SnapperMail Arrives with Solid Software for Hand-Helds

MossbergAs wireless PDAs and phones with PDA capabilities proliferate, savvy mobile e-mail users are looking for great software to capitalize on the always-connected nature of these devices.

The best e-mail software has traditionally been on the BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion. But these are mostly bought and managed by corporations, not individuals, and their phone and organizer software is crude. The Microsoft-based Pocket PC hand-helds have long had a decent e-mail program, but Pocket PCs with wireless phone capabilities are still clunky and bulky.

So, most of the action has been in the wireless hand-helds and phones powered by the Palm operating system. The Palm OS is used by the widest variety of combo phone/PDA devices, including the best such gadget on the market, the Handspring Treo 300, and others by Palm, Kyocera and Samsung. A variety of e-mail programs have been written for these gadgets.

But I’ve found a new favorite e-mail program for the Treo 300 that I carry every day. It’s called SnapperMail, and comes from an unlikely source: a small start-up company in Auckland, New Zealand, called Snapperfish Ltd.

SnapperMail is the cleverest and most capable hand-held e-mail program I’ve seen. It is the closest thing on a hand-held to the kind of full-featured e-mail programs people use on their PCs. It handles messages of unlimited length, and opens the most common types of e-mail attachments in their native PC formats. It doesn’t require any monthly fees and is loaded with smart navigation features, including a bunch designed specifically for the Treo. It has a few drawbacks, but they are minor.

Before describing SnapperMail in detail, I want to pause this column briefly to report an impressive new version of the Treo that Handspring announced recently. It’s called the Treo 600 and will be sold starting this fall by Sprint. I have tried it briefly, and can’t evaluate it fully until I get a unit to test in depth. But at first glance, the Treo 600 seems likely to be the best-designed combo device on the market.

Compared with the Treo 300, the new model is smaller and more phone-like, yet retains a full keyboard and has twice the battery life. The screen is brighter, the processor is faster and the new model has twice the memory of the old, plus a slot for expansion cards. There’s a built-in camera and new navigation buttons for one-handed use. Stay tuned for a full review later in the year.

Now, back to SnapperMail. This e-mail program costs $34.95, though you can download a free 21-day trial version at www.snappermail.com. Unlike Handspring’s Treo Mail, or some e-mail programs offered by phone carriers, SnapperMail doesn’t carry a monthly fee. That’s because it doesn’t use a behind-the-scenes service to strip down e-mails for reading on a hand-held. Instead, it goes directly to your e-mail provider’s server and brings down the whole message, including attachments, if you like.

SnapperMail works only with standard Internet e-mail accounts called POP3. This includes e-mail from providers like EarthLink and AT&T, but excludes AOL, Hotmail and corporate e-mail.

You can set up SnapperMail to work with multiple accounts, and it can fetch your e-mail automatically, as often as you like. If you don’t want the full messages to be downloaded, you can instruct SnapperMail to get only headers, or only part of the text.

One unique feature in SnapperMail is “FingerNav” mode, designed to let you scroll through messages and lists of messages with a finger instead of a stylus. To make things finger-friendly, buttons and scroll bars are shown wider and fatter. In addition, SnapperMail uses handy pop-up menus with large type that allow you to open, trash or file messages rapidly.

Special SnapperMail features for the Treo let you scroll through and open e-mails using the Treo’s jog dial. And you can delete messages and perform other tasks by pressing single keys on the keyboard. You can also initiate a check of your e-mail with the press of a button.

SnapperMail comes out of the box with the ability to open picture attachments and compressed files. But it also allows you to open, edit and send attached Microsoft Office files, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. This capability, however, requires a separate $50 program called QuickOffice Premier from a company called Cutting Edge Software (www.cesinc.com). A trial version of QuickOffice comes with SnapperMail.

In my tests, on both a Treo and a Samsung i500, SnapperMail did everything it claimed. But it has a few drawbacks. First of all, if you download a lot of e-mail, it can suck up the memory on your device, so you have to delete older mail regularly. Unfortunately, there’s no command, as there is on a BlackBerry or in Treo Mail, to trash all messages older than a certain date, so bulk deletion is a pain.

Also, SnapperMail can’t yet synchronize with desktop e-mail programs like Outlook or Outlook Express, and there’s no easy way to jump to the top and bottom of a long list of messages. Plus, the company refuses to give refunds to unhappy customers. Still, SnapperMail is an excellent choice for the heavy wireless e-mail user.

E-mail me at [email protected].