HEY.com is a new email service from the founders of Basecamp and I have had the opportunity to spend some time with Hey.com as my email provider.

HEY has been built with the ethos of Basecamp and as such has a splash of character, a pinch of innovation and a dash of practical beauty.

HEY is not only an email service, it is a wall garden for your email life. There are lots of articles on how good HEY is and I will not recap the positives here. For your reference:

I take the perspective of a consumer and to consider whether HEY is a good fit for me. Before you read any further, it is important to note that I do not have an email problem. I do not believe email for me requires any fixing. If you have an email problem, than the issue is with how you treat and manage email and the expectation you create on the importance of email. HEY is trying to assist you by implementing a workflow to manage email. Whether you prefer this workflow over what you have is something you have to decide.

In saying that, if you do not have a system to manage your email or your current system isn’t effective, HEY is presenting to you with a dam good one.

The following are the reasons why HEY is not for me (in no particular order):

No ARCHIVE and SENT folder SOLVED:

It doesn’t suit my workflow if I cannot go to a folder and see what emails I have sent. There are good reasons to have a Sent Folder. I am a human, sometimes I forget whom I emailed 😥 . Or sometimes, the only way I know if the email is sent is if it’s in the sent folder - old school I know.

The lack of a ARCHIVE folder means there is no repository of all incoming emails after they are dealt with. The alternative provided is the "Everything" view. This as the word means has all your emails including the emails that have been sent. Some may prefer the "Everything" view and to be honest, It makes sense to me. However, If I just want see all my emails that I had received, I do not have a ARCHIVE folder. My brain knows that after I have dealt with an email, it should be archived. With HEY, that particular email will remain in "Imbox" even after I have dealt with it.

The issue here is the lack of flexibility. If I want an everything folder (or any other kind of specific folder) with my current email provider, it's easy enough to create a smart folder. HEY is set in its ways and in some ways, so am I.

16 July 2020 Update: Sent view has been added to show sent emails and also files that were recently sent. Everything view has also been added which is almost good as arhive.

No way to bring emails from your previous email provider

HEY allows you to setup forwarding so new emails to your old address are automatically forwarded to HEY. This is great and not unique to HEY. What is unique to Hey is that you cannot bring all those old but important emails that you may have with your old provider into HEY. The only way I have found is to email them manually. I do not have the time nor the desire to this. This means, for reference material, you will always be going back to your old provider because thats where most of your emails are.

The other point is that, it is not always easy to tell everyone what your new email address is so when someone sends you an email to your old address, they may not treat a reply to their email from your HEY.com email address as legit. For example, a client emailed me and that email was forwarded to Hey.com. I replied using my Hey.com email address and didn’t hear back from the client. Instead the client called me and said what is Hey and is this legit. You may have moved on but that doesn’t mean the world moves on with you. Your old email address has built credibility with people over the years which Hey.com just cannot match. Consider the relationships built around your Outlook or Gmail email address since its creation, for some it’s more than 15 years. For some people, the only point of contact with you is your email address.

Imbox:

The concept of “Imbox” does not work with my brain. I just cannot get pass the fact that it should have been Inbox and is spelt incorrectly. This is intentional from Hey and is not a typo - http://itsnotatypo.com (super cool domain).

Over time, this IMBOX builds up with emails that you have seen but cannot place in the “Feed’, “Paper Trail” etc. Because there is no archive option, emails that you have seen/read will stay here until you delete it. Now, an email from someone may not be important today but 2 years later, it may be. This is why an ARCHIVE folder is so good. It’s out of the way when you do not need it and it’s there for you when you do. Unlike Hey where the email is always in IMBOX.

By the way, I would be interested to know what should I do with emails that is not something I should put in “The Feed” or “Paper Trail” or Imbox. Where should I put those emails? This is something I cannot figure out in HEY. The only option I see is either leave it in IMBOX or delete it. Perhaps archiving it would be appropriate….🤔

THE FEED

The concept of a place where I can keep all my newsletters or read it later items is great. What is not great is that this place also builds up over time. There is no way to distinguish between unread newsletters and the newsletters I have already read. Deleting email in The Feed is a three step process as oppose to swipe to delete in most email clients.

