Gmail is an incredibly popular email service. It has billions of users who daily take advantage of its features and popularity. However, if you are concerned with protecting your online privacy, using Gmail would be problematic. This is because Google has long held a reputation for sucking up a lot of personal data about its users.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see how much personal data Gmail collects. Google’s entire business model revolves around collecting as much private information on users as possible in order to benefit advertisers and other third parties.
If privacy is important to you, you should definitely be looking for an alternative to Gmail.
Things to look for in a Gmail alternative
There isn’t an email service that serves as an exact replacement for Gmail. So, we looked for several characteristics that would give most of the benefits of Gmail, but without sacrificing user privacy. Here are the main things we were looking for.
- The ability to import messages and contacts from Gmail
- A safe jurisdiction that respects privacy
- End-to-end (E2E) encryption for truly private messages
- The non-email features you need such as a calendar, notes, and tasks
We’ll cover each of these in detail, but first, let’s look at the best Gmail alternatives that made our list for 2024, along with some exclusive discounts.
- Proton Mail – Best for strong encryption (33% off coupon)
- StartMail – Private email hosted in The Netherlands (50% off coupon)
- Mailfence – A secure and customizable email service
- Tutanota – Secure Email for Any Device
- Mailbox.org – Affordable private German email service
- Posteo – Reliable anonymous email service
- Runbox – Private email in Norway
- CounterMail – Swedish email with strong security features
- Kolab Now: Swiss email, compliant with GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI
- Soverin – Basic private email service
1. Convenient email and contact migration
Assuming you are a Gmail user looking to switch, you probably have messages and contacts that you’ll need. In the mini-reviews that follow, we’ll let you know what it takes to migrate your messages and contacts out of Gmail and into the Gmail alternative.
2. Located in a safe jurisdiction
No matter how hardcore pro-privacy an email service is, in the end, they must obey the laws of their location (jurisdiction) or go out of business. Some jurisdictions, such as Switzerland, are far more protective of your privacy than, say, the United States.
The United States is a founding member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. It also has many laws allowing the government to spy on virtually anyone on Earth, and to force companies in this jurisdiction to help the government spy on people.
National Security Letters are administrative subpoenas that can force companies to secretly spy on citizens, and don’t even require a judge’s signature. To make things worse, demands for information can be accompanied by gag orders that make it a crime for the company to disclose that its customers are being spied upon.
Several years ago, a US-based encrypted email service called Lavabit shut its doors rather than share private data on its users. However, most aren’t that committed to their users’ privacy. We know of two other email services that eventually cooperated with the authorities and handed over user data. This has also happened with a few US-based VPN services, as we noted in our IPVanish review.
Cases like this show why it is important to at least know where email providers are based. It will give you some kind of idea about the potential risks of using any particular email service. Choosing an encrypted email service with E2E (end-to-end) encryption will help regardless of the laws in a jurisdiction. That’s because an email service can only be forced to disclose information that it has in its possession. When an email service is E2E encrypted, only the user and recipient have access to the emails.
3. Availability of End-to-end (E2E) encryption
End-to-end encryption is the gold standard of email privacy. When an email service uses E2E encryption, your messages are encrypted in the app or web browser before they leave your device. They can only be decrypted by the intended recipient. Even though your messages may pass through its servers, your email service cannot decrypt them.
Whether the encryption on your messages could be cracked or not depends on which encryption algorithm the email service uses. PGP is an older encryption standard that is still used by some providers. It is secure, despite some reports to the contrary that were published years ago. Those reports were related to incorrect implementation of PGP by third parties. To the best of our knowledge, none of those problems affect our recommended Gmail alternatives.
E2E encryption like this is important when even the US government can’t protect itself from massive data breaches.
Privacy Tip: When using email, be sure to also use a good VPN to hide your IP address and secure your internet traffic. We use and recommend NordVPN, one of the top services that has passed independent privacy and security audits. Get 67% off NordVPN here >
Drawbacks of PGP/OpenPGP
In recent times, PGP is being superseded by OpenPGP, an open source variant of PGP that can be used freely by any email service. However, both of them have some drawbacks that have to be discussed.
