I wrote a short post about some of my impressions of the Hey email service after a few months of use. While the post was relatively well received I felt like I may have been unduly negative about Hey, and wanted to add a little more detail to perhaps balance the discussion somewhat.
One of the risks with my concerted efforts to post more, with less planning, is that I tend to start a post with a clear goal of what I’m trying to put across, which ultimately gets watered down, or plain forgotten, as I ramble on. This post, so far, is the perfect example …
Back to the point, there are a handful of features that I think Hey really get right. Despite my reservations or negativity put across in the last post I am currently using Hey, to give it more of a go, because of some very key reasons, which I’ll highlight here.
iOS 14 introduced widgets, which didn’t really blow me away when I installed the first beta at the start of the summer. Jump forward to Septembers full release, however, with third parties final and to take advantage of this new feature and is all change. The introduction of widgets have, for me, made a world of difference to the way I use Hey, and the value I get out of it. The always undeniable Matt Birchler released a fantastic video of his own use of widgets with Hey which I highly recommend you check out. You can see this below:
As you will likely know, a key feature of Hey is The Feed, a place for you to send emails you receive that you want to view at some time, but aren’t urgent. Something you can browse later, if you get around to it, but not the end of the world if you don’t. Recently after signing up to Hey, I started also signing up to a lot more newsletters. There isn’t really a direct correlation between the two, more a lucky coincidence, but either way, the Feed, and a lot of newsletters are a match made in heaven. The idea behind this section of Hey is that you check it very infrequently, which I found myself mentally rebelling against. Each time I opened the app, I’d check every tab, multiple times a day, defeating the object of the service. To combat this, I started to try and be more intentional with my usage and avoided it all together, missing mail completely. It was lose/lose. With widgets, however, I can keep an eye on my feed, with a couple of top level details, without checking into the app unnecessarily. This may sound very minor, which it is to be fair, but it removed a lot of mental overhead and allowed me to enjoy the app more, but more importantly it led me to being more intentional with jumping into the app, only doing so when I saw a subject or sender name that interested me, and at a time when I’m ready to read something.
Functionary the widgets have been a game changer for my use of the app / service and it helps they look very pretty also.
Another key difference with Hey over other email clients / services is the way you handle email in general. For Hey, the idea of Inbox zero doesn’t exist. You’re supposed to leave your email just floating through the system. This was, again, an idea that didn’t jive with me, and still doesn’t really. Something I came across to combat this idea of just leaving your inbox as an apocalyptic mess was the idea of Bundled messages. With this, you can simply grotto up all emails from the same sender, so you can easily jump in and look back through an entire history of communication. I’ve turned this on with most accounts that I like reading through and it’s certainly helped keep things cleaner if nothing else. I, personally, think this should be the default behaviour for all email in the app. It’s much tidier and smarter.
Something that ties in quite well with bundles are the customisable subject lines. For any email you receive, you can override the subject lines with your own. This applies only to your own version of the email, but it’s a great way to set your subject to something more relevant than it may be after a few emails back and forth. No more ‘Re:Re:Re:Re:’ subject lines here!
My final Hey highlight is a feature I’ve not yet actually found myself using all that much, but I like the thought that it’s there. This feature is ‘Clips’. Clips allows you to highlight a section of an email and save the highlighted text as a snippet saved elsewhere in the app.
This is handy for things like reference numbers, directions, and many other things. It’s a pretty unique feature.
Is Hey the future?
Despite the above, I’m still very much torn on Hey as a service in general. While the app is pretty nice, and the above features are impressive, the overall setup just still doesn’t stick in my mind.
I’m constantly feeling I’m missing emails, so still dig around within the sections of the app far too much. As a user you can’t access your emails in another client, so you’re pretty much at the behest of the developers of the app. Because I don’t know if I’ll be using the app long term, I’m yet to even use my Hey address to sign up for anything beyond one or two tests, so all it is is a container for my Gmail abs iCloud accounts. I’m a big fan of stock apps, and I actually like the default Mail app, especially in the iPad Pro, so I’m. It even sure I need an alternative.
My main use for the app has been the Feed, to read the various new newsletters in discovering, but I don’t think the Feed is an ideal way to consume this content. This section collapses an email, which you have to expand in order to see the full mail. Once you’ve read it, however, you can’t collapse it again to easily move onto the next email. This doesn’t sound that big of a deal, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t, but when you’re scrolling through a few emails and tapping into them to see more, you end up scrolling for what’s seems like forever to get through them. If you go to another section, and jump back in, it also doesn’t save your progress through the Feed, so you end up scrolling through it all again. The Hey team seem to be unclear of the approach here, and you end up with a bit of a mashup of a traditional inbox and a Twitter feed. You get the worst of both worlds.
While I was initially impressed with the widgets, and still am, I’m not sure if they alone will be enough to keep me in the app. As I’ve said before, however, regardless of what I end up using, I will be keeping up with Hey developments, to see if it can all be ironed out.