Big Mail Could Be an Alternative To Big Brother Email

Key Takeaways

  • Most email services access your private data in some way.
  • Big Mail runs on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad, and shares nothing.
  • Email apps are getting more and more inventive.

Big Mail

Big Mail is an upcoming email app that wants to be more than other competing email apps that just fetch and file your email. It wants to provide privacy and smart features.

Big Mail has all the smart processing of a cloud service, and all the privacy of a local app that does everything on your phone, iPad, or computer. And it’s built by a single developer, which makes you wonder why big companies can’t manage the same. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to?

“I think people are starting to realize email services haven’t kept up with how people are actually using email.”

“[S]ome of these apps have business models that won’t allow it.” Big Mail developer Phillip Caudell told Lifewire via email. “They need access to your emails, so they can see what you’re buying, where you’re traveling to, what you’re interested in, and so on—all so they can sell that data to third parties. They’re giving the app away for free because they’re selling your data.”

Big Deal

When Big Mail launches in early 2021, it will run on the Mac, the iPhone, and the iPad. The app is based on something called Scenes, in which the app configures its layout depending on the type of mail you’re reading. Newsletters get a clean, fill-screen look, without pointless reply buttons, for example, and in the Purchases scene, receipts are separated out, and their totals are added together to make a quick budget. 

Big Mail also introduces Collections, which collect emails together into workspaces. You can see conversations, attached files, recent messages, and the people in the collection.

Big Mail

“I think people are starting to realize email services haven’t kept up with how people are actually using email,” said Caudell. “Our inboxes are full of so many different things: newsletters, conversations, receipts, etc., but these apps treat them all the same. Do you really want [to read] your newsletters next to your energy bills?”

In short, it’s like having several different apps that you use, depending on the kind of email you’re viewing. 


Big Mail’s approach to privacy is made clear, right there on the main product page: “Unlike other mail apps that route all your sensitive emails through their servers, all of the features in Big Mail work by doing processing locally on your device: we never see any of your messages.”

Caudell doesn’t name any of those “other mail apps,” but it’s easy to find them, because pretty much all mail apps process your mail to some extent. Gmail is the biggest example. Another great email app, Spark from Readdle, stores your login details so it can send you push notifications. Spike has a strict privacy policy that says it doesn’t sell your data, but it also stores your login info to access your email and process it. That’s not necessarily bad, because it’s required to provide the service, but it’s not exactly private or secure.

Does Private Email Exist?

If you’re an iPad, iPhone, or Mac user, you can just use the built-in Mail app–it doesn’t appear to do anything weird with your data. If you’re a Gmail user, then go with the official Gmail app, because why not? Google has all your email and knows everything about you anyway. 

“They need access to your emails, so they can see what you’re buying, where you’re traveling to, what you’re interested in, and so on…”

Other than that, you’re going to have to research the apps yourself, take a good look at their privacy policies, then decide if you’re happy with them. Good luck, though–not only is selling private data lucrative, it’s also easier to not build a nice, private app that runs autonomously on your devices. 

“[I]t’s usually cheaper and quicker to develop on the server as you don’t need to write the core of your app for each different platform,” says Caudell. “But while it’s easier for the developer, it comes at the expense of privacy and security of the user.”

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