Newton Mail is returning to life once again under new ownership, marking the unexpected third life for the premium email app. Newton Mail was originally set to shut down on April 30th after Essential — which previously owned the service — shut down earlier this year. But in the latest plot twist in the long-running history of the application, instead of shutting down again, Newton Mail has been bought from Essential by a pair of new owners: Maitrik Kataria and Justin Mitchell.
Neither of the two are new to the software space; Kataria — who’ll be taking over as Newton Mail’s new CEO — is a product designer at a software development called Simform, while Mitchell is the founder of the SoFriendly design agency, in addition to running a messaging app called Yac. The two fully acknowledge in a letter announcing their new ownership that they’re not a “well-funded VC backed company” or looking for assets to mine. They’re just big fans of Newton Mail (so much so that Mitchell had actually tried to reach out to the company when it had first shut down back in 2018 to try to save it himself.)
In the short term, the purchase will be business as usual for Newton Mail customers. The service will still charge $50 per year to use, and the same apps will continue to work as they have in the past.
Kataria and Mitchell have big ambitions for the latest reincarnation of Newton Mail, though. First off, the two are promising that should their attempt at running Newton Mail fail, they’ll “open-source Newton and find a way for self-hosted servers to support the product indefinitely,” so that customers who continue to rely on (and pay for) the service won’t be left completely in the lurch.
To sweeten the deal for subscribers, the pair is also offering three free months of service for current customers, a 20-percent discount for lapsed subscribers who want to give Newton Mail another shot, and a referral program for new customers.
Originally launched under the name CloudMagic in 2013 as a free alternative to the native Gmail app, the app that would become Newton Mail looked to stand out from the crowd with an emphasis on super-fast search. It would then steadily expand to other platforms (including Mac, Android, Android Wear and the Apple Watch) over the years, before relaunching under the new Newton Mail branding in 2016. The switch to become Newton Mail would see the comapny’s apps overhauled with new features (like snoozing emails, read reciept support, and the option to schedule emails later), and a pricier annual subscription of $