The idea is great though and as such I have setup a folder called “The Feed” in my email service and created a rule to move relevant emails there. Thankfully, I only get 2 newsletters a month. The reason why I only get two newsletters is because I use Feedbin to manage my newsletters. Its an excellent service which is focused on making reading on the internet peaceful and private . Some of my favorite newsletters that end up in my Feedbin are DenseDiscovery and Planet Money. My workflow for managing email is fundamentally ensuring only a limited amount of things come through. My inbox is not for newsletters. I have Feedbin for that.

The Problem with Auto-filing emails

HEY auto filing emails into “The Feed” and “Paper Trail” is great and also not unique to HEY. Both Gmails and Outlook allow for auto-filling of emails to a specific folder and/or label.

Let me explain the problem here with an example:

Paypal uses [email protected] email address to notify you:
- when you receive money from someone
- when you send payment to someone or pay for something with PayPal
- when you are transferring money into your account from PayPal
- when you close your PayPal account
- when you add a new email address
- outcome of your Paypal dispute
- Reminder that your credit card is expiring
- security updates.

Now if you auto-file emails from [email protected] to “Paper Trail” than you will not see the important emails about your credit card expiring, paypal dispute or if someone has sent you money or any security updates. You will have to check the Paper Trail section of the app which I will forget to do so.

I still use auto-filing. I currently have any emails from [email protected] be labeled as @paypal and @receipt. Now they still stay in my Inbox so I can deal with them and archive accordingly. Furthermore, searching label @receipt shows me all my receipts.

Be rest assured, Paypal is not the only one that does this (lookup: [email protected], [email protected], etc). And more importantly, how will you know if any company you deal with is using the same email address to notify you of other things that you would not otherwise put in “Paper Trail”.

Always and only use HEY Apps?

The apps are beautiful (dark mode 🥰) and work really well on Android and iOS. As much as I enjoy them, they do not feel native to either platform. They feel like web apps and I suppose that is what they are. HEY is a web first service. However, make no mistake, it’s well crafted and is light and fast on all platforms.

Being iOS first, I prefer a native solution. Simple things like dragging items from HEY to another app is not possible. For example, I use Things 3 as my task manager and one of my workflows is to drag emails from mail.app into Things 3. No way to drag emails out of HEY. Generally speaking, HEY does not play nice with other apps. HEY wants me to do everything in email. I just do not work that way. My tasks and my notes do not belong with my emails.

August Update: Allows to share a link to the specific email which I can add to Things from the iOS share sheet. This update brough iPad keyboard shortcuts.

I find the HEY apps cool now but there is every reason to expect future me to find these apps dull and I will be searching for something else. Well guess what, HEY apps are the only way you access your emails. There is no other alternative. I do not feel great using a service that is exclusive to itself in a such a manner. The reason emails are still so popular is because of open standards which HEY does not support. Consider this, HEY founders have indicated that they believe that majority of their customers will be on iOS and as such they may focus more on iOS and therefore Android development may suffer. Well if you are an android user of HEY, your options are limited to you moving to iOS or continuing to live with the android HEY app. This is not out of the norm as HEY is built by a small company and with limited resources. The chance of this happening is low considering HEY is built web first so it is easier to distribute on various platforms.

Nevertheless, lack of IMAP and SMTP means that HEY holds you hostage to send and receive emails. Furthermore, I cannot move my hey.com email address to another provider. However, my email address [email protected] can easily be moved to my provider of choice. HEY has announced that they will be supporting custom domains for business plans. I am not a business but I have a custom domain because I enjoy the portability which is something HEY cannot offer YET.

HEY requires me to subscribe to their email philosophy

Assuming today, Im glad to subscribe to their email philosophy (which I am not), that doesn’t mean that I would always want to manage my emails the way HEY wants me to manage it. For example, I actually like some of the ways HEY manages emails and I can replicate The Feed and Paper Trail within my current system. However, If I find another way of managing emails, I cannot change how HEY works. I always have to manage emails based on HEY’s email philosophy.

