High school jacket with backpack and email envelopes

What if Email Clients Were High School Stereotypes?

Every job has its challenges, including email marketing careers. But can you imagine being the high school teacher in charge of the students in detention?

When you’re developing an email and trying to get a template or a new campaign to “behave” (AKA render correctly in all email clients), it can sometimes feel like you’re wrangling a bunch of unruly teenagers with bad attitudes and raging hormones.

That got us thinking… what if email clients were real people? Better yet… what if we pictured email clients like Gmail, Apple Mail, and Outlook as different high school stereotypes?

The Breakfast Club of email clients

Breakfast Club cast dancing GIF

Gmail: The Jock

Developing emails for Gmail

Every high school has that over-achieving, multi-sport athlete who is good at just about everything. They even get pretty good grades – although we all know the teachers go easier on the kids who are good at sports.

Like jocks, Gmail has some skills that other email clients don’t. For instance, AMP emails allow you to bring interactivity to Gmail inboxes, but not many other email clients support the framework yet. 

Of course, there’s also the “dumb jock” stereotype, and sometimes Gmail seems to fit that too. Like why is it that a Google service like Gmail doesn’t support Google web fonts? And why does Gmail cause so many dark mode email development challenges?

From the email developer's perspective, there’s no ignoring Gmail. Without a doubt, a significant portion of your subscribers are using this email client regularly, So, that means finding ways to deal with problems like message clipping and hyperlink colors.

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Apple Mail: The Popular Girl

New iPhone Features

If people were voting for the prom queen of email clients, it would have to be Apple Mail. Thanks in part to the popularity of iPhones, there are a ton of people using Apple Mail to view their emails. But how popular is it?

According to an article on Apple Mail demographics from Sinch Mailjet, it could be as much as 54% of the contacts on your list. Kate Nowrouzi is VP of Deliverability and Product Strategy at Sinch Mailgun. She says that, among Mailgun’s users, more than one-third of opens were occurring on Apple Mail.

Speaking of open rates, like any self-respecting popular girl, Apple Mail cares a lot about respecting privacy.

Tracking pixels? Eww… as if!

~ Apple Mail

The arrival of Apple Mail Privacy Protection (AMPP) threw many email marketers for a loop. But AMPP didn’t mean the death of email. We all found ways to adjust, and stronger privacy protection is better for everyone.

The nicest thing about Apple Mail is that it offers more support for HTML and CSS features. The website Can I Email places it at the top of its Email Client Support Scoreboard. No wonder everyone loves it.

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Outlook: The Troublemaker

Coding emails for Outlook.com

Maybe it was all those commercials featuring John Hodgeman as a boring PC, but it might be hard to imagine a Microsoft product playing the role of a rebellious troublemaker.

Not so if you’re an email developer. The Outlook email client causes just as many headaches for email devs as Ferris Bueler did for his school principal.

It’s probably safe to say that at least 80% of the time when someone asks why you have to go out of your way to code something in an email, it’s because of Outlook. You’ll find it all the way at the bottom of Can I Email’s scoreboard of email clients. As of this writing, Outlook for Windows (the desktop versions) only supports 52 of the 219 CSS and HTML features that Can I Email is tracking.

For example, the main reason email developers use tables for layout is thanks to Outlook. Concerns around using GIFs in email marketing can also be blamed on Outlook. Many issues with blocked images and padding/spacing can be traced back to Outlook as well. 

However, Outlook inboxes are home to many B2B subscribers. Plus, anyone who still uses a Hotmail address (they do exist) is viewing their emails in Outlook, too. 

So, like a high school troublemaker with hidden potential, you just keep working with Outlook and hope that the wayward email client changes its ways someday.

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Yahoo Mail and AOL Mail: The Hipsters

Aol Mail

Hipsters take pride in their appreciation for things that are outside of the mainstream. They liked that band/movie/style everyone likes now before it was cool.

Back in the ‘90s, AOL Mail was the biggest email provider in the world. It had 9 million users in 1997. Today, there are around 4 billion people using email across the globe. For those of you keeping track at home, 9 million is 0.00225% of 4 billion. 

Still, you have to give AOL credit for its role in email history. People got hooked on their inboxes thanks in part to that irresistible “You’ve got mail!” notification.

Also in the ‘90s, Yahoo! saw the rise of webmail coming and acquired RocketMail, which was one of two of the world’s first free webmail services. There’s no denying Yahoo! was an internet pioneer, and its email service was a big part of that. But sometimes pioneers die of dysentery along the Oregon Trail.


Yahoo Mail and the company as a whole experienced quite a few controversies over the years. There was an interface upgrade that fell flat in 2011, a major outage in 2013, and a serious privacy breach that affected 3 billion people. More recently, Yahoo Mail is getting flack for scanning email content for targeted advertising purposes and sharing emails with the National Security Agency (NSA).

While AOL and Yahoo Mail aren’t the most popular kids in school anymore, email marketers and developers still need to keep them in mind. There are still 1.5 million people paying for an AOL subscription. And Yahoo Mail still has well over 200 million users.

It’s unlikely that subscribers using these email clients make up a very large portion of your list. But if you strive for email perfection, you should keep an eye on how campaigns render in these mailbox providers too.

Other email client characters

Even smaller email clients could represent other stereotypical characters in a teen comedy.

For example, it’s easy to picture Thunderbird as the classic nerd archetype. It’s an open source email client that Mozilla developed to pair with its Firefox browser. Mozilla stopped supporting it in 2014, but the community kept it alive, updating the software and making donations. It’s since become part of a subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation. We love it when the nerds win in the end. There are still around 25 million people using the Thunderbird email client.

Samsung Email is like the quiet shy kid nobody notices at first. It works a lot like Apple Mail in that users can get messages from different mailbox providers and email addresses in one place. It obviously comes pre-installed on Samsung phones and has some features that its users really like, including a simple and intuitive UI. 

Then, assuming this is an American teen comedy, there are a handful of email clients that are like quirky foreign exchange students.

  • Web.de is Germany’s top email client with 17 million customers.
  • Free.fr is a French telecommunications company with a popular webmail app.
  • Libero.it provides an Italian webmail service with around 11 million users.

Of course, the big three email clients (Gmail, Apple Mail, Outlook) are also very popular in regions besides North America. But if you’re developing emails in Europe or for a global company, it’s smart to pay attention to these smaller email clients as well.

The final exam for email clients

We realize comparing your work in email marketing to a cranky high school principal isn’t exactly flattering. But try to think of yourself more like Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell. He always wanted what was best for the kids. Or maybe you’re more like Dumbledore, trying to get a bunch of young Hogwarts students under control.

At some point, you’ve got to put these email clients to the test. That’s where an automated pre-send platform like Sinch Email on Acid is an excellent solution. With email testing, you can preview your campaigns on the most popular clients and devices.

Using Email on Acid is like having the best hall monitor in history. You’ve got someone keeping an eye out for issues so you can prevent those troublesome email clients from rendering your campaigns the wrong way. 

Email on Acid also helps you optimize for inbox display, accessibility, and deliverability. Take advantage of the free trial and see how it works today!

Don’t guess, test

Email clients are constantly changing, which is why it’s important to test your email every time; what worked yesterday might not work today. Sinch Email on Acid offers unlimited email testing in major mailbox providers and the most popular devices. Test 100+ options as much as you want – there’s no limit. That means you can make sure your email looks good before it hits the inbox. Want to see for yourself? Take advantage of our free, seven-day trial.

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