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Proton Mail Rapid Rundown
Proton Mail is one of the smoothest and most secure email providers on the market. It's the perfect blend of slick, modern aesthetics, and robust, impenetrable security. The moment you sign in, you'll feel right at home. There's not a single hint of it being a secure email service, but it is.
In fact, ProtonMail is loaded with security features. Even Proton Mail Free already comes with a password manager, an encrypted calendar, and a VPN. You won’t find those in other secure email services. The paid Proton account gives you even more features. Plus it gives you more storage than other secure email providers.
One slight downside is that it requires you to provide an email upon sign-up. You'll have to enter either a current email address or a phone number. I never had to submit any of these when I signed up for other secure mail services like Hushmail or Tutanota.
|Quick Proton Mail Review|
|Overall rank||2 out of 7|
|Starting Price||€3.99 per month when billed annually|
|Encrypted email to non-subscribers|
|Storage limit for individuals||15GB per user|
- End-to-end encryption: This doesn't only apply to email. Even your calendars get end-to-end encryption.
- Proton VPN: Secures your other online activities. It prevents other people from spying on your connections.
- Proton Calendar: Lets you plan and organize events on an interactive calendar. Adding and rearranging events is a cinch.
Pros and Cons
Before we get into the full Protonmail review, here's a quick snapshot of the pros and cons of ProtonMail:
Proton Mail Pricing
ProtonMail is slightly more expensive than its competitors, but you get a lot for that extra price. For instance, its cheapest plan for individuals is about $4.31 per user per month when I converted it to USD today. Its closest competitors, Hushmail and Tutanota, cost about $4.17 and $3.25 respectively.
However, if you consider the features in each plan, you'll see a different perspective. For instance, even free users of ProtonMail get access to Proton Calendar and Proton VPN. Other similar services don't offer these features even in their paid plans. Hushmail is one example. The ProtonMail paid plans give you those features and more. They even give you bigger storage.
Proton mail offers several plans to choose from. There are three individual Proton Mail plans. There's also one family plan and three business plans. Check out this Proton Mail cost comparison table to compare the different plans. I omitted the Enterprise plan because it's a customizable plan. It’s for really large businesses.
|Monthly pricing if billed annually and converted to USD||$0.00||$4.31||$10.80||$25.91||$7.55||$11.87|
|Number of email addresses per user||1||10||15||1||10||15|
|Storage per user||1 GB||15GB||500 GB||3 TB total||15 GB||500 GB|
|Calendars per user||3||25||25||25||25||25|
|VPN connections per user||1||1||10||1||1||10|
|Supported custom email domains||0||1||3||3||3||10|
|Encrypted messages to non-Proton Mail users|
|Proton Mail Bridge support|
|Unlimited messages per day|
(up to 150)
Proton Mail Security and Privacy
ProtonMail sets a high standard for what a secure email provider should be. It's not just that Proton Mail is loaded with security features. That's certainly a big plus. But one thing that sets it apart is its adherence to open source principles. All Proton apps are actually open source. That means they're open for scrutiny, criticism, and audits. When Proton Mail claims that a particular feature is secure, other people can verify it.
This level of transparency minimizes vulnerabilities in the Proton Mail code. If a vulnerability exists, someone can point it out. Others can also chime in and recommend improvements. This collaborative approach strengthens the security of Proton Mail. It also builds trust and confidence among users. Let's now talk about some of the key security features that make up this email service.
One of Proton Mail’s key security features is its end-to-end encryption. In this kind of encryption, the message is encrypted starting from the sender all the way to the receiver. It can't be decrypted anywhere along the way. When you send end-to-end-encrypted messages, only you and your recipient can view them. So even if your emails pass through Proton Mail servers, Proton staff can't read your messages.
Non-Proton Mail users can send you encrypted email using their own email service. But it won't be true end-to-end encryption. In most cases, their messages will be sent through TLS. It's the same kind of encryption used when popular web browsers connect to secure websites. You'll know your browser is using TLS when you see the lock icon.
As hinted, this TLS-based connection isn’t end-to-end encryption. Your data will only be encrypted from your browser to the web server. Upon arrival, your data will be decrypted. This is also what happens when a user sends you email through a non-Proton mail client. The email will be decrypted upon arrival. Yes, ProtonMail servers will encrypt the email as soon as possible. However, there's going to be that split second when the email will be unencrypted. That's why it's not end-to-end.
I like how Proton Mail stores your emails from non-ProtonMail users. As mentioned above, ProtonMail encrypts them as soon as they arrive. ProtonMail calls this zero access encryption or zero knowledge encryption. That's because they won't be accessible to anyone other than you once they're encrypted. Not even Proton staff can access them. Yes, it's not end-to-end encryption (E2EE). But it still beats storing emails unencrypted.
