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StartMail Rapid Rundown
StartMail gives you access to private and encrypted email at an affordable price. It protects your emails with end-to-end encryption via TLS and PGP. This keeps eavesdroppers away and your sensitive data safe. You can even send encrypted mail to non-StartMail users.
StartMail supports unlimited unique aliases. Aliases allow you to hide your true address. This will reduce your exposure to spam and other threats that target email addresses. If you do get spammed, you can easily get rid of them by deleting the affected alias.
Compared to other secure email services, StartMail has a few deficiencies. For instance, StartMail lacks a built-in calendar and has no free version. Proton Mail and Tutanota, for instance, have them. Proton Mail and Tutanota also have larger storage.
- Anti-spam and anti-ad features: This greatly reduces pesky ads. It keeps your inbox clean and pristine.
- Custom domain: Enables you to highlight your brand. In addition, it gives your emails a more professional touch.
- Supports PGP: PGP is the de facto standard for encrypted mail. This ensures you can communicate with other privacy-conscious individuals.
Pros and Cons
Ready to take on the main course of this StartMail review? Hold your horses a little bit more. Here's a quick snapshot of the pros and cons of using StartMail.
The Full Review
StartMail is one of the cheapest secure mail services. Yet, it comes with an array of noteworthy features. It offers unlimited aliases and PGP support. It also offers anti-spam measures and two-factor authentication. These are compelling qualities that can make you click the subscribe button. Other more expensive providers lack some of these capabilities. That said, we need to dig a little deeper to get a more accurate picture.
|Quick StartMail Review|
|Overall rank||1 out of 7|
|Starting Price||$5.00 per month when billed annually|
|Encrypted email to non-subscribers|
|Storage limit for individuals||20 GB per user|
|Coupons||Starting from $5.00/month|
The absence of a free version as well as native mobile or desktop apps can be potential turn-offs. It also lacks a calendar, something that Tutanota and Proton Mail have. In this comprehensive review, we'll cover the strengths and weaknesses of StartMail. The goal is to present an unbiased perspective. You can use what you learn here in picking the right secure mail solution for yourself or your business.
Enough of that intro. Let’s talk pricing.
StartMail only offers two pricing options. There's the Personal subscription plan that costs $5 per month when billed annually. Then there's the more expensive Custom Domain subscription plan. This one costs $5.85 per month when billed annually. The main difference is that the latter lets you use an email address with your own custom domain. That might not seem much, but it actually makes a big difference in terms of branding. I'll explain more later.
StartMail lacks a standard business account model. Yes, you can get group subscriptions through Personal or Custom Domain accounts. However, you won't have access to features normally found in true business plans. For example, you won't get an admin console or admin tools for user management tasks. If you want the ability to manage users, I suggest you check out Hushmail, Proton Mail, or Tutanota.
You can compare the two StartMail subscription plans through the table below. Everything is the same except for the ability to use custom domains.
|Monthly Pricing if billed annually||$5.00||$5.85|
|PGP encrypted emails|
|Two Factor Authentication|
|Send secure email to non-Tutanota users|
|Unlimited email aliases|
|20 GB storage|
|Multi-user support via group subscriptions|
|24/7 customer support|
|Any-device access via IMAP or webmail|
|Spam and ad blocking|
|Custom domain email address|
StartMail is one of the most affordable secure email providers out there. However, it does lack certain features that other service providers have. Check out our comparison table in the FAQ below for more details.
StartMail Security and Privacy
StartMail has all the key security features you need in a secure email provider. It's got end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and password-protected mail. Those are important. StartMail offers enough features to deal with common email security concerns. You can definitely use it to send sensitive data. StartMail can protect that data from hackers and other malicious individuals. It may not be as packed with features as, say, Proton Mail. But it's certainly capable enough to provide secure email. Let's discuss some of its features now.
End to end encryption (E2EE)
With StartMail, your emails are protected with E2EE. StartMail normally achieves this through a combination of TLS and OpenPGP a.k.a. PGP. We won't go into the technical details except to say that TLS protects data in transit. PGP, on the other hand, protects data-in-transit and data-at-rest. Data is ‘at rest' when it's stored in, say, a mail server. TLS+PGP-encrypted mails are encrypted from the email sender all the way to the recipient.
In order to exchange PGP-protected emails, users must first set up public and private keys. This used to be a process only tech-savvy people dared to do. But with StartMail, the process is simple. The keys are automatically generated upon account creation. You can also create new ones with just a few clicks.
Once their PGP public and private keys are set up, users can carry out E2EE. And if the two parties support TLS, TLS can add another layer of protection.
You can only send a PGP-encrypted email to StartMail users and other PGP users. That doesn't mean you can't do end-to-end encryption with non-StartMail or non-PGP users though. For cases like these, StartMail offers a different kind of encrypted email. This method uses shared passwords. Let's talk about that next.
Password protected email
You don't have to limit your encrypted emails to StartMail users. StartMail allows you to send to non-StartMail users as well. You can do encrypted mail delivery with non-users using password-protected messages. In this method, you specify a password which StartMail will use to encrypt your message. Your recipient will then use that same password to decrypt your message. I really like this feature. It's one of the first features I look for in a secure mail service.
