The developers of the open source Thunderbird email client confirmed today that the open source Android email app K-9 Mail will become Thunderbird for Android.
Thunderbird product and business development manager Ryan Lee Sipes confirmed in May 2022 that Thunderbird would become available for Android soon. The release would fill a gap, as Thunderbird has been available for desktop operating systems only up until now. The Android version enables Thunderbird users to sync data between desktop versions and their mobile Android devices.
The development of an Android email client from the ground up was one of the options that the team discussed, but it would have been a large project that would have required considerable effort and resources. The idea to collaborate with an existing open source email project for Android was born in 2018, when Sipes started talking to Christian Ketterer, the K-9 Mail project maintainer, about potential collaborations.
K-9 Mail “aligns perfectly with Thunderbird’s values of using open standards, respecting the user, and enabling power users with unmatched customization” according to Sipes. Ketterer has joined the Thunderbird team already, “bringing along his expertise and experience with mobile platforms”, and the K-9 Mail application.
Thunderbird will “devote financial and development resources to improving K-9 Mail”, including an improved account setup, something which Thunderbird received already in a recent update, improved folder management, support for message filters, and the option to sync data between desktop and mobile clients. The team expects to introduce synchronization support in the Summer of 2023.
K-9 Mail will turn into Thunderbird for Android eventually, but this won’t happen overnight. The client will undergo visual changes to align it closely with Thunderbird.
K-9 Mail remains available, but users who have installed it will experience transformations in the coming months and years to align the email application closely with Thunderbird’s brand and feature set.
The latest interface update has seen mixed reviews. Some users who use multiple email accounts in the application stated that they find it less intuitive to use. Others like its open source nature and that development is financed by donations.
Joining forces with an existing application and developer makes sense on lots of levels. K-9 Mail is already available and it will take less time to make it look and feel like Thunderbird. Creating an app from ground up would take more resources and more time, and users would probably be unhappy if the initial version would lack certain expected features.
The lead developer and team need to take user criticism seriously, as the 3.1 out of 5 stars rating is not the greatest. There is a good chance that several of theses will be addressed, thanks to additional development resources becoming available.
Now you: what is your take on the decision?
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