Zero-knowledge encryption isn't a common practice. Many service providers will encrypt your data while stored on their servers. However, the encryption is normally carried out using that provider's encryption keys. That means the provider can also decrypt the data. With zero access encryption, it's your keys that's going to be used for encryption. So only you can perform the decryption.
You must however note that Proton Mail doesn't encrypt email subject lines. Email contents and attachments are encrypted but email subject lines are not. That means if Proton is asked to turn over user data to authorities, your subject lines will be visible. Proton Mail isn't the only provider that doesn't encrypt subject lines. Hushmail doesn't either. Tutanota does support encrypted subject lines though. That said, the information authorities can get from subject lines is quite limited. Still, it's something to keep in mind.
Encrypted messages to non-Proton Mail users
You can use Proton Mail to send encrypted messages to non-ProtonMail users. Each email is locked by a mailbox password that you set when you send the email. When the recipient views your email on their email client, they'll see a link that says ‘Unlock message'. They must click that link. They'll then be redirected to the Proton Mail website. There, they'll have to enter the mailbox password to view your message.
When you send out an encrypted email like this, it will be automatically deleted in 28 days by default. You can change the expiration date and time by clicking the ellipsis beside the lock icon. You can then specify when you want the email to be automatically deleted.
ProtonMail doesn’t just store that email in encrypted form. In addition, it redirects the recipient to your mailbox through a TLS connection. That essentially means the email is end-to-end encrypted. I really like this feature. Not every person in your contact list is going to be a ProtonMail user. It's important to maintain secure email practices regardless whoever we send email to. ProtonMail allows us to do just that.
Proton Mail Bridge
Proton Mail offers a way to equip your favorite email client with ProtonMail E2EE. It's called Proton Mail Bridge. Proton Mail Bridge supports all popular email clients. That includes Outlook, ThunderBird, and Apple Mail. Theoretically, any email client that supports IMAP and SMTP protocols should work. This option is perfect for users who want to stick with their old email client but want to boost email security.
Unfortunately, Proton Mail Bridge falls under Proton Mail's premium features. That means it's only available to paid users. You couldn't even give it a test run. I'm pretty sure some users would prefer to test how well it syncs with their email client before deciding to buy. Mac users, for instance, may want to test its integration with Apple Mail first. Other Proton technologies like Calendar, VPN, and Pass are already found in the free plan. So I don't understand why Bridge is treated differently.
Features and Capabilities
When you sign up to Proton Mail, you don't just get a secure email service. You're not limited to email features and capabilities. Rather, you get instant access to the entire Proton product family. That includes Proton Calendar, Proton Drive, Proton VPN, and Proton Pass. Let's take a quick look at these Proton technologies.
All popular email services like Gmail and Outlook come with an integrated calendar. It just makes perfect sense. Email and calendar services work hand-in-hand and are a big part of our daily workflows. For instance, you can create an event on Calendar and then set a reminder via email notification. Or you can add a meeting invite received through email to your calendar. So seeing Proton Calendar accompanying ProtonMail is a big plus for me.
Proton Mail's security extends to Proton Calendar. What you're seeing below is actually an encrypted calendar when stored. That means all the information you put in that calendar will be confidential. Only you and whoever you share that calendar with can view it.
Proton Drive is a secure cloud-based file storage that comes with the Proton Mail service. You can use it to store document files, image files, and even video files. Everything you store on Proton Drive is encrypted. Not even the folks at Proton can view them. Moreover, you can share the files you store in a secure manner. You can share them with a password-protected link that expires on a certain date.
Free users are initially given only 500MB of storage space. You can easily unlock 1 GB of storage by performing a few tasks. 1 GB isn't too bad. Other email providers like Tutanota offer 1GB in their free plan as well. And others, like Hushmail, don't have an integrated file storage service at all.
However, some people may find even 1 GB to be quite limited. For example, I typically create 15 to 25-minute videos for my Food Ranger YouTube channel. Now, a 15-minute HD video can easily reach 1.5GB, so I can’t store even a single video with a free plan.
Yes, most people aren't vloggers and won't be storing videos in the cloud. Still, it's easy to reach that 1 GB limit, especially if you upload image files or files that have images on them. This storage space is shared among 3 Proton technologies. That is, ProtonMail, Proton Drive, and Calendar. So that capacity can really fill up quickly. If you do decide to get ProtonMail, go for a paid plan to unlock greater storage and other premium features.