- PGP and OpenPGP do not encrypt email subject lines
This also includes the sender and recipient email addresses. Information about your email messages is valuable even if a snoop can’t read the content of the messages. Knowing what the Subjects of all your messages are and who you are emailing is still quite valuable for intel gathering. So, this facet of PGP and OpenPGP is not ideal.
- The hassle of dealing with encrypted email messages.
Unless both parties are using an automated E2E email service, someone will still have to deal with PGP key creation and management, as well as encryption/decryption of messages. This may overwhelm some users that are not tech-savvy.
As you will see, some services do not use PGP or OpenPGP to encrypt their messages. These have their own pros and cons, which we will mention in the mini review section.
Note: Since early 2021, the European Parliament is considering a controversial initiative that many believe would bring an end to E2E encryption (see below) in the name of the “fight against child abuse.”
Not surprisingly, several European tech companies, including Tutanota, Mailfence, and Mailbox.org have banded together and objected to this latest attempt by politicians to strip away privacy rights and impose more surveillance measures. You can read the letter the companies sent to Parliament here.
Using VPNs to enhance your safety and privacy
Another useful tactic for protecting yourself is to use a good VPN that is also based in a safe jurisdiction. A VPN helps by connecting you to a server in different country, which gives you new IP address. Since your IP is the main way in which you can be identified on the internet, keeping your real address hidden makes it much harder for spies to connect the data they gather with you.
Premium services also provide obfuscated servers. They go a step further by concealing that you are using a VPN, which gives you a complete anonymity.
The vulnerability of browser-based email
Many email clients run in your browser. This is convenient since you don’t need to install any separate email app, and you know your email client is always up to date since it gets loaded anew whenever you launch it.
However, there are still safety issues to consider, even if you are using a secure browser. The encryption libraries used in web browsers can be vulnerable to attack through various means. On the other hand, the email services know about this weak points and take steps to protect them.
Where does this leave you? If the email service offers a standalone email client or a mobile app, you should avoid using the browser-based client. In general, standalone email clients and mobile apps tend to be more secure than the browser-based ones.
Regardless of what form the email client takes, consider using a quality VPN with advanced security features such as NordVPN or Surfshark. Both of these services have a VPN ad blocking feature that will filter out ads, trackers, malware, and phishing websites. They could keep many of the worst attacks from even reaching your web browser.
No Gmail alternative is perfect
I was looking for email providers that could tick all the boxes above. This was easier said than done. In the end, I settled for 10 quality email services that, depending on your needs and circumstances, could serve as viable alternatives to Gmail.
Here is the criteria I’ve used to find the best services:
1. Access to non-essential email features
While Gmail is known as an email service, it can do much more than just send and receive messages and manage contacts. It has a calendar, notes, and tasks features as well. If you are looking for a reliable Gmail alternative, and use one or more of these non-email features, it would make sense to focus on services that also offer these tools.
Some of the email services we’ll talk about have all those capabilities. Others are more minimalistic. Knowing which features you want in your Gmail alternative will help you narrow down your options.
Nice to haves
In addition to the above, it is nice to have as many of these features as possible:
- IMAP and POP or SMTP protocol support lets you connect to other encrypted email apps
- Open source code, which we consider to be less likely to have major bugs or hidden backdoors
- Anonymous registration and payment lets you subscribe to the Gmail alternative without sacrificing your privacy
- Custom email domains for presenting a more professional face to the world
The best Gmail alternatives for 2024
Now that you know what characteristics I looked for when I reviewed alternatives to Gmail, let’s look at the final result. Here are 10 of the best alternatives to Gmail:
1. Proton Mail – A secure Swiss Gmail alternative
|Up to 1 GB
Proton Mail is perhaps the best-known secure and private email services. But, fame doesn’t necessarily equal quality or value. In this case, however, its status is completely justified.
