Gmail vs. Apple Mail: Email Design and Development – Email On Acid

Take a look at a breakdown of the email clients subscribers open your campaigns in and you’ll notice two familiar names at the top of the list: Apple Mail and Gmail. however, while these are two of the most popular email clients, they do have some distinct differences.

some of the biggest differences between gmail and apple mail relate to the way they render html email layouts.

In this article, we’ll talk about how Apple’s Mail app works and how it compares to the Gmail app. We’ll also discuss the differences between the two email applications to help you make informed decisions about email design and development.

similarities of gmail and apple mail

gmail and apple mail are email applications available in web and mobile versions. You can access it on iPhones, iPads, Macs and any device that operates in the iOS, iPad or Mac ecosystem. apple mail is only available for apple devices but gmail is available on ios and android devices.

While there is a desktop app for apple mail, google doesn’t offer that option with gmail. Apple Mail’s UI looks a lot like Gmail’s, and both have apps you can install on iOS devices.

Behind the curtain, both the Gmail app and Apple’s Mail app rely on simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) servers to send messages. Both use Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) to retrieve messages. In addition, there is the possibility of configuring Microsoft Exchange in both Apple Mail and Gmail to retrieve messages.

Despite these technical similarities, the html email layout can still appear in a gmail user’s inbox looking and looking completely different to an apple mail user.

here’s another confusing fact…

apple mail also allows gmail users to get new messages from their email accounts and add them in the apple mail app. so even if someone has an address from gmail, you may very well be viewing it in the mail app with a mac or ios device.

The reasons for the inconsistent display all point to how these two clients process emails, which I’ll explain more about in a moment.

what are the main differences between gmail and apple mail?

Despite their similarities, there are some key differences between the gmail and apple mail applications that can confuse email designers and their customers alike. below, we’ll look at five main differences between the two.

1. rendering engines

apple mail and gmail use different rendering engines, and that is the main reason why emails can appear differently in these applications.

A rendering engine is software that takes html and css code and “draws” text and images on the screen. while gmail uses a proprietary rendering engine, apple mail uses webkit, which it also uses in the safari browser. some versions of outlook also use webkit.

You may be familiar with the way certain web browsers display web pages differently than others. this is basically the same concept. For example, you may want to use a specific web font in your emails, but while it displays fine in Apple Mail, Gmail falls back to a default font. while animated pngs will work in apple mail, they will only work in gmail for ios. gmail and apple mail also handle dark mode emails differently.

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when someone uses the mail app to get messages from gmail, it will be processed with webkit. that’s why you may not be able to trust what you see if you just send a manual test to gmail. it is very likely that some of your subscribers with gmail addresses are seeing campaigns in the mail app.

2. email client versus email service

That brings up another key difference between gmail and apple mail. while gmail is both an email client and an email service, apple mail is just an email client.

an email client is an application, such as apple mail or android mail, that you use to access your emails. An email client may have specific rules or behaviors regarding the deletion, archiving, or threading of your emails.

An email service, such as Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, or Yahoo Mail, provides the technical backbone for sending and receiving email. apple mail gives you a way to check your emails from a variety of clients in one place. Simply put, you can’t get an email address, but recipients can use apple mail to view emails from multiple mailboxes.

Email services also often have specific rules or behaviors regarding the deletion, archiving, or threading of emails. if so, they usually take precedence over any other rules your email client might have. however, it is important to note that your campaigns will be processed in the client in which the email is opened.

3. css styling and responsive design

Some of the most frustrating differences between Apple Mail and Gmail involve the use of CSS to style an HTML email. for example, if there is an error in the <style> block, the gmail app will remove the style block from emails.

The style block is an html element that defines the css styles for a document. while gmail has some support for media queries and the <style> item, I can send an email indicates that it is only partially supported. using the <style> the tag in the body of an html email will not work. gmail only supports it in the <header>.

many email developers use media queries to encode responsive emails. these queries automatically adjust the width, height, orientation, and resolution of the email to the subscriber’s device.

As far as I can send an email, apple mail fully supports media queries. gmail, however, supports media queries to encode responsive campaigns as long as they are included in a <style> block in the <head> of the email section. the only exception is height-based media queries, which gmail doesn’t support.