Among my preferred email providers, Proton Mail and Tutanota offer the biggest storage. Both Proton Mail and Tutanota offer 500 GB for their most expensive individual plan. For Proton Mail, that's the Unlimited Plan. And for Tutanota, it's the Legend Plan.
Proton VPN is a fast, reliable, and secure VPN. It hides your IP addresses and browsing data, allowing you to browse the web in private. This will substantially reduce the risk of you being spied on or tracked. Note that only premium users can benefit from ProtonVPN's high speed connections. Free users only get medium-speed connections, so this is another reason to go for a paid plan
Even if ProtonMail is a secure email service, you can still benefit from the security features of a VPN. You can use a VPN to encrypt your other connections, not just email. You can use it to bypass geo-blockers that might also block access to Proton Mail servers. You can also use it to add a layer of protection and make Proton Mail safer, especially when you're on public Wi-Fi.
Proton Pass is Proton Mail’s built-in password manager. It can generate a strong password for you when you sign up for a new account on any website. It will also save that password, along with your email address/username in its vault. The next time you visit that site, Proton Pass can auto-fill your login info and let you login in an instant.
I noticed multiple flaws and deficiencies when I tested Proton Pass. Yes, it’s easily accessible right from within Proton Mail, and that’s great.
But once I got inside it, I hit a blank wall. I'm familiar with other password managers like NordPass, 1Password, Dashlane, and Bitwarden. So I started looking for common features found in a password manager's web app. But I couldn't find them. I couldn't even find any password vault or password generator. These are basic features. Turns, out I still had to download either a Proton Pass app or browser extension.
And then after I installed the extension and started using it, I encountered more issues. I had difficulty saving login credentials. I must have done something wrong. Still, you have to consider that I just followed the usual steps I take with other password managers. If those steps work with those tools, it should work for Proton Pass as well.
Proton Pass was just launched earlier this year, so I’m willing to chalk those up to growing pains. I still think it's awesome for ProtonMail to have a built-in password manager. You can even use it to create a strong password for your Proton email account. That will make your Proton Mail safe against brute force attacks.
Proton Mail mobile apps
ProtonMail's mobile apps give you quick access to this email client on your mobile device. ProtonMail mobile apps are available on both Android or iOS. Both interfaces are clean and user-friendly. These apps make it incredibly easy to send encrypted emails on the go.
My daily email routine usually begins with a quick scan of my inbox on my email service's mobile app. I do this because it's much faster to delete unimportant emails on the mobile app than on the browser. You simply swipe away. So I’m loving how Proton Mail supports this swiping feature.
In fact, the ProtonMail mobile app’s swiping actions are customizable. You can choose what happens when you swipe to the right or to the left. So, for example, you can set it so that ProtonMail deletes the email when you swipe from right to left. And then you can let it archive the email when you swipe from left to right. Interestingly, both swipes default to Archive, so you might want to change that.
Custom email domain
You can have your own personal email address through what is known as a custom email domain. When you subscribe to Proton Mail, you're initially given a generic email domain. That's usually @proton.me or @protonmail.com. So, for example, your Proton address might be firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now, let's say you have a business and its name is Some Biz Name. You'll probably want to use a personalized email address like email@example.com. That will give you a more unique identity and is much better for branding purposes. This is where Proton Mail custom email domains come into play.
To take advantage of the Proton Mail custom email domains feature, you need two things:
1. A custom domain purchased from a domain name registrar like Bluehost or Hostpoint.
2. A paid Proton Mail account.
This feature isn’t available in Proton Mail Free. But if you're a business owner, professional, or freelancer, I recommend you upgrade to a paid plan. A custom domain will make your email address more recognizable.
Proton Mail aliases
Proton Mail offers multiple ways of using email aliases. If you’re not familiar with email aliases, they're like real-world aliases. So, for example, your name is John Doe but people also call you Deer Man or Do Re Mi. Email aliases work just like that. They're email addresses associated with your real email address.
Other people or services don't have to use your real email address to communicate with you. Instead, they can get in touch with you through your Proton Mail alias. You can submit a different email alias to each service you sign up with. Those services won't know your real email address. This can reduce your digital footprint. It would make it much harder for other people to track you or put together a profile of you to market to.
Proton Mail aliases come in three forms:
- Additional addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- +Aliases like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Hide-my-email aliases like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Here’s a diagram showing how Proton Mail aliases relate to your email address.
You can already get 10 hide-my-email aliases via Proton Pass with Proton free. That might seem like a pretty good deal at the start. But once you get the hang of it, you'll want more email aliases. The only way to scratch that itch is to upgrade. Premium accounts give you unlimited hide-my-email aliases!