The result of this cooperation is an easy-to-use, secure, and private email service with users around the world. Proton Mail uses E2E PGP encryption for your messages and their attachments, as well as the built-in calendar and contacts apps. Everything is stored encrypted on Swiss servers in an underground bunker, providing excellent security. Recently, this service has added Tracking Links Protection feature that will remove tracking pixels from incoming messages.
Keep in mind that, since Proton Mail uses PGP, subject lines and email addresses will remain unencrypted. A related issue is that the search function only scans the subject lines of messages as other parts are securely encrypted.
Intuitive email migration
Switching from Gmail to Proton Mail is convenient, since subscribers will get access to Import-Export app. With it, you can quickly copy your contacts and important emails.
Proton Mail offers some additional features you could find useful:
- Proton Calendar – a calendar app
- Proton Drive – a way to share stored files by sending secure links
- ProtonVPN – a basic VPN that is included as part of the high-end Visionary plan, but can also be added to the other plans. If that feature seems interesting, check out our ProtonVPN review.
- Proton Mail Bridge, a feature available to paid users that allows Proton Mail to work with third-party email apps
- Quality Android and iOS mobile apps
While it may lack some of the additional features Gmail users are accustomed to, Proton Mail is a quality email provider and a great alternative to Gmail for many users. While it’s pricing is above average, there is also a free version of Proton Mail that may also suit your needs.
For more details, check out our Proton Mail review or the website below.
2. StartMail – Server-side encryption and third-party email support
|7 day trial
StartMail is a secure email service from the Netherlands. It was created by the team behind Startpage, a private search engine that we are a bit wary of since Startpage was acquired by System1. However, StartMail is a separate entity under the company StartMail B.V. which operates under Dutch law in The Netherlands. Whether that is sufficient separation from System1 is your call.
StartMail has IMAP and SMTP support, allowing you to use it with other email services and import your Gmail messages and contacts. Other useful features include 20 GB of storage space and the ability to use your own domains.
One StartMail feature we really like is the ability to create temporary, disposable email addresses as needed to use with different services. Similar to Tutanota, you also have a way to send encrypted, password-protected email to anyone.
Here’s a real difference from the other services we’ve looked at so far. StartMail encrypts your email on the server, rather than in your web browser.Their white paper offers some good arguments for why that is the way to go, despite most services opting for the browser encryption. We’re not convinced, but you should check out the white paper and decide for yourself.
StartMail offers some definite pluses, along with a couple of things that give us pause. If you are interested in this service, you should take advantage of the 30 day limited free trial and give it a good shaking before committing to the $60/year subscription fee.
3. Mailfence – A feature-rich alternative to Gmail
Mailfence is a feature-rich, secure Gmail alternative. It offers a calendar, file storage capacity, and groups in addition to the standard email and contact support you might expect. This service is based in Belgium, a country with good privacy jurisdiction that enforces strict data protection laws.
Mailfence has built-in OpenPGP support, which means your that it is secure and compatible with other popular email services. However, its subject lines and email addresses are still unencrypted.
During our testing for the Mailfence review, we found a lot to like about this service. It has an intuitive design, attractive layout, and many extra features. Two things we were happy to learn was that Mailfence offers email and phone support, and they accept cryptocurrency payment, so you can remain fully private when subscribing.
This service encrypts all of your messages in the browser, giving you full E2E protection. No nosy third parties, nor even Mailfence’s engineers, can read your emails.
Mailfence can import messages and contacts from virtually any other mail service, as it supports POP, SMTP, IMAP, and Exchange ActiveSync. The service provides its own web app as well as a progressive web app (PWA), which works on Android and iOS devices with certain browsers.
Note: Mailfence has recently stopped supporting POP/IMAP connection to Gmail servers because of Google’s financial requirements.
All in all, we think Mailfence is one of the best alternatives to Gmail as well as productivity suites like G Suite and Office 365.