Two-factor authentication (2FA)
StartMail offers two factor authentication to augment your password-based logins. 2-factor authentication adds an extra step when you login. In order to login, you need to enter your password AND a code from your chosen authenticator app. This extra step will make it more difficult for a hacker to break into your StartMail account. Even if a hacker somehow gets hold of your password, it will still need your phone to get the code.
I normally use the Google Authenticator or the Microsoft Authenticator for 2FA. So I'm glad StartMail supports them. These two mobile apps generate new code every 30-60 seconds. These are called time-based one time passwords (TOTPs). TOTPs are almost impossible to use without the phone that generates them. So they really make logins more difficult to crack.
Anti spam, tracking, and ad features
StartMail offers a comprehensive set of features for fighting spam, tracking, and ads. This isn't something you see very often. Not even the top players in this space have something like this. Proton Mail, Hushmail, and Tutanota, for instance, don't have this set of features.
Let’s talk about some of these features now.
First, it's got a private spam filter that takes into account what you yourself consider spam. It doesn't dictate what should be classified as spam. Rather, It learns from your previous actions and then blocks spam emails based on that. This method keeps your inbox clean while allowing legitimate emails to pass through.
Second, StartMail has this nifty feature that can block tracking pixels. Tracking pixels are found in images that are embedded into emails. Advertisers and cybercriminals put them there so they can track what you do. StartMail has this feature that can hide senders external images. This blocks the tracking pixels. At the same time, it gives you the option to display images from trusted senders.
One of my favorites in this set of features is what they call ‘Malicious link protection'. It's a great countermeasure against phishing. Phishing is one of the most common methods for spreading viruses. Basically, a virus can be downloaded when you click an external link on a phishing email. StartMail malicious link protection will warn you if you click on an external link. It will also display the full web address so you know where the link leads to.
Another feature I really like are StartMail’s Hidden IP Addresses. Emails you send out may contain headers that include your IP address. This will allow advertisers and cybercrooks to track you. You're not exposed to this type of risk if you use StartMail because it hides your IP address.
Features and Capabilities
Any encrypted email service would be a tough sell if it only focused on security. That's why StartMail is worth considering. It also comes with features and capabilities that greatly enhance the user experience. Let's talk about those features now.
Regardless which plan you choose, you'll be given an unlimited number of email aliases. An email alias is an alternative email address. Any email sent to an email alias is forwarded to your main or real address. Why is that a good thing? Well, whoever sends email to an alias won't know your main email address. So, in effect, email aliases protect your main address by hiding it.
In almost every online service we sign up for, we submit our email address. For this reason, our email address is associated with us. Some marketers even build profiles about us based on the services where we have our email address on. Email aliases remove that connection. While aliases are linked to our real email address, they're not associated with us. That makes them disposable.
Once you start getting spam from a service you signed up for using your alias, you can simply delete that alias. That will stop the spam from reaching your mailbox. That's what we mean when we say an email alias is disposable. Having unlimited disposable email addresses can do wonders for your privacy. You can sign up for different services and not expose your main address to spammers or data miners.
Not all secure mail providers offer an unlimited number of aliases. Tutanota, for example, only provides up to 30 email aliases for its most expensive plans. So this is one advantage you'll get if you subscribe to StartMail.
StartMail email aliases come in two formats:
- email@example.com, or
The second format is used in custom domain aliases. These types of aliases can be had when you have a Custom Domain account. We'll talk about custom domain accounts next.
When you get a StartMail Personal Plan, your email address will end with @startmail.com. But if you want a more professional looking address, you can get a Custom Domain Plan instead. StartMail offers this plan to users who wish to use their own email domain. For example, you can use firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like the Personal Plan, the Custom Domain Plan supports secure email functionality. In fact, it supports all features found in the Personal Plan. The only difference is that it allows you to use a custom domain whereas the Personal Plan doesn't. If you just want to use secure email for personal purposes, just get the Personal Plan.
IMAP mail client
While StartMail doesn't have its own native desktop or mobile app, you don't have to stick to the web app. StartMail offers IMAP support. This will enable you to access your StartMail emails from your favorite email client. For instance, you can set up StartMail in Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook.
I love that StartMail is giving importance to account recovery. Email is a crucial part of our daily activities, so it would be quite a pain if we lose access to our email account. StartMail offers two easy ways to help you recover your account
The first one uses a one-time recovery code. This code is generated during the account creation process. You'll see it as soon as you're done creating your account. Check out the account creation section below to see what I mean.
The second uses a recovery email of your choice. You'll need an existing email that you can use as a recovery email. If you already got the recovery code mentioned earlier, you don't need this recovery email. Of course, you can also use it as a backup plan.
If you use 2FA, StartMail also offers a way to recover your account should you lose that second factor. This method uses a separate backup code strictly for 2FA. I discussed this in the section ‘Setting up two factor authentication' below.