Ease of Use and Setup
Proton Mail makes its mark not only as a secure email provider but also in the ease of use and setup of its apps. With Proton Mail, setting up a secure email account is a breeze. Even those who aren't tech-savvy will find the process uncomplicated and quick. Once it's installed, the setup process is likewise straightforward. Then when you ultimately use Proton Mail, you'll find the experience remarkably intuitive.
To give you a glimpse of what it's like to use Proton Mail, here are some common workflow examples.
Proton Mail account creation
The Proton Mail account creation process is pretty straightforward. The process I’ve outlined below is just for the free account. However, the steps for a ProtonMail paid account should be about the same. The only difference in a paid plan would be that you'll be asked to specify a payment method. Here are the general steps.
- Go to the pricing page and click the appropriate “Get Proton…” button.
- Enter a username and password.
- Enter an email or a phone number. ProtonMail will send a verification code to either of these two. Once you get the verification code, you can enter that code on the next screen to verify.
This is the part that many privacy advocates are complaining about. Other top secure email services don't request this information during sign up. That means, it shouldn't be necessary. Many of us worry about getting spammed or getting involved in a data breach. So it's understandable to be cautious about sharing personal contact information. If you're not comfortable with this step, check out Hushmail or Tutanota. They don't require this information.
- Enter a display name. This is different from the username you entered earlier. Your display name is the name people will see when they receive your email messages.
- Enter a recovery phone number and/or email address.
Using the Proton Mail web app
The Proton Mail web app is easy to use. It's got all the usual sections found in a typical email account. It's got Inbox, Sent, Trash, Spam, and so on on the left side of the screen—just like any popular email client. So you can hit the ground running as soon as you log in. And while the speed isn't as fast as, say, Gmail, it's fast enough for me.
I usually prefer to compose email messages on the web app than on the mobile app. The web interface obviously has a much larger screen real estate. But aside from that, I also like using a full-sized keyboard. It's much faster composing emails that way. That said, I usually check emails on the mobile app first. Check out the section on Proton Mail mobile apps to see why.
Proton Mail has the most visually appealing web app of all secure email services, in my opinion. It's definitely more lively than Hushmail or Tutanota. If you don't like the default Proton theme, you can change it in Settings in the upper-right corner of the screen.
Organizing Proton Mail messages using labels
I receive over a hundred emails per day, so the presence of a labeling feature on Proton Mail is a big plus for me. The ability to label emails keeps my inbox organized. In turn, it boosts my productivity, as I can prioritize messages that are more important.
Creating and using labels on Proton Mail is easy. Creating a label can be done in 3 quick steps. And then once a label is available, you can easily select emails and tag them with the right label. If you just want to show emails under a particular label, just click their label on the left panel of your screen.
Setting up Proton Mail 2FA
Whenever an online service I sign up for supports 2-factor authentication, I make it a point to enable it. It makes me feel more secure. I'm glad Proton Mail offers 2FA even in the free version. What's more, setting up Proton Mail 2FA is super easy. I probably completed the set up in about a minute.
I was able to set up Proton Mail 2FA on the web app. Here are the general steps I took to complete the setup process.
- I clicked the gear icon on the upper right side of the inbox page.
- When the menu appeared, I clicked ‘Go to settings’.
- I then went to the ‘Account and password’ section and then switched on the Authenticator app toggle switch
- I was asked to enter my Proton Mail password. I complied and then clicked the ‘Authenticate’ button.
- I was then asked to scan the QR code with my authenticator app. I normally use either the Microsoft Authenticator or the Google Authenticator for this purpose.
- After that, I was asked to enter the code shown for Proton on my authenticator app’s screen.
That’s it. Like I said, I completed everything in about a minute.
Proton Mail offers extensive customer support options. This includes live chat, phone, email, and a Help Desk system through Zendesk. Their customer support team is available 24/7, so they can respond regardless of your time zone. Just bear in mind that only premium users are entitled to priority support. If you're using a free version, you'll only get limited support. This means you'll be given lower priority if your request coincides with that of a paid user.
You can also get help through their social media accounts. They're most active on Twitter and Reddit. But they have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and Youtube as well. If you have a technical question, you'll get a better response from the Reddit community.
We're now at the end of this Proton Mail review. Before we part ways, I'd like to invite you to our FAQ section. Many readers find golden nuggets of wisdom there, so feel free to scroll down a little bit more.
Proton Mail FAQ
As you explore the Proton Mail platform, you might have some queries or concerns. This section might just have the answers you're looking for. It's meant to address common questions that may have popped up along your journey. Let's dive in!
What are the top Proton Mail alternatives?
