How I'm Using Hey Email, Almost One Year Later

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read

At first I was a skeptic about Hey. Why would I want to toss aside all other email apps? Why would I want to pay for email when Gmail is free?

Then I started using it and I was impressed, but still skeptical. It was good, but $99/year good?

Then I signed up for a year of service and I’ve been happy with my decision every day. Let me explain why I think Hey works for me, and why I’m happy to be using an email service that doesn’t work with third party email apps.

No Third Party Apps, are You Mad?

Maybe, but in this case I think it’s a matter of limitation being a form of freedom. When I was using Gmail and Outlook as the back end for all of my email, I had my pick of the litter when it came to email apps. Apple Mail, Spark, Outlook, Gmail, Airmail, Edison, Blue, Newton, Spike, Polymail…the world was my oyster, and I took part in that game of switching email apps every few months. Spark would release an update and I’d go to it. Then Outlook would do something new and I’d be back there. Then Outlook would have a bug and I’d run to Apple Mail, which would inevitably grow bland and then I’d move back to Spark and the whole cycle would start again.

Was that choice? Absolutely, but was it good for my email? No way.

As a Hey user, I don’t have the ability to use anything besides Hey’s own app to access my email. at first glance, this seems way too restrictive, who would ever want to give up the ability to…switch email apps every few months (or weeks!), never being fully happy with anything because nothing is good enough or settles in long enough to have me latch onto it? Maybe it’s just my personality type, but for me the unlimited freedom meant I was checking for updates on all these apps, reading every excited blog post about new features coming to email apps, and watching all the “top 10 email apps of 20XX” I could find on YouTube.

Now I just ignore those stories because well, what’s the point?

If Hey’s app was terrible, then this would be a serious problem, but not only is their app competent, it’s the most reliable email app I’ve ever used and they have been keeping up with updates and enhancements for new iOS features faster than most other email apps out there.

I’ll put it this way: if I decided to leave Hey’s email service tomorrow, I’d want to use it with Gmail/Outlook/whatever.

I do understand that this is a tenuous thing, and the app could get slower and slower updates, and there could be more and more bugs that build up. If that happens, then the math will change. But hey, I was changing email apps 4-5 times per year before this, so if in 3 years the app starts to fall apart and I have to change, then I’m still way better off than I was before.

How I’m Using Hey

I don’t want to go into the whole system Hey suggests. That’s been covered at length many times, so I’ll suggest going elsewhere to see that. Instead, I want to talk about how I’m using Hey not exactly how the creators intended.

In short, I have all my emails going to the imbox (inbox) and the feed. Nothing goes to the paper trail.

Using this breakdown, I basically have the emails I’m happy to get and want to read every time they come in go to the inbox, and everything else gets into the feed. Hey pitches the feed as a good place for things like newsletters, but I actually find it to be a terrible place for them, unless you subscribe to way more than you actually read. I only subscribe to a few, and it’s a treat when they hit my inbox, so I want to see them front and center. Most of my communication happens via other messaging apps, not email, so newsletters are the most important emails I typically get. Therefore, they get the inbox treatment, and I have happy to see them there.

In contrast, the feed is for everything else that I do want to receive, but really isn’t important to me. This ends up being a lot of email, and I basically never go to that page in the app. Why not? Well, Hey added this amazing widget when iOS 14 launched:

I have this widget on my second home screen, and I just glance at it as I’m scrolling past that page throughout the day. if something interesting appears there, then I tap on it and get taken straight to it in the app. More often than not though, there’s nothing of note. In fact, many times I find the fact that I got an email at all from somewhere with a specific subject line is all the information I need.

I achieve “inbox zero” every day because of this, and for those few things I need to set aside of reply to later, Hey conveniently has little queues I can drop those in as well. They’re still on screen in the inbox view, but they’re just off to the side enough I can ignore them if I need to, but eventually need to deal with them. I know other people deal with this by snoozing emails or just leaving in them in their inbox for later, but I have never liked either of those, and this just works better for me.


I like Hey a lot, and I know a lot of other people do to. I also know that a good number of people didn’t have it click for them. I’m not writing this to explain why I’m right and anyone else is wrong, I just wanted to share my thoughts on one of my favorite recurring subscription payments I make for any software in my life right now.

I also wanted to share how I’m using the app a little differently than the prescribed method (newsletters in the inbox, nothing in the paper trail) and that’s helped it work better for me.

It looks like I’m a few months away from my subscription re-upping for another year, and I am not going to step in to stop that from happening. In fact, I almost want to pay up ahead of time to make sure I’m locked in for another year.