For more info see our full Mailfence review.
4. Tutanota – Private email with AES security
Tutanota is an open source secure and private email service based in Germany. The company has no outside investors or other influences that could pressure them to trade-off user privacy for money. Tutanota aims to provide the highest levels of email security, which they pursue without making it difficult to use.
Tutanota utilizes a hybrid encryption standard that uses AES and RSA instead of PGP and S/MIME. One of the benefits of this approach is that it encrypts the Subject line, and email addresses in the message headers. Tutanota also supports perfect forward secrecy (PFS), strips IP addresses from messages, and according to the team can even be updated or hardened against quantum computer attacks if that becomes necessary in the future.
Tutanota provides full E2E encryption for messages in your inbox, your contacts, and your calendar. All your data is encrypted at rest on the companies servers in Germany. You have a few options for sending messages with Tutanota, depending on who you are sending them to. If you are:
- Emailing another Tutanota user, the system automatically encrypts and decrypts everything for you as needed. From the user’s perspective, the E2E encryption is totally transparent.
- Emailing a non-Tutanota user, you can send the message unencrypted, or you can send an email with a link to the message. You’ll also need to communicate a password key (preferably via another communication channel such as an encrypted messaging app) the recipient can use to open an encrypted mailbox where they can read the message.
Tutanota is safe, but not compatible
Tutanota is one of the most secure alternatives to Gmail you are going to find. However, it isn’t perfect. Since it doesn’t support PGP or OpenPGP, you won’t be able to send encrypted messages to people using other email services. To explain why Tutanota does not rely on PGP standards, Tutanota cofounder Matthias Pfau wrote this piece for Restore Privacy readers: Let PGP Die: Why We Need a New Standard for Email Encryption.
In addition, Tutanota does not support importing emails from other services (no POP, IMAP, or SMTP support). The company says they are working on a fix for this, but it has been on the roadmap since 2018, with no indication when or if it might be implemented.
Although it is not compatible with many email services, Tutanota has a strong cross-platform support. It offers a web app, Windows, Mac OS, and Linux desktop apps, along with apps for Android and iOS.
While Tutanota isn’t perfect, it is pretty darn good. If you are looking for a high-security alternative to Gmail run by a team of privacy enthusiasts, it is where he much worth checking out.
Check out the Tutanota review for more info.
5. Mailbox.org – A comprehensive alternative to Gmail
Mailbox.org is a German-based secure, open source email provider worth considering. By subscribing to it, you get far more than just an email account. You get a complete email and productivity suite.
Among other things, Mailbox.org offers the full range of Gmail-like services: Mail, Calendar, Address Book, Drive (cloud storage), Tasks, Portal, Text, Spreadsheet, Presentation, and Webchat. Despite the vast amount of capabilities sandwiched into Mailbox.org, it still has a user-friendly design. By going with Mailbox.org, you a don’t have to choose between features and security.
Mailbox.org provides full PGP support and gives you the option to encrypt all your data at rest on the company’s Germany-based servers. Thanks to SMTP, POP, and IMAP support, you can use Mailbox.org with third-party mobile email apps (they don’t have their own apps) and clients.
While Mailbox.org doesn’t have a free plan, you can test it out via 30-day trial. If you do like it, you’ll be happy to know that Mailbox.org is one of the least expensive services, with basic plans starting at €1 per month. As you would expect, more expensive plans provide more features and additional storage space.
Note: Mailbox frequently receives information requests from the government and public authorities. Just in 2022, they got 50+ requests and only rejected ~13%.
See our Mailbox.org review for more details and test results.
6. Posteo – Lots of features and an emphasis on extreme privacy
Posteo is yet another highly secure email service provider based in Germany. It has been around since 2009, and is one of the more mature Gmail alternatives on the list.
Besides a basic email account, Posteo gives you 2 GB of storage space, a calendar, a notes app, and a lot more. A recent addition to the service is an attachment browser with photo stream, which allows you to work with all your attachments without finding and opening the messages they are attached to.
