It's too soon to say that one is hands-down better than the other: Apple is constrained by a need to meet the top needs of 100+ million iOS users, whereas Sparrow has the counter-intuitive advantage of a very small install base made up primarily of nerds. Apple needs to constantly choose what (if anything) to add to their elegantly simple mail program so that everyone from Tech Writers to Grandfathers can use it easily. Sparrow is trying to fill a small but growing niche, and really only needs to make themselves (and a million or so people like them, eventually) happy with the product.
Things I love about Sparrow:
- Different signature for each account(!!!). Why has Apple not gotten to this yet?
- Reply to a message, then - without leaving the reply panel - decide to Reply All with one tap. If you're really indecisive, you can easily toggle back to Reply
- Easy (i.e. 1 tap vs. 2…first world problems) to mark a message Unread
- Really easy navigation to system folders (Sent Mail, All Mail, Spam, etc.) vs. Apple's Mail
Things I'd love to see in future releases:
- Push, of course. This ball is in Apple's court, not Sparrow's, and hopefully Apple will make a way to grant approval soon.
- TextExpander integration. With this, I would probably ditch the built-in Mail app for good.
- Ability to "de-thread" messages so that they fill the Inbox chronologically, not grouped by conversation
- Corollary to above: ability to flip from one message to next without navigating back to the inbox. (Or am I missing this in the current version?) Reeder has spoiled me on this, and again - I don't know why Apple hasn't done it yet. I can't tell you how often I've come into Mail after 10-15 minutes in Reeder, and found myself trying to flip from the end of one message to the beginning of the next. I typically try two or three times before I remember that it's not possible. (See: Insanity, Einstein's definition of.)
I may update this post as I think of other items for the above categories, so stay tuned!