Google buys Mac/iOS email client Sparrow, say good-bye to new features

Dang, Google just acquired the popular Mac and iOS email client Sparrow. The value of the transaction or terms of the deal have not been made public, though The Verge thinks Google paid under $25 million for Sparrow. According to a blog post announcing the acquisition, this deal will help the Sparrow team “accomplish a bigger vision”, one the team says  “can better achieve with Google”. Hopefully that means buying some notification servers, though Sparrow’s email to customers is anything but encouraging. Full details below…

Here’s from Sparrow CEO Dom Leca:

We’re excited to announce that Sparrow has been acquired by Google!

We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience.

Now we’re joining the Gmail team to accomplish a bigger vision — one that we think we can better achieve with Google.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our users who have supported us, advised us, given us priceless feedback and allowed us to build a better mail application. While we’ll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users.

We had an amazing ride and can’t thank you enough.

Full speed ahead!
Dom Leca

Sparrow provides arguably the best Gmail experience on both Mac and iOS, despite some shortcomings. Google, on the other hand, launched its native Gmail client for the iPad and iPhone last November.

The initial version was a disgrace. Though Google fixed flaws and introduced interesting new features via free updates,  Gmail for iOS is nearly as popular as Sparrow because it’s basically just a mobile page wrapped inside iOS code.


Sparrow got support for POP accounts last month and promised native iPad version soon. Unfortunatelly, the popular program falls short in push notifications for new email messages. It’s not the company’s fault as that’s a big no-no under Apple’s rules.

The Sparrow team indicated that push notifications are being worked on, utilizing its own notification server. The problem is, pushing possibly millions of alerts each day via custom servers as opposed to delivering those through Apple’s servers conceivably requires significant investment in own server infrastructure.

No wonder Sparrow said push notifications will arrive on a yearly subscription basis.

Hopefully Google will pay for those servers and continue developing Sparrow as a standalone, paid app. I even don’t want to mention the other possibility (but you can, down in the comments).

According to an email message Sparrow just sent to customers, the team will continue providing support and critical updates for the Sparrow apps, but will cease work on new features:

We will continue to make available our existing products, and we will provide support and critical updates to our users. However, as we’ll be busy with new projects at Google, we do not plan to release new features for the Sparrow apps.

I think this means they’ll integrate Sparrow tech into the Gmail app for iPhone and iPad. Google of course should be given the benefit of the doubt, but here’s to the hoping that we won’t have to start +1-ing our emails in Sparrow before we can respond to them.

A Google spokesperson reached out with a written statement:

The Sparrow team has always put their users first by focusing on building a seamlessly simple and intuitive interface for their email client. We look forward to bringing them aboard the Gmail team, where they’ll be working on new projects.

Dang, I bet you didn’t see coming, did you?

What now?