In truth, Posteo is a lot like Mailbox.org. They are both filled with extra tools, encrypt your messages using OpenPGP, and even charge similar prices.
That means you get important features like the ability to import Gmail using IMAP and POP, along with synchronizing your Gmail contacts before switching the Posteo. But, it lacks a few things you would find in Mailbox.org. Posteo has no custom domains, no spam folder, and no free version or even trial mode.
Still, Posteo works hard to protect your privacy. It uses strong encryption, strips the IP addresses from messages, and keeps no logs. Posteo was also the first company in the world to implement DANE, DNS-Based Authentication of Named Entities.
Going even further, Posteo supports anonymous payments and registration. You can even send them cash in the mail to avoid leaving a digital trail. If you do pay with a credit card, PayPal, or something similar, Posteo will separate your account details from your payment info.
While it does not provide its own desktop or mobile apps, you can easily use the service with your favorite third party email clients.
Check out the Posteo review for more info.
7. Runbox – A reliable Gmail alternative with long history
While Posteo has been around for 12 years, Runbox easily has its beat. This Norwegian service has been operating for more than two decades! Norway has turned out to be a good jurisdiction for the company, due to its strong legal support for user privacy. Not only is the service based in a pro-privacy location, but its servers are all located in secure Norwegian data centers.
The legal and physical security of Runbox is particularly important since this service does not offer E2E encryption. While the communication between your device and Runbox is always securely encrypted, your messages on Runbox servers are not. Technically, you can use PGP with Runbox, although it isn’t fully integrated.
This is similar to the way Gmail handles things, which is not great. However, Runbox is a small email service that makes its money taking care of your messages, while Google is a trillion ($1,000,000,000+) dollar behemoth that does the same by using your personal information. We think you are still better off trusting your email to Runbox instead of Gmail.
Additional features such as a calendar and tasks will be included in the open source Runbox 7 project, which is a long time coming. The Runbox team likes to give users plenty of time to use and comment on the beta, but we’ve been waiting for version 7 for quite some time.
Anyways, let’s go back to the positives.
Runbox gives you the ability to create up to 100 aliases for your main email address. Depending on the pricing plan you choose, you will get as much as 50 GB of email storage and 5 GB of secure file storage space. Full SMTP, POP, and IMAP protocol support makes it easy to import your Gmail details and work with other email services. Although Runbox only offers a web browser client, it can easily work with the third-party mobile and desktop apps of your choice.
Runbox offers free trials and a 60 day money-back guarantee on their paid plans.
See our Runbox review for more info.
8. CounterMail – A very secure gmail alternative
Note: This is currently an invite-only service. To register on CounterMail, you will have to get an invite from a CounterMail user.
CounterMail is an E2E secure Swedish email provider with a 15+ year history, and a simple philosophy:
“to offer the most secure online email service on the Internet, with excellent free support.”
While I can’t vouch for them being the most secure email service on the internet, I can tell you that CounterMail makes a serious attempt at achieving that goal.
CounterMail uses OpenPGP encryption with 4,096-bit encryption keys, keeps no-logs, and runs on diskless servers to protect user privacy. This kind of security is similar to that found on high-end VPNs like NordVPN.
To further boost your security and privacy, Countermail anonymizes your email headers and strips your IP address out of the message headers. All emails and attachments are stored encrypted at rest using OpenPGP on servers in Sweden. CounterMail also protects you from identity leaks and Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attacks with additional encryption (RSA and AES-CBC) on top of SSL.
Unfortunately, CounterMail doesn’t offer you much beyond the secure core email service. The user interface looks old and you won’t get calendar, notes, or any other non-email services. However, if all you want is to import your Gmail messages into an E2E encrypted service that’ll handle your email securely, CounterMail is a solid choice.
