Been thinking a lot lately about the new email service from the folks at Basecamp, née 37Signals. There’s the influential fight with Apple that occurred leading up to WWDC. That’s worth a discussion. But mostly I’m interested in the actual service.

It’s good! The iOS apps are solid. The Mac app–which appears to be yet another Electron frankenstein–is not. I wish they had taken the Jira route and released a Catalyst app at the very least. The web interface is pretty, functional, and built on some of my favorite technologies.

HEY respects your privacy. That’s a huge win. They strip tracking from all of your emails. The UI separates out receipts, newsletter-type emails, and personal emails into separate bins. It screens senders to make sure you only get emails you want from people you know. You can mark emails that need a follow-up, and they appear in a nice stack. You can pin emails for later reference. All good stuff!

This is email if you reimagined email.

If you’ve never had an email account, this is a fantastic starting point.

Some of us have 20+ years of email in old accounts, though. What good does this service do us? Can we convert? What about Inbox Zero advocates?

Old Email

Yeah, you can bring your old emails over into this new system. I don’t think I’d recommend it, though. Especially if you’ve got a ton of old email. Your best bet is to treat HEY as an entirely new account. At most, I would forward emails from other accounts, which you can do easily with the instructions HEY provides. I definitely would not bother trying to import your archives into HEY. Start fresh. You’ll be happier.

Inbox Zero

If you’re an ardent proponent of Inbox Zero, HEY might not be for you. As far as I can tell, there’s nothing that represents an archive. You can mark emails for follow-up, mark them for reference, or delete them. Otherwise, they sit in the “seen” section of your Imbox. Yes, Imbox.

Searchable? Sure. But it defaults to a state of clutter. This is especially bad if you’re used to seeing a completely empty inbox. You also can’t get a link to a message, which makes it hard to mark a message for follow up in an external app like OmniFocus or Things. Everything has to exist in HEY.

Regular Email Users

This is not an SMPT account. It’s not a POP3 account. You’re not going to be able to connect HEY to your favorite email client like or Spark on iOS. You use the provided client, or you don’t use HEY. Simple as that.

So, with those restrictions: is it really email? Email has protocols. Email allows flexibility even if that flexibility shoots you in your own foot.


I’m of two minds about HEY. On one hand, it’s a terrible service for all of the email you already have. It’s probably not great for business.

On the other hand, as an extremely personal, private account, HEY is fantastic. If you used this service and only shared the address with close personal friends, it could be like a penpal network. There’s something intriguing about that.

But why do that when we have SMS and iMessage, both of which are far more direct and immediate?

I’m not sure if it’s worth $99/year to have a penpal network that could also be accessed using existing technologies.

But if I were, say, 16 years old and getting my first Grown Up Email Account, I’d have to consider this. Compared to the free alternatives, the price for security and privacy is absolutely worth it. I wish this service had been around when I got my first Gmail account.