We test, rank and rate the best free email services you can use in 2016. The best free email. Best free email for storage, best free email for privacy, best free email for features. Check out our list of the best free webmail services you can use.
We’ve listed the best free email services by alphabetical order, which is just as well. Gmail and Outlook are the best services there are, and unless you have privacy concerns, you should check them out. (Also see: Best cloud storage service 2016 | Best online storage | Secure online storage | Cheap cloud storage.)
Best free email service 2016 UK: AOL Mail
Huge in the 2000s, but still knocking around, AOL Mail is actually a decent free email service for those who wish to be retro. But retro it is.
Log into AOL and most of the screen is taken up by a news feed. It’s like 2002 all over again. This combined with the multitude of themes and customisation options makes AOL feel more like a home page than an email tool. Depending on your needs this may be no terrible thing.
You get the usual left-sided folder list including inbox, drafts, sent and the rest. And you can create and edit your own folder list, as well as moving messages around and creating rules and filters.
But that is about it. Like iCloud, it is for basic users rather than the office. Check out AOL if you need a basic and pleasingly retro email service.
Find out more about AOL Mail.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Apple iCloud
One to use only if you are an Apple obsessive. Gmail and Outlook are better. Although iCloud’s iPhone and iPad integration are good, the web interface is crap. Like most Apple software, this email service exists to get you to buy its hardware.
On your iPhone and iPad, Apple Mail can be set up to access other email accounts, such as Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!. Not on the web interface.
You have the standard three-pane view with email and folders on the left, inbox listing all the messages in the middle and the selected email on the right. Just don’t expect to be able to customise things: that is not Apple’s way.
Folders can be edited, rules and filters can be set up. If you are an Apple user on the hunt for a simple and non-technical email service you could do worse. But you could also do better.
Find out more about Apple iCloud Mail.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Gmail
Google’s free email device is often considered the number one free email service, and with good reason. It looks great on laptop, tablet or smartphone. You don’t get mail folders, as such, rather you can tag emails t make them easier to find. But, trust me, Google is pretty good at finding stuff, so in time you learn to worry less about archiving your messages, and more about usefully using email as a work tool.
By default Google displays email conversations in date order. Priority inbox puts at the top messages Gmail thinks are important. Indeed, Gmail can automatically sort messages into primary, social, promotions, updates and forums. Due to Google’s scanning and search skills this is super accurate, and allows you to use email in the most useful way for you.
You can change the way the interface looks in your browser, by using a Google theme or your own images, too. In general Gmail is intuitive and user-friendly, useful and customisable. It also offers a huge amount of storage for free – 15GB of free storage across Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos. So why wouldn’t you choose Google?
The only real reason is that like some other free email services Gmail scans your messages in order to deliver contextual advertising. That is a problem for some privacy conscious users.
Find out more about Gmail.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Outlook.com
The artist formally known as Hotmail, Microsoft’s free email service is alive and well worth your consideration.
Via your web browser Outlook doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel. You will see a folder list on the left, including inbox, drafts, and sent. Folders are used to organise emails, and you can drag messages from folder to folder. Adding new folders is a cinch. The rest of the screen lists the contents of the currently selected folder. There is also a reading pane, so you can browse- and read emails from the same view.
Staying in the traditional email box, you can set rules to automatically sort incoming mail. Microsoft’s Quick views tool automatically categorises messages like Gmail’s tabs, but there are more categories. Messages can be archived, which moves them to the relevant folder, or flagged so they appear in Quick views rather than the inbox.
Outlook is up there with Gmail as the big beast of the free email world. Like Gmail it is generous with storage limits (storage space for your Outlook.com email increases monthly). But like Gmail it will target adverts at you based on your email messages. That’s really the only down side.
Find out more about Outlook.com.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Yahoo! Mail
Yes, it still exists. A good-looking email web interface with occasionally unsightly adverts, Yahoo! is actually pretty useful. And you get 1GB of storage, free of charge.
You get the classic panel with inbox, sent, spam, trash and other folders, as well as a list of email on the right from the selected folder. You can preview messages and the folders themselves. And, of course, you can create folders and edit your folder list. You can auto sort messages into your folders by setting up filters.
You can open multiple emails in different tabs, and compose new messages in the same way. Each tab is in essence a new email browser. It works well.
Like Google and Microsoft’s email tools, you can import into Yahoo! other email accounts. We like Yahoo!, it is okay with us. But given the choice we would go with Outlook or Gmail.
Find out more about Yahoo! Mail.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Zoho Mail
Zoho Mail is a pretty useful business-friendly email tool. You get the now expected multi-layer folders, labels, flag, and filters that allow you to organise your messages. One nice touch is the ability to share an entire folder with a colleague.
Streams is an interesting and potentially useful feature of Zoho Mail that brings social media style comments and likes into standard email. You can tag individual correspondents to untangle complicated multi-person email threads.
For free you get 5GB of storage for your mail, and 5GB for other files. The latter relates to the point that Zoho is principally a web-based office suite that has a calendar app and allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
Zoho doesn’t charge or show ads, which is great. But it does attempt to get you to shell out. The free version allows emails of only up to 25MB, and doesn’t support Google Calendar. Shell out £2 a month and the Google Calendar restriction is lifted, you get twice the storage, and a 30MB email limit.
Even with the restrictions, however, Zoho Mail is a good free email service.
Find out more about Zoho Mail.
Best free email service 2016 UK: Verdict
It is difficult to look beyond the big two of Gmail and Outlook. They offer the best software with good storage options, and easy-to-use and -customise interfaces. The only real objection could be for the privacy fan who wants ad-free email that cannot be read by the provider. Those people should look at encrypted email tools such as Protonmail and Tutanota. For everyone else, go claim that Gmail or Outlook address.