Email services are required for individual use, business use, creating calendar appointments, setting reminders, and lots more. While instant messaging systems like Slack have grown in popularity, email is still very much relied upon.
Finding the best free email service can be a challenge. There are plenty to choose from, all offering different pros and cons. We’ve signed up to the best free email services in 2021 and tested each of them to help you decide which one is right for you.
Table of Contents
Types of Email Accounts
If you thought an email service was just an email service, I’m afraid you would be wrong. There are actually two main types of email accounts you can choose from; an email client like Outlook, or webmail like Gmail.
Before finding out which free email service is the best for 2021, let’s explore the different types of email accounts you can choose from, as well as the main email protocols (POP3, IMAP, and Exchange).
You can think of an email client like a software application. You’ll need to physically install an email client onto your computer in order to send, receive, and manage your emails. Email clients interact with a remote email server so that you can access your emails. Familiar email clients include:
- Microsoft Outlook
- Mozilla Thunderbird
- Apple Mail
Webmail can be accessed from the internet and exists on the cloud rather than your computer or laptop. Unlike an email client which needs to be downloaded on your computer, you can send and receive your emails from your internet browser. Familiar webmail providers include:
- Yahoo! Mail
Email protocols are a standard method used at each end of a communication channel like email. They are used to retrieve email client accounts from the internet and access webmail accounts on mobile. There are three main types of email protocols; POP3, IMAP, and Exchange.
Post Office Protocol (POP) is suitable for individuals who have one email account and email client. POP3 is the most recent version of POP, allowing you to access your emails even when offline. POP3 requires less internet bandwidth and is a client/server protocol where emails received are held by your internet server so you can retrieve them.
Internet Mail Access Protocol (IMAP) allows you to access, retrieve, and manage your emails while online. Unlike POP, you don’t download your emails to an offline email client. IMAP is often used by those who have more than one email account and want to access them from more than one device or location.
Exchange is Microsoft’s email protocol. You can access your email from the internet from multiple devices, as well as manage tasks, calendars, and contact information related to your email address. Exchange is often used by businesses who need to share information, create meetings, and so on.
Best Free Email Services
Whether you’re an individual or a business, free email services allow you to access, send, and receive your emails without paying a dime. Let’s take a look at the best free email services in 2021, including their pros and cons.
You can use your Gmail account to login to YouTube and access shared documents from Google Drive, allowing you to collaborate with other people. Gmail is suitable for individuals who want to access personal emails, and small businesses.
If you already have a custom email domain like firstname.lastname@example.org, you can attach your custom domain to your Gmail account for free.
When you sign up to Gmail you get 15GB storage for free, allowing you to store thousands of emails and other documents. Gmail is incredibly easy to use and very versatile, with features like advanced filters, labels, spam filters, and more.
Suitable for: People who love Google products and want an easy-to-use free email service
Outlook is a free email service that offers 15GB free storage for each user. Since its beginnings, Outlook has come a long way, offering one of the cleanest email interfaces around.
You can easily create message filters and rules for your Outlook emails, as well as integration with Outlook’s calendar to set reminders and create meetings with other individuals or business users.
Outlook can be accessed via the internet as well as downloaded as a desktop and mobile app. You can use Outlook to access your Outlook email account, but also other email accounts with custom domains, allowing you to manage multiple email accounts in one place.
Type: Email client
Suitable for: People who use multiple platforms to connect with others
Zoho is an ad-free email service for personal and business email. Zoho boasts a 99.9% uptime and supports message encryption to keep your email accounts secure.
Zoho allows you to create up to 25 email addresses with your custom domain so you can continue to look professional even when using a free email service.
As well as offering the ability to customize your email domain, you’ll get 5GB free storage and the ability to integrate with other software apps like Google Drive, Box, and more. Zoho is great for daily task management, ideal for small businesses.
Suitable for: Small businesses and startups who are on a budget
America Online (AOL) was purchased by Verizon in 2015 and continues to offer a free email service from it’s news-heavy homepage. AOL has kept up with the times and offers spam filters, virus protection, and other similar standard features you’d expect from a free email service.
Not only can you send and receive emails, you can send text messages and instant messages via AOL. One of the main benefits AOL offers over other free email services is that it provides unlimited storage.
You can import your email contacts to AOL from CSV, TXT, and LDIF files, making transferring to AOL incredibly easy. AOL continues to offer an easy-to-user interface and doesn’t show any signs of falling behind the competition any time soon.
Suitable for: Individuals and businesses that use email as their primary form of communication
5. Mozilla Thunderbird
Mozilla Thunderbird is a free email service for desktop, allowing you to customize the interface, from theme settings to app extensions. You can add multiple email accounts to Thunderbird, much like you can with Outlook.
One of the unique features Mozilla Thunderbird offers is the ability to open multiple tabs within the email client. This is helpful if you need to refer to more than one email at any given time, or leave emails open without clogging up your desktop with multiple windows.
While Thunderbird isn’t the nicest looking email client, it is very easy to use and keeps things simple. You can add automatic email rules and receive notifications straight to your computer’s desktop.
Type: Email client
Suitable for: Those who want to customize their email client and open multiple tabs at once
6. iCloud Mail
iCloud is Apple’s solution to cloud storage and other apps like iCloud Mail. You can sync your photos, files, and emails between devices which is great for ease of use. However, storing lots of photos and videos can eat into your 5GB free storage, so you’ll need to keep this in mind.
You can upgrade your iCloud storage starting from $0.99 per month, continuing its integration across your iOS devices. iCloud Mail features easy-to-use rules, email labelling, and separate tabs for VIP messages.
Suitable for: Mac and iOS users
Which Free Email Service Should You Use?
Free email services are a great choice for individuals who want to manage their email accounts across multiple devices, as well as small businesses who are on a budget.
Depending on your requirements, there are some great free email services out there. If you need a lot of storage, AOL offers unlimited storage, but it may feel a little outdated compared to Gmail and Outlook who offer a generous 15GB free storage.
Take a look at the best free email services we’ve listed above and weigh up the pros and cons of each service. Remember, they are all FREE so you won’t lose out if you decide to ditch your current free email service and move onto another.