First look at HEY, that new email thing

I've been lucky AF to get an invite to the 2-week trial of HEY, the email service that made a lot of noise (mainly due to their war on Apple Store but still). These are some of my first impressions.


Its Capiche page is here, their website has some impressive feature lists and there is even a 30-minute video from the founder. I won't be copying that and get right into the good stuff.

The Premise

"Email is dead but we have fixed it". Have they though?

First Glance

Design feels bulky and very 2015. UX is not always intuitive as of 2020, no swiping, some of the steps in the process seem too complicated. But these feeling are overshadowed by all the fun I've been having shooting each and every annoying newsletter and getting back to a very zen almost-zero-inbox-like condition.


I was very giddy to try the new service as it was the first one I remember that tried to look at the whole email procedure differently. And I desperately needed a fix as my main inbox looks like this.

that gmail chaos

I still don't get the difference between social and promos and those other automated tabs on Google. I gave up on the hope to clear everything and set all the necessary emails apart from all the spam.

I stopped using macOS Mail app long ago, there was Spark and Sunsama and Inbox and...well, I ended up on square one, using all the webapps from all the email providers I used.

Most of my communication is on Telegram, so email is basically a legacy thing that I long wanted to shoot in the face. 3 gmail inboxes, 2 yandex inboxes, and numberous unused ones turned into a nightmare and a time-consuming thing with a constant risk of losing an important email among all that.


I got my invite and dove in. And it. Was. Awesome. There is nothing like that clean slate/fresh new inbox smell. And the fact that Hey doesn't connect other services yet is actually a great thing. I set up forwarding from 2 of my gmail inboxes and the IMBOX on Hey didn't download any old stuff. It just picked up all the new incoming emails. I forwarded some old starred emails and afterwards started actually ENJOYING THE PROCESS.

This is what my inbox (sorry, Imbox) looks like across the apps.



Now it's time for some praise and some well-deserved criticism.

Annoying Stuff

  1. Spam filters. Are a bit liberal choosing some of the contacts to send there initially. But it will learn.
  2. Everything is too big. Scrolling through "The Feed" for instance feels like a lot of work. Would you look at that
  3. Only forwarding from other emails. No aliasing, no nothing. I feel a bit nervous when I have to write to someone I know using this new address so in critical cases I do revert back to gmail.
  4. No signatures. They say they are working on it. Emails do seem naked without that grey abomination in the footer.
  5. No notifications. I'm used to blips and stickers and inbox (11) and all that stuff. Not having anything to notify you that an email (maybe important, maybe long-awaited) has arrived seems like a fault.
  6. Shortcuts. Obviously they take some getting used to, navigating between screens will get smoother as soon as I get used to, but I'm not used to clicking this much.  seems okay, takes getting used to
  7. Mistrust. I keep compulsively checking whether Hey collects all the emails from Gmail. I've been burnt by buggy software before, it will take some time to learn to trust again.

Amazing Stuff

  1. Clean slate feeling. One screen, one menu, no noise, no unnerving inbox(7) and stuff.
  2. Screening in and out. I feel like an Roman emperor—looking at newsletters coming one by one and thumbing them up or down. And as they arrive gradually into my inbox, after screening them out I can take a little time and actually unsubscribe from them altogether. I could never find time for that and now I did!
    things I've screened out

  3. The "screener history" seems like an extra feature when you want to be gracious or double check some of your killer instincts.
    the screener history tree

  4. Training. First 10 senders are screened accompanied by additional notifications asking which type of letters you think it is: imbox-worthy, newsfeedy or notificationy. It actually helps.

    that training thing
    and another one

  5. Spyware tracking. Seemed a bit excessive but still secure. I don't find Mailchimp so ominous but if we think about it deep enough—I don't wanna be tracked by anyone, have my contacts leaked and my personal info sold. If there is at least one service discrupting this constant surveillance, that's already a win.
    are you spying on me?!

  6. No notifications. With all that FOMO running through my veins I'm frustrated by no notifications from the app. And yet I know that I'll still go into the app, notifications or not. And I'm not important enough to have all staked on the fact that I reply to emails immediately.

  7. Notes. This is amazing. Seriously. With the overflowing inbox I sometimes find those nuggets of knowledge I actually need. With time the initial purpose of saving those letters gets lost and well they are deleted. Now I can basically put a sticker on emails commenting why the F I saved them and remember their purpose long after.
    sticky notes on emails, f*** me

  8. Clips. Seriously, how come nobody came up with this ages ago?? There is now no way to lose some receipts/tracking numbers and all those minuscule things that you never think about until you lose them.
    clip that!
    very quick clipping indeed

  9. iOS app. Works just as fine as the desktop/web app. What else is there to want.
    iOS app to rule them all

  10. The Feed. Newsletters just as god intended them to be—in a scrollable feed. After screening out the useless lot, I'm left with the most delightful things that I actually enjoy reading.
    they fixed the newsletters

  11. Paper trail. Again, just as it should be. All transactions and notifications bundled in one pointless page that you kinda never look at anyway.
    those things you kinda need but not really

  12. Focus and reply feature. I have yet to try this one. But I am one of those procrastinating guys so having a submenu just for the important stuff and a whole workflow for making that process smooth.
    everything to kick that procrastination habit

  13. Set aside feature. On Gmail I used to star important email and they still got lost. NO MORE.
    all you need are these emails

  14. Various "views" for various purposes. A gallery view for the "Set aside", a shortened list for the "paper trail" and minimized and scrollable feed for, well, "The Feed". It's all about the details, man.