ProtonMail is no doubt one of the best secure email services out there. But before you decide on going for any paid plan, you might want to check out Hushmail and Tutanota. They're good alternatives if you're not comfortable with ProtonMail's verification step. I'm talking about the part where you have to submit a current email address or phone number. Review the account creation process to see what I mean.
Here's a comparison table you can use to compare the three services side by side. Each service has several plans. The space is too small for all of them to fit in, so I'm just showing you the most budget-friendly individual plans.
|Individual plan monthly cost if billed annually||$4.17 / User||$4.31 / User||$3.25 / User|
|Storage per user||10 GB||15 GB||20 GB|
|Attachment size||20 MB||25 MB||25 MB|
|Encrypted email to non-subscribers|
|Unlimited email alias|
Are there any free Proton Mail versions?
Yes, ProtonMail has a free version. With a free account, you get 1GB storage, 1 email account, 3 calendars, a VPN, and even a password manager. It's actually packed with features. Some of those features are even non-existent in other top email services. Hushmail, for instance, has no calendar or a VPN.
That said, it's worth noting that the 1GB storage can turn out to be too small. You can quickly run out of space due to file attachments. Still, the free account is an excellent way of trying out ProtonMail with no commitment. You don't have to submit a payment method.
Proton Mail vs Gmail – Which is faster?
In terms of speed, it's worth noting that ProtonMail does not perform quite as swiftly as Gmail. There are a few reasons for this slight lag. Firstly, ProtonMail performs E2EE. So it needs a bit more time to encrypt and decrypt messages. Gmail doesn't perform E2EE. This minor slowdown may be noticeable. But it's a small price to pay for the advanced level of security and privacy that Proton Mail provides.
Who owns Proton Mail?
Proton Mail is owned by Proton AG, a Swiss company offering online privacy services. Proton AG is headquartered in Switzerland, a country that has strict privacy laws. Furthermore, Proton itself is GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) compliant. GDPR is the European Union's main data privacy and security law. All this combined has profound implications. It means Proton Mail is very serious about privacy.
What are the advantages of exchanging email with other Proton Mail users?
Communicating with other ProtonMail users comes with its set of advantages. Number one is the enhanced security. When two ProtonMail users exchange emails, the conversation is end-to-end encrypted. No one else can access the content of your emails. Not even Proton Mail staff can access them.
In comparison, when you send to non-ProtonMail users, your email may not be encrypted at their end. Another issue is when your recipient's email provider doesn't support TLS. In cases like this , your message will be unprotected as it's being sent through the web.
Lastly, there's the issue of metadata. When you send an email to another Proton Mail user, the amount of metadata retained is very minimal. This contrasts with how most email service providers treat metadata. They tend to collect and store a lot of metadata, unlike Proton Mail.
Can Proton Mail hand over user data to authorities?
Proton Mail vs Hushmail – Which is better?
Hushmail is one of my personal top-rated secure email services. Like Proton Mail, it also offers end-to-end encryption and several other security features. However, it seems to be targeted at certain professionals. It's more suited for the Healthcare and legal industry. If you're working in these spaces, Hushmail is a perfect choice. It's got features that will help you in, say, HIPAA compliance.
For the rest of the population, I would recommend Proton Mail, at least for now. It currently has more features like a VPN, a calendar, a password manager, and so on. It also has an integrated storage service. You can attach larger and a greater number of files to your emails due to its larger storage capacity. It has a more slick interface too, if that counts for you.
Is the Proton Mail iPhone app any good?
It certainly is. The Proton Mail iPhone app makes me feel as if I'm just using Gmail. And that's great because security shouldn't be intrusive. As much as possible, it should do its job without disrupting your normal workflow. Yes, I still have to click the encrypt button when I want to send a secure email to a non-Proton Mail user. But I quickly got used to that. It feels natural now.
Except the swiping motions, which I had to customize, most of the default settings were just right. Also, settings I apply on the web app are synchronized seamlessly with the iPhone app. Overall, the intuitive design and robust security make this a great app for secure mail on the go.
How to check Proton Mail status?
When something happens to an app or web service I’m using, I usually go to Twitter to check the status. In most cases, someone would have already tweeted about it. For Proton Mail, you don't have to do that. Proton has a dedicated status page that posts status updates. It doesn't just cover Proton Mail. Rather, it includes status updates for all other Proton services.
It also provides status updates for individual components. For example, for Proton Mail, you can see the status of the web app, mobile apps, Bridge, and so on. Moreover, you can even see scheduled maintenance alerts. This will allow you to anticipate potential interruptions or performance issues. In turn, you can plan accordingly.
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