Lack of Rules

HEY has support for rules in the form of auto filing into “The Feed” etc. However, the rule system is not comprehensive as the set of tools you get from Gmail or Outlook.com. Now your email system may be simple or straight forward where you do not require such rules. My system isn’t complicated either. I regularly receive my travel and accomodation details (not at the moment due to COVID19) via emails. I have rules setup to automatically forward those emails to Tripit. Another example: Amazon sends me emails with delivery tracking information. I have rules setup that forward these emails to my delivery tracking app of choice. These are some of the very basic examples. You may have other workflows that save you time which HEY cannot replicate.

Lack of Alias

This one may not be important to you but it is to me. I prefer not to giver everyone my Hey.come email address and then screen everything. More importantly, I have alias created for certain places where I do not want to share my real name and with HEY, there is no choice. Yes, I can just create another email address but then I would need to go to that email address provider to reply to any incoming emails. Unfortunately for me, my life isn't as simple or as straight forward where one email address is sufficient.  

How good is HEY’s Spam filter

Well, at this stage, most of my emails are just emails that are forwarded from Gmail and Outlook and as such, SPAM emails are not forwarded. For this reason, I do not know how good is Hey’s Spam filtering. Furthermore, if HEY does pickup emails as SPAM, its your job to go check as there is no way of you knowing if Hey has classified your emails as spam. Another place to remember to check. My IMAP service just shows me how many emails are there in my SPAM folder so I know whether I should bother checking.

Other issues:

  • No print or save to PDF option to emails
  • lack of multi-select in The Screener

USD99 a year

I am an individual, a mere civilian. Therefore, where I spend my money and how much I spend depends on whether I feel it is worth me spending that kind of money compared to what I am receiving. This varies greatly between individuals.

Regardless of what HEY will have you believe, at the end of the day, it is still an email service and its only fair to compare HEY pricing with other similar services. I accept HEY has some unique features and workflow but for me, it is not worth USD99 a year nor can I commit to HEY’s email philosophy.

In my view, FASTMAIL offers far more in terms of reliability, speed, feature set and openness for half the price with custom domain support. Hell, I could argue there are features (some outlined above) that Gmail and Outlook offer for free that HEY does not offer.

One of those features is portability - you cannot take your Hey.com email address to any other provider or any other app. If you want to send emails from your Hey.com address, you have to pay USD99 a year and use their HEY apps. On the other hand, if you moved from Gmail to Outlook, you can still use your Gmail address and reply with your Gmail account through any service including Outlook.com. This is because GMAIL (like everyone else) uses SMTP server to send emails. HEY does not.

A HUGE POSITIVE

Credit where credit is due, HEY has done a terrific job in protecting our privacy.

I request all email providers to copy the NO PIXEL TRACKING feature that HEY has mastered so perfectly.

This is pure genius on their part and I truly appreciate this feature.

HEY protects your privacy by preventing senders from tracking what you do with their email. Shields up, we got your back.

This feature alone maybe enough for some privacy focused people to switch to HEY. Depending on your use case or your privacy stand, USD99 is a small price to pay to enhance your email privacy.

I urge all email providers to implement this feature. Fastmail already provided proxy pixel tracking.

Im very happy to see HEY trying to do something new with email and that is truly refreshing. It may not be the service for me. However, I am hopeful and confident that for those that work the way HEY works, it is truly mind blowing. I envy those people. For me, I am stuck in my ways and I’m hesitate to change because my current system has been perfected over years and it works 😊.

I note that this is version 1 of HEY (and its a dam good one) so there is a lot of room for improvement and in time, perhaps in the future... HEY and I have a future together 💚

I will be updating this post as I learn more - Last updated 11 August 2020

P.S Clever use of the hey 👋 emoji as their App Icon and the domain name is awesome hey.com. I would love to have [email protected] but at USD999 a year, some desires are best left unfulfilled 😞