I think I'm ready to pay $99 per year in 11 days. The only thing I'm scared of is the seemingly inevitable fate of all innovative email services. But hey, this still is gonna be a fun run.

davidvfurlong's avatar
2 years ago

I think Hey is a great email provider choice for less technical people with lower volumes of email. It is diametrically opposed in positioning to superhuman, which is an email client built for people who work with high volumes of emails on a daily basis.

I think the key product innovation of Hey is to make receiving emails from a sender opt-in rather than the more traditional opt-out. This small change is a fundamental shift in emailing, as gmail and similar products make not receiving emails from a sender a multi step process that isn't entirely clear. Should I unsubscribe, report as spam, or block this sender? With companies increasingly sending unsolicited DRIP sales campaigns from email addresses they find online via services such as Hunter, I can see an opportunity for taking this product innovation and making it available to business emails part of a work suite (Microsoft, GSuite, ...)

5 points
PaulWaldman's avatar
2 years ago

I find Hey is great at opinionated email workflows. This is especially useful if you haven't set up filtering and workflows within Gmail. The following items below have been really useful to me.
*Email Screening - First time senders are screened from entering your Imbox
*Enabling Push Notifications per email thread
*Paper Trail for capture of things like account numbers or confirmations

I had spent quite a bit of time setting up filters within GMail for similar purposes on my work domain. Once Hey is available for custom domains, I wonder if I'll see the same value.

4 points
scott's avatar
2 years ago

Added some of my thoughts a while back here, too:

4 points
avusnex's avatar
@avusnex (replying to @scott )
2 years ago

You got some of the features I haven't even noticed! Thanks for those, will take a closer look

3 points
scottmathson's avatar
@scottmathson (replying to @avusnex )
2 years ago

Yeah it’s been a super impressive launch - the demand they’ve created is intense. Product-wise I’m not sure I’ll switch fully, as it’s a major cognitive switch. Plus not being able to import old emails is a loss in my opinion. Very thorough review you’ve done here!

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @scottmathson )
2 years ago

I almost wish it just included Gmail search API integration to search through older Gmail emails from inside Hey!

2 points
scott's avatar
@scott (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Including Gmail API into your products most certainly puts you on the list of being included in one of Google's deep-dive audits (that you pay for, can be quite costly), maybe they're avoiding adding due to knowledge of that?

1 point
scott's avatar
@scott (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Well, let's see if we can't just get this answered in the AMA with Jason ;-)

1 point
scott's avatar
@scott (replying to @scott )
2 years ago

Question answered here: (it's a no-go on importing historical)

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @scott )
2 years ago

This is incredible (even if disappointing to have no way to bring in older emails)—thanks for bringing it full-circle!

The funny thing is, with Hey’s current design without archiving and folders, I actually don’t know how it’d be able to handle imports. Actually a tiny bit worrisome how it’ll work after a few years of emails start piling up...

1 point
siddxxvii's avatar
2 years ago

I am on the same page as you , I am also ready to empty my pockets for 99 USD. I have been using Hey for almost 10 days for my personal emails, and I have been super happy. Features like feed and screener are amazing and also I love the stacking feature for reply later or to set aside, atleast now i dont have to mark it as unread to remind me to read or go through.
There is definitely things which Hey has done right like you talked about above for eg clips, stickies and internal notes, these features are helping me get more productive towards my Imbox.
Another good point Jason and DHH has been openly telling on twitter is that you can leave Hey services anytime and take your data (emails) along with you in mbox format, which now makes me feel secured and confident of paying and using the app.

4 points
avusnex's avatar
@avusnex (replying to @siddxxvii )
2 years ago

Yes! Forgot about stacking, it should be featured more prominently in the interface IMHO.
As for the mbox export in case anything goes wrong—that's actually fantastic news, now I feel even safer.

2 points
namekart's avatar
2 years ago

Since ya'll have covered the good, let me focus on the bad:
(1) Most of the features are replicable and should make their way to Gmail via Labs soon. So, I don't really think the new-ness is gonna stay long.
(2) The domain "" doesn't make sense to me. They needed to do better.
(3) The IMBOX sounds plain ugly. Please pick another word!!!
(4) The UI/UX is 5 years too old. For charing $99 per year, you gotta do better.
(5) What about DRIVE? What about Google Sheets. Google Docs etc - all the things that come with a Google Account? If I am gonna use a gmail address anyway, why add another headache to the list by creating on account on HEY?
(6) What about text-based 2FA?

Conclusion: If this was a free product in beta, I wouldn't have been asking much. But for something that's gonna hit me $99 yearly, it falls severely short. Yes yes, they might find some paying FOMO audience for whom $99 is pocket change. But, I don't really see the point in paying them for a few nice-to-have increments to my inbox.

This fad will probably last for 12- 18 months - before this dies a slow death.

4 points
awwstn's avatar
2 years ago

This is a fantastic review! For me, the Feed and the screening/routing of emails have been the features I love most.

@avusnex: These screenshots would be great to add to the Hey product wiki, do you want to add them? (I can do it too, but don't want to steal internet points that should go to you 😛). Also, I just realized we should add this as a feature on should be able to add these images to the Hey screenshot gallery as you published the post.

3 points
avusnex's avatar
@avusnex (replying to @awwstn )
2 years ago

Oh yeah, this will be my first product wiki update! :) Will do!

3 points
ShravanS's avatar
2 years ago

The biggest con i see is having to manually train your filters:
1. When some of your services send you spam in combination with useful email, say insurance companies
2. Porting a large list of rules from gmail

2 points
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