as Gmail’s search, especially if you don’t have a 3G connection. Searches can even be done offline, when roaming, or when on an airplane, to reference material.
But at the same time, large email archives take up storage room on an iPhone that the user may wish to devote to other things. My relatively small archive of 6800 messages took up 26.9MB. reMail says that as a rule of thumb to estimate it will use 5MB of storage for every 1000 emails, which is fairly in line with my usage.
Xobni includes advanced email search as part of a suite of features that integrates search of contacts, calendar items and tasks, and integration of social media profiles with contact listings. Could this be the future of reMail on the iPhone? I’d say that’s unlikely, given Spotlight and Apple’s history of rejecting apps that duplicate functionality it already provides.
reMail is a powerful search tool. If you need to frequently search your email archives for reference material and have the storage space to devote to it, reMail might be a time-saving tool for you. But if your archives are massive it may leave you pinched for space on your iPhone.
How often do you search your email archives? Is power search capability worth giving up iPhone storage space?