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However, media queries are not supported at all on bargain accounts (gmail app for non-google accounts). and as you will see below, there is another type of media query that will not work in gmail.

4. emails in dark mode

viewing emails in dark mode has become popular and that has created some challenges for email developers. a common way to optimize emails for dark mode is to use the media query (prefer-color-scheme).

This query allows you to develop dark mode and light mode versions of a campaign and the client will display the version that matches the mode the subscriber prefers. Unfortunately this only works with email clients that use webkit as the rendering engine, which as you know includes apple mail and excludes gmail.

Get some tips on how to improve the dark mode email experience in gmail from rémi parmentier of see the guide on how to fix dark mode in gmail with css blended modes.

5. email booster

In addition to dark mode, interactivity is another trend in email marketing. amp for email is based on the open source amp framework. allows developers to add interactive elements to email campaigns, such as carousels, surveys, forms, and more, all without leaving the inbox.

many developers who have used amp for email love it. others have been hesitant to try it for good reason… gmail is the only major email client with ongoing support for amp for email. that’s because google is directly involved in the development of amp.

It’s no secret that Apple and Google are big competitors. So if you’re expecting amp support in Apple’s mail anytime soon, don’t hold your breath. if you’re going to leverage amp for email, make sure you have interactive email fallbacks.

right now, the two tech giants are fighting over the adoption of android’s rcs (rich communication services) messages. get more info from macrumors or android police, depending on which side you fall on.

6. security and privacy

both gmail and apple mail applications use encryption. however, while all apple mail is encrypted with s/mime, only paid google workspace accounts use s/mime encryption. all other gmail accounts use tls encryption. while s/mime is more secure, tls is more compatible with email systems and therefore works better for the average user than s/mime.

In addition, Apple launched its Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) feature in 2021. MPP allows Apple Mail users to specify whether or not they want to share information about when, where, and how they open emails. this will affect how you measure email engagement metrics, especially open rates. Learn more about what ampp means to email marketers.

what are some key features of the gmail app?

Now that we’ve explored some of the basic features of both email apps, their similarities, and their differences, let’s go over some features specific to Gmail. Below, we’ve included a list of key Gmail features to consider when designing emails:

  • gmail cuts messages larger than 102 kb. if you exceed this size, gmail will display the first 102kb of your message followed by the text [trimmed message] view full message. learn how to avoid gmail clipping.
  • gmail’s attachment interface is more intuitive. Although both the Gmail and Apple Mail apps support attachments, Gmail’s large attachment button is more intuitive than Apple Mail’s attachment solution. in apple mail, you need to long press the message area of ​​an open email to upload a file.
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If you’re designing emails for the gmail app, be sure to check out our tips for developing emails for the gmail and google apps.

what are some key features of the apple mail app?

interested in designing emails for apple mail? In this section, we’ll go over some Apple Mail-specific features to keep in mind as you work:

  • apple mail works with many email services. apple mail is compatible with other email services, including gmail, microsoft outlook, aol mail, yahoo mail, and icloud. You can configure your apple mail to import and add emails from other providers. For example, let’s say you receive an email through gmail. this message may look different depending on whether you open it in the gmail or apple mail app.
  • apple mail supports responsive layouts. you can use the style tag to include your css styles for responsive email layouts.
  • apple mail can resize your email based on the largest element. use the style tag to create responsive layouts. otherwise, apple mail might resize your email layout based on the largest element, such as a large image, to “fit”. as a result, the application may incorrectly shrink the text to a smaller font.

Do you like these tips? they are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our tips for designing for iOS devices.


and that’s it! We have analyzed the main similarities and differences between the gmail and apple mail applications. If you’re new to email development, realizing that these clients don’t display campaigns identically can be a bit of a shock.

that’s why there’s an email about acid by sinch. we built our email testing platform to help with challenges like this. use our email previews to see your campaigns across dozens of clients and devices. see how the email is processed and fix any problems before you hit send.

In addition, email on acid provides many other useful features to ensure quality. including email accessibility, deliverability, spell checking, and inbox display optimization. Take us for a spin with a free trial!

This article was updated on May 24, 2022. It was first published in September 2013.

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