Why I’m Paying $99 for an Email address
The idea of paying for an email service may sound a bit odd and unnecessary. After all, many of us have been using email services for years, as a free utility than anything else. So why would anyone want to pay for something that’s already freely available? Well, if you’re someone who deals with hundred-odd things on email regularly, a better alternative would make sense to you too.
My problem with emails
Email services have come a long way from their early days at MIT. What started off as a university “Compatible Time-Sharing System” is now a vital tool for our everyday lives. Regardless of where you are in your professional or personal life, emails are a necessity to function. It isn’t hard to see why.
Even today, amidst all the Slacks, Asanas, and Zooms of the internet, email remains on top. The service has added a level of convenience that not a lot of technological innovations managed to do. But that’s not to say that emails aren’t without its issues.
One of the biggest pet peeves about emails is the amount of junk mail that comes through. I don’t mean the ones that go to the junk/spam folder. I’m talking about all the random unsolicited and promotional nonsense that hits your inbox.
The thing is, after a certain period of time you don’t really think too much about where you put your email. It could be registering for an online service or a simple “Contact Us” page on your website. Emails may be as personal to you as much as say, a phone number. But it isn’t something you would think too hard about putting it out publicly. This leads to your emails getting passed around in the digital space. Sometimes to people and places you preferred not to. Before you know it, you’re bombarded by hundreds of emails every day. Now, getting through your emails is a nightmare.
This gets further problematic when you’re trying to navigate to important conversations. At the very least a more convenient way to separate your most vital emails other than adding labels and marking as important.
What Hey has to offer
The most intriguing feature Hey has to offer is “The Screener”. This is where users can choose to accept emails from someone when they message you for the first time. If you opt-in Yes, only then will email will come through to your inbox, or as they call it, “Imbox” (Im-important). If you choose No, you won’t hear from them again. This means that you have far better control of who you want to interact with and who you’d rather not. So you don’t have to worry about all those pesky unwanted emails.
Accepted emails are then segmented into three sections. First is the Imbox, where all the default messages and emails that require your immediate attention go. Second is The Feed, for all your promotional emails, newsletters, and long reads. Hey turns this into a browsable newsfeed format. The third is the Paper Trail. This is where all your transactional emails grouped together. But in case you’re wondering, yes, labels still work.
Another useful feature is the “Reply Later” function. For instance, if you come across an important email but would rather get to it at another time, the Reply Later button sets the email aside for you. So that when you do decide to respond, you can essentially save yourself from the distractions and get to those emails in focus mode.
Hey also blocks trackers. Personally, I didn’t pay too much attention to email trackers until I started using Hey. Now I’m paranoid about all the data collection that happens from just opening emails. Mind you, even your Medium emails have trackers (SendGrid) which according to Hey, “can track if you opened the email, when you opened it (and how often), where you are located, and how you opened it (phone, computer).”
Its a user experience thing rather than any fundamental shift
To be clear, Hey hasn’t really reinvented email. What it has done is given email a total user experience overhaul. Most of the features are designed to declutter your email and offer the user a better email experience.
Some of these come in the form of small changes like how it handles push notifications. Hey has disabled notifications by default. Of course, you can enable the feature. But even better is that you can enable push notifications to select email senders. That way, you will only get notified of contacts you want to hear from instead of everyone.
Similarly, other features like the disabling links on spam emails, the ability to merge different email threads, and a dedicated attachment library add further to the experience.
It isn’t perfect though
But it isn’t perfect though. There are few things I wish Hey did on top of what it already offers. For example, one of the biggest conveniences of using something like Gmail is the OAuth sign up/sign in that’s available on many sites. Just the tap of a button is all that’s needed to sign up or sign in for a particular service. Although you could still achieve a somewhat similar experience with Hey via a password manager, it's not the same.
Hey also doesn’t have an inbuilt calendar. Currently, email services Gmail and Outlook offers a calendar within its product offerings. This is one of those things that adds to the overall convenient factor. Particularly, if you’re someone who spends a lot of time in meetings and other events.
But perhaps the biggest caveats are the absence of custom domains and business emails. The first one serves a personal preference than a functional purpose. But a company-wide implementation for Hey would definitely be a useful one. Fortunately, this is something the company stated that it's working on and we’re likely to see updates starting at the end of the year.
Is Hey for you?
At the end of the day, the question remains, is an annual $99 email service really worth it? Well, that depends. This is certainly not for everyone and that’s understandable. I spend most of my personal time online and doing freelance work. So a clutter-free email is an intriguing proposition.
I also care about privacy and security. Maybe not enough to go full-on Edward Snowden. But it's something I think about. Hey’s features ranging from enabling selective push notifications to blocking email trackers go a long way for people who gives privacy a serious consideration.
So, for someone like myself, Hey feels an apt service to subscribe to. Besides, it’s nice to have an email with 100 GB in storage instead of the standard 15GB on Gmail. More importantly, it’s nice to have a distinctive email like firstname.lastname@example.org. The best part about the short email address is that even if you stop using the service after the first year, you get to keep the domain name forever. Additionally, you can forward all emails even after canceling the service.
Pack all of this together and you have a promising service offering. But of course, this might not be your cup of tea and that’s perfectly fine. Email service providers like Google and Microsoft have been amping up more features over the years varying from simple UI changes to significant feature upgrades. Chances are, some of the popular features from Hey may even come on the likes of Gmail in the future. Emails will become a far more interesting space to talk about should that happen.
Either way, it’s still early days for Hey. After all, the service only kicked off back in June. I for one look forward to seeing through my first year of subscription and where the service is headed. Until then, fingers crossed.