For most people who are interested in encrypted email, Protonmail will probably be their first port of call due to its great feature set, attractive domain names and the fact that the same company also offers a VPN service (ProtonVPN).
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I used Protonmail before I found Tutanota. The only reason I stopped using Protonmail is because I don’t have Google Services on my Android phone (more on that later). For many people however, Protonmail will be the best choice. Protonmail looks sexier than Tutanota and feels a little more like gmail. Protonmail also has more functionality and releases features more quickly, due to their larger team. Protonmail is based in Switzerland a country which has some of the best privacy laws.
Like gmail, Protonmail has labels and folders which are very useful for organising mail. This is one of the things I miss most about the service. Protonmail also boasts far better filtering rules than Tutanota. You can create aliases for your email and again unlike Tutanota you can change the display names for each alias if you want to. Protonmail doesn’t have its own Windows application however they have a bridge plugin for Thunderbird which means you can use Protonmail with Thunderbird.
As already mentioned, you can create aliases for the same email account. Another advantage that Protonmail has is that it supports the ‘+’ extension to email addresses. So for example you could have ‘email@example.com’ as your main email address and then ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for your shopping accounts. That makes filtering email very quick and means you don’t have to set up individual email aliases every time. This is something Tutanota doesn’t do.
Finally, you can use your own domain name with Protonmail, which is a requirement for many people. If you don’t have your own domain name, Protonmail’s are the best looking available in my opinion (@protonmail.com, @pm.me among others).
The biggest downside to Protonmail is that its Android app requires Google Play Services. This is totally fine if you have all the normal google stuff installed on your android. However if like me, you use a custom operating system and have removed google entirely, Protonmail won’t give you message notifications. It’s still not a deal breaker for some people however you’ll have to open the application to check for messages regularly because it won’t notify you. Again this is only a problem if you installed a custom rom and have no google on your android device. I’m still a little heart broken about this particular fault because I’m too impatient to be opening the application all the time to check for messages.
Another downside to Protonmail is that it doesn’t have as many proprietary applications as Tutanota. Currently the only Protonmail applications are mobile apps. For your PC, Mac or Linux you’ll have to use Thunderbird with the bridge plugin which is less secure. The last downside of Protonmail is its price, which is higher than Tutanota.
Finally, Protonmail isn’t encrypted as thoroughly as Tutanota is. Protonmail only encrypts your message content. Meta data from your email headers such as sender address, recipient address and subject line remain unencrypted and are therefore logged by Protonmail. I still trust their service entirely, however the fact that they log some details even temporarily is a turn off for the most hardcore privacy warriors 😉
- Encrypted email service
- Free version available (limited feature set)
- Very nice user interface
- Advanced filtering options (better than Tutanota)
- Mailbox filters run before the app gives notifications
- Two factor authentication available
- Labels and folders to help organisation
- You can use your own domain name
- Different aliases available
- Different aliases can have different display names
- Short pm.me domain name
- Same company offers a VPN service
- Hosted in Switzerland
- Ability to import and export mail
- User groups feature is very useful when combined with filters
- Mobile app requires Google Services on Android in order to show notifications
- More expensive than some of its competitors for premium
- While there is a Thunderbird Bridge plugin, there is no proprietary Windows / Mac application
- The subject line isn’t encrypted (only message content)
Score: 9 / 10
Reviewer: Adam Rouge