Ease of Use and Setup
StartMail won't be winning any awards for its user interface. That said, the UI is not bad either. Well, for all intents and purposes, we're talking about an email app here. How more visually creative can you get with an email app? You'll find it easy to navigate through StartMail's user interface. Here are a couple of sample workflows to give you a taste of how easy it is to use and set up this email tool.
StartMail account creation
Creating a StartMail account is quick and easy. I probably completed everything in under 5 minutes. You need to submit payment details, which is a hassle. But you can cancel in 7 days if you don't like what you see. The encrypted email account creation process consists of these general steps:
- Go to the Pricing page on the StartMail web site.
- Pick a subscription. I picked monthly subscription under the Personal Plan.
- Enter your payment details.
- Copy the one-time recovery code. THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT. You’ll need that code in case you forget your password. So save that code in a safe place.
That’s it! You would have already created your new StartMail account.
You may also be asked to specify a recovery email address. This is another account recovery option. If you intend to continue using StartMail on a permanent basis, I suggest you perform this step.
Setting up two factor authentication
Once you've created your account, you might want to consider setting up 2FA right away. It's not because two factor authentication is necessary at this stage, but it's really very easy to do. It can be done under a minute, so why not get it over and done with? All you have to do is login to your account and then:
- Go to Settings > Account settings.
- Click the Enable button under Two-factor authentication.
- Launch your authenticator app on your phone and scan the QR code.
- Enter the Authentication code displayed on your authenticator app into the Authentication code box.
- Click Activate.
That’s all there is to it!
If you still have a couple of seconds to spare, you can use that to copy your 2FA backup code. You'll need that backup code if you somehow lose access to your authenticator app. It will help you recover your StartMail user account should the need arise.
Every StartMail subscription gets access to 24/7 customer support. You can communicate with the support team through email. Another option is to get information from the StartMail knowledgebase. Lastly, you can also ask questions through their social media accounts. I've seen them replying to questions on Twitter. That said, the best option is still the email-based support.
Compared to other similar services, StartMail's customer support is quite limited. In other services, you can reach the support team through a wider range of channels. The Proton Mail team, for example, can be reached through live chat, phone, email, and a Help Desk system. You can also reach them through social media.
We've reached the end of this SmartMail review. But before we part ways, I'd like to cover some of the most frequently asked questions about StartMail. There might be some you've been meaning to ask!
What other encrypted email services would you recommend?
Based on my personal experience with various services, I also recommend these three:
|Individual Plan monthly cost if billed annually and converted to USD||$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|
Why do you need a secure email service?
There are many reasons why you would need a secure email service. One is the proliferation of online threats. These threats can be a hacker, a nosy ISP, or your competitor. Some threats intercept emails to steal valuable information. A secure email service can thwart these threats by encrypting your messages. Encrypted messages are unreadable to everyone except the intended recipients.
Some secure mail servers only store emails in encrypted form. So if you send a super secret personal message and it's stored on that server, no one will be able to read it. In some cases, not even your email service provider.
Free email services like Gmail and Yahoo claim to be secure. But while these free services do encrypt your emails, they also hold the decryption keys. That means they can decrypt them if they want to. For an email service to be truly secure, it shouldn't be holding your decryption keys. Providers like StartMail, HushMail, Proton Mail, and Tutanota obey that golden rule.
How to ensure only the intended recipients can read your email?
In an encrypted email service like StartMail, you don't have to worry about this. The kind of encryption used ensures that only the intended recipient can read your email. Let me elaborate a bit more. PGP encryption, which StartMail uses, involves public and private key pairs. An email encrypted with a public key can only be decrypted by its corresponding private key.
When you send an email, StartMail will encrypt your email with the recipient's public key. Upon receiving your email, the recipient can decrypt it using his or her private key. Again, that private key must match the public key that was used for encryption.
If someone else somehow receives the encrypted email, that person won't be able to decrypt it. That's because even if that person had a private key, it wouldn't match the public key used for encryption. This ensures your email will always only be read by the intended recipient.
Does StartMail offer a free trial account?
StartMail doesn't offer a free trial account. Instead StartMail offers a free 7 day trial. For some, that might be enough. It's possible to run a decent number of tests in 7 days. However, it's worth noting that Proton Mail and Tutanota offer free versions. If you're just looking for a free version, then StartMail isn't it.
When you sign up for StartMail, you'll be asked to submit payment details. So as soon as the free 7 day trial ends, your StartMail subscription should kick in.
Does StartMail offer a business plan?
Most secure email providers offer plans for business accounts. Unfortunately, StartMail doesn't have this kind of plan. Let me elaborate more on what I mean. A secure business email plan normally includes administrative tools for managing users. It may also come with priority customer support. You'll see these in services like Proton Mail and Tutanota. But not in StartMail.
Yes, StartMail supports group subscriptions for multiple users. But they're not what a regular business customer would be looking for. Those subscriptions don't come with the features I mentioned above. Rather, they're more suited for individuals. If you're running a business with many users, check out other options. Try Proton Mail or Tutanota.
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