Design Review: ProtonMail

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Encrypted and based in Switzerland? Sounds interesting. 

On their homepage you'll find a bunch of cool features. At least cool to me. Swiss privacy. End-to-end encryption. Anonymous email. Open source. This is all good but ehhh. Intriguing for a nerd but the market doesn't really care. 

Wait a minute...then they list easy to use and modern inbox design. Ok now we are talking. "Security without the hassle" and "Security with productivity" is catchy. This the market does care about. 

Secure email will never get mass adoption without a great user experience. In the past, not many companies were able to solve this problem. When you think of security and encryption, I immediately think complicated. 

Protonmail makes it very simple. Just as simple as creating a Gmail account. This is really the most important factor. The underlying technology is an after thought when you just want to check email. 

The purpose of Protonmail and similar services is to keep your communications secure. Away from prying eyes. Corporate and government eyes. Even from hackers. You may think you have nothing to hide. That is true for most of us. I am mainly interested in security from hackers and general privacy when it comes to email. 

This led me to Protonmail. Check out this video for more into. You got privacy?

Sending an email message is like sending a postcard, says scientist Andy Yen in this thought-provoking talk: Anyone can read it. Yet encryption, the technology that protects the privacy of email communication, does exist. It's just that until now it has been difficult to install and a hassle to use.

 I signed up for the free account to get 5MB to check out the service. I almost immediately signed up for the paid account. The setup was extremely easy and the user experience is great also. 

For example, out of the box swipe right is archive an email and swipe left is trash. Simple. Touch ID setup was easy. Everything you would expect was simple. 

They really thought about the user experience. Even using the ProtonBridge to setup encrypted email on your desktop was easy. The bridge also can setup your Apple mail for you. Brilliant. 

The web portal is very good. They even show you how to secure your domain. This may be for a more advanced user but wasn't too bad for me. 

Not perfect

There are some drawbacks. It can be confusing to understand which plan to buy. Some plans give you 20G of total space. Then some give you a different space per user. Then another one included VPN. 

Setting up different email addresses seems quirky also. 

The major drawback is contacts isn't integrated with iOS. Meaning I can't save Proton contacts on my iPhone to a iPhone contact directory. I understand they want to keep it secure. Problem is if someone emails me and I save their email into a contact, I won't be able to text them from iPhone. It doesn't transfer over. 

Another big big drawback is no calendar support. This is a big problem for me. They say its on the roadmap. Even if it does come out I don't we will get iOS support. 

This leaves me with still having to use Gmail. I'll live with it for now. At least I got one secure email account. Nice work Protonmail. 

Cheers,

Fahad