Google Buys Sparrow Email App: A Trojan Horse for Google+?

Sparrow Defunct!

Wow! I’m miffed. I just purchased this, and now it’s abandoned. I’m torn as to whether I should continue using Sparrow, or not.

It’s not all bad news. Part of my motivation for using Sparrow was that the native Mail app in OS X, after the Lion upgrade, was a massive memory hog, and slowed down my entire computer. After the Mountain Lion upgrade, Mail seems to have slimmed down a ton. Performance is no longer such an issue… so far.

There were two major functional differences for me between the two:

  1. With Sparrow there is no undo. Ack!
  2. With Sparrow adding a category/moving mail to a folder is a built-in feature using CMD+L. For Mail, I must use the MsgFiler Mail add-on to achieve that same functionality.

I actually found Sparrow while looking for something to notify me of new mail without slowing my computer to a crawl, so I’ll miss that functionality, but there is the Notification Center. It doesn’t show me an ongoing inbox count, like Sparrow does, but I think I can live with that.


In a bit of a shocker, Sparrow announced Friday that the app and whole team has been acquired by Google. Sparrow makes the favored third-party email app for Gmail users on Mac and iOS. Google doesn’t often put effort into native desktop software, and the Gmail iOS app has always had only the bare minimum features, so this is an unusual move.

The built-in Mail app on the Mac can sync with Gmail decently well, but it doesn’t handle the labels and filters that Gmail users depend on. That’s why Sparrow has been so successful on the desktop.

The situation is similar on iOS, although Gmail began to offer its own app in the App Store late last year. But even after a few updates, it still lacks features Gmail users have come to expect on the desktop, so Sparrow for iOS still has a strong following.

The Sparrow team says, “we’ll be busy with new projects, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps.” It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that they’re talking about working on the official Gmail apps. Sparrow connects to Facebook to draw in contacts’ faces alongside the inbox, which is a feature that Google will presumably want to move over to Google+. If it can lead iOS users through the window of Gmail into the Google+ world, it could finally establish a strong foothold on Apple’s platform.