If you need more than just email, it’s better to take a look at other Gmail alternatives on this list
9. Kolab Now – Full-featured Swiss email service
Kolab Now is a full email suite based in Switzerland, one of the best jurisdictions in the world for a privacy-oriented services. A subscription includes email, contacts, calendar, scheduling, collaboration and sharing tools, as well as cloud file storage, which makes it a great option for business users.
Every account comes with 5 GB of free storage space, and you can add more as necessary. Currently, this service is also testing video and voice conferencing system. It’s interface is intuitive and makes it easy to organize yourself. A Gmail user is unlikely to feel like anything is missing with this service.
Even better, Kolab Now is 100% open source software, and has E2E encryption with Perfect Forward Secrecy. Since Kolab Now also supports POP, IMAP, and SMTP, you can conveniently import your Gmail messages and contacts. Your data is stored encrypted on the company’s servers in Switzerland.
If you are looking for a full, secure Gmail alternative hosted in Switzerland, you’ll want to check out Kolab Now.
10. Soverin – Private email service from the Netherlands
Soverin is an affordable and secure Gmail alternative situated in one of the best jurisdictions for user privacy – the Netherlands. This service offers two plan that let you choose between using Soverin or custom domain. Whichever you choose, you will also get 25 GB of storage with it.
This Gmail alternative stores user data on servers located in Germany. It uses solid SSL/TLS encryption that also removes IP addresses from headers. Unfortunately, its emails are not stored encrypted at rest, so your privacy can still get compromised.
Soverin lets you conveniently import old emails and can work in conjunction with many third-party email providers. Keep in mind that this is a minimalistic email service, so you won’t find notes or calendar section. Still, Soverin is a decent email provider that complies with European privacy laws.
Worth considering: Skiff Mail – US-based alternative to Gmail
Skiff Mail is arising secure email service based in California. Rather than using PGP, it relies on PKI end-to-end encryption. This model doesn’t use passphrases nor public or private keys to access emails, which makes it more alluring to casual users.
This service also gives you plenty of space (15GB+) to save your messages and important files. Skiff Mail supports email migration, so you can easily import old messages by copying .EML file.
Subscription plans start at $3/month. They include disposable aliases, and there is an option to get a custom domain. Skiff Mail is similar to Gmail in the sense that it has Drive, Pages, and Calendar section. This also makes it suitable for business users.
All in all, this is an affordable alternative to Gmail that also offers a free version. This way, you can really test it out before deciding to commit. Still, I would be a bit cautious, since Skiff Mail is located in the US.
Conclusion on the best Gmail alternatives
Choosing the best Gmail alternative isn’t a straightforward process. None of these competing email service providers offer the exact same features as Gmail. As a result, you’ll have to decide which Gmail features you need, then search for a new service that provides similar features.
This is why we’ve presented you with these potential alternatives to Gmail. While each has it pros and cons, they all offer more security and privacy.
While finding your best replacement for Gmail can be complicated, we hope that this article has helped you narrow your search.
Gmail alternatives FAQs
Certain questions kept coming up while we researched this article. We have decided to answer them all.
Is Gmail still popular?
Gmail has over 1.8 billion users, which makes it worlds biggest email service. However, it is not the most secure, so you may consider switching to a safer email provider.
What is a better alternative to Gmail?
Proton Mail, Mailfence, and StartMail all provide more privacy and security than Gmail.
Can I keep my Gmail messages when I change my email service?
Yes you can, but it may take some work to get them imported into your new email service. You’ll want to check out the mini-reviews in this article to see which services can import messages and contacts from Gmail and check out their support pages to see how they do it. For example, StartMail has a convenient email migration.
How can I delete my Gmail account?
To delete your Gmail account on various devices, follow the steps laid on this Gmail Help page.
While deleting it isn’t hard, you need to make sure that doing so won’t be a disaster. You probably have a lot of stuff connected to your Gmail account, including emails, service subscriptions, social media accounts, etc. Before proceeding, make sure to provide a new email to each service to avoid complicating your life.
This Gmail alternatives guide was last updated on January 19, 2024.