FairEmail is an email app for truly privacy-conscious Android users
There is certainly no shortage of email apps in the Google Play Store. If you’ve used an Android phone for any length of time, you’ve probably tried out several different apps. While there may be many to choose from, the vast majority of these apps are closed source and they don’t necessarily put your privacy as a top priority. FairEmail is an open-source email app that aims to be the answer for privacy-conscious users. We’ve covered it in the past, but it has grown a lot since then.
FairEmail is described by the developer as a “fully-featured, open-source, privacy-oriented email app for Android.” It works with practically any email provider, including popular choices such as Gmail, Outloook, and Yahoo. You can use unlimited accounts and email addresses in a unified inbox. It has conversation threading, 2-way synchronization, offline storage, and much more. There are way more features than I can possibly hope to touch on here. The developer is not lying when they say it’s a fully-featured email app.
Let’s start by looking at the app on the surface level. The developer calls the design “simple,” but I would call it “functional.” The FairEmail interface doesn’t offer a lot in terms of “eye candy.” You’re looking at a very bare-bones approach to email. Depending on who you are, that may be a good thing or a bad thing. The good news is there some design options you can tweak. The app includes dark and light themes, including the option to follow Android’s system setting.
Personally, I like simple design, but FairEmail is a little too pragmatic for me. I like a little polish here and there. That being said, I think the developer did the right thing by going with a very simple design. The few design options are enough to customize it to my liking. The feature set is what’s important here and FairEmail looks nice enough for anyone to use.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, privacy is a big focus of FairEmail, so let’s talk about that. Here’s the list of privacy features the developer mentions:
- Encryption/decryption supported (OpenPGP and S/MIME)
- Reformat messages to prevent phishing
- Confirm showing images to prevent tracking
- Confirm opening links to prevent tracking and phishing
- Automatically recognize and disable tracking images
- Warning if messages could not be authenticated
The beauty of a lot of these features is they just work. You don’t really notice most of this happening and it doesn’t interfere with your emails. There are a few things you will notice immediately when using FairEmail, and you may find it annoying at first, but I consider both to be good things.
Images are not shown in emails by default as they can be one of the biggest privacy risks. There is a button to press if you’d like to show images and it explains how images can leak sensitive information. FairEmail also blocks and marks tracking images with a red icon, which companies use to see if you’ve opened an email. You can choose to disable the warning for emails from specific addresses.
Tapping a link in an email will also bring up a window with information. Links are automatically encrypted in FairEmail’s browser, but you can also choose to use your default app. The added layer of security when tapping links helps prevent tracking and phishing. Emails are reformatted to prevent phishing as well.
I will admit I’m not someone who is constantly worried about my personal information being on the internet. It’s something I should care more about and using an app like FairEmail makes me feel better. All of the privacy features can feel a little jarring at first if you’re coming from an app like Gmail. There are more buttons and prompts in the way of showing your email, but all of those things are there for good reason.
Privacy and security usually go hand in hand and FairEmail is strong in that department as well:
- No data storage on third-party servers
- Using open standards (IMAP, SMTP, OpenPGP, S/MIME, etc)
- Safe message view (styling, scripting and unsafe HTML removed)
- No special permissions required
- No advertisements
- No analytics and no tracking (error reporting is opt-in)
- No Google backup
One of my personal favorite features of FairEmail is the unsubscribe button that appears on some emails. It finds the unsubscribe link in the email and gives you a quick and easy way to visit the link and unsubscribe. Companies are known for hiding these “unsubscribe” options in emails, so it’s great to have an easy way to find them. Oh, and this is a big one for Gmail users, notifications have a “Read” button. I love that.
FairEmail offers a ton of features for free, but there is also a Pro version available for $5.99. The Pro version adds a bevy of additional features, such as configurable notification actions, snooze messages, reply templates, biometric authentication, unified inbox widget, and more. You can read more about FairEmail on the GitHub page, where there are over 8,000 commits. If you care about privacy, you owe it to yourself to give this app a try.
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