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Best free email service - iCloud vs Gmail vs Outlook & more

Lee Bell
1 May 2016
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From Apple' s simplistic iCloud Mail to Yahoo's huge storage offering; here's the six best free email services

If you're on the lookout for a fresh email provider because you're starting a new venture, ditching your ISP, or simply frustrated with your current one, who to go with can be a little daunting. There’s a host of big names out there promoting their own free services, but ultimately they all do the same job albeit with different perks.

Which service to go for depends entirely on your needs: whether that's superior design, ease of use, lots of free storage, and so on. Here we’ll give you a rundown of the six best free email services to take advantage of depending on what you’re looking for.

For the storage hungry: Yahoo! Mail


Best email services - Yahoo

So this one has been around a while, but it’s not to say it’s not still one of the best. While it’s not one of the nicest or simplest designs out there - there are too many adverts, though you can always go ad-free for £30 a year if it bothers you that much – Yahoo Mail has one of the biggest storage offerings out of all the major free email providers.

Yahoo used to offer ‘unlimited’ email storage – provided you didn’t abuse it, but a few years ago decided that people were taking the Michael, and now it’s limited to 1TB, which is still an insane amount of storage space, so it's ideal for those who need to keep emails on file that have large attachments. As with many other free mail services, Yahoo lets you access your email via POP and through IMAP. You can also have your Yahoo Mail account forwarded to another email address if you so wish.

Yahoo Mail also integrates email, instant messaging, social networks, SMS text messaging, and keyboard shortcuts, all of which make it a joy to use.

For ease of use: Google’s Gmail


best email services - gmail

Gmail is probably one of the most popular email services out there at present. The great thing about Gmail is its lightweight minimal design, meaning it's quick to load on even the slenderest of internet connections. 

Gmail also offers good filtering that isn’t possible with other service providers. For example, there are lots of different ways to view emails. You can choose to automatically sort messages by content into tabs labelled primary, social, promotions, updates and forums, giving you different ways to view your emails depending on what kind of day you’re having.

With no ads and a simple, easy-to-use interface, Gmail has to be one of the best email services out there.

For familiarity and organisation: Microsoft Outlook


Best email services - Outlook

Replacing the once-dominant Hotmail a few years ago, Microsoft’s Outlook email service is probably one of our favourites, mainly because of its familiar design and organisation tools. It takes its interface influences from the Outlook software most of us have used in the office over the years, but the webmail service has been given a makeover, with nice clean lines and blue and white theming, making it easy on the eye. It's flexible search, virtual folders, conversations and mail grouping all help to make organising your emails super simple and so is ideal for those with OCD when it comes to inbox tidiness.

If you're worried about security, Outlook is also one of the most robust email services tackling online fraud attempts with strong spam filtering and phishing blocking.  Outlook integrates email messages, to-do lists, scheduling and social networking updates all in one place, too.

For the ad haters: Zoho Mail


Best email services - Zoho Mail

Aimed at professional users, Zoho Mail is great for those that can’t stand the idea of advertisements clogging up their email interface as it comes free of display advertising.

You get a 5GB storage capacity for free when you sign up, which should last you a while. But if you want to increase this you can for a small fee each month, rising from $2.50 a month for 10GB up to $10 a month for 25GB. Other advantages coming with the free edition include integrated POP and IMAP access, integration with some instant messaging apps and online office suites.

Labels and a comprehensive search help you organise mail and help identify key messages and contacts, as well as sending often-used replies, perfect if you're repeating yourself on email all the time.

For the Apple users: iCloud Mail


Best email services - iCloud

One thing that Apple knows well is how to make something look nice. So if design is your thing, Apple’s iCloud Mail is one of the best looking free mail services around. Most of you might already have an iCloud email account and not even know it. If you have an Apple ID which you set up with an @icloud.com address, then you’ll already have one. This free account gives you up to 5GB storage for your emails, minus what you use for documents and other data you store in the cloud.

iCloud Mail is one of the simplest to use. It has all your standard features, such as filters and automatic replies support. Obviously, it’s probably the best mail service to go with if you’re already embedded in the iOS ecosystem, especially if you have a large iCloud storage subscription as the mail storage and iCloud storage share the same space.

For no fuss: Lycos Mail


Best email services - Lycos

You might not have heard of Lycos Mail, after all it's not part of an internet goliath like many of the options here, but we think it’s a great one to go with if you want a simple, no-fuss and easy to use package You get 3GB of online storage, which is not the best, but if don't need to save huge amounts of emails on file then it’s easily enough. Lycos Mail also integrates a large file sending service, which – unlike many other email providers - allows huge attachments, a boon for those wanting to send large files (without storing them indefinitely as well).

If you do need to store them, you can upgrade to Lycos Mail Plus for £7, giving you another 5GB storage and access to your email via a POP client such as Outlook. When setting up, remember you’ll need a mobile number to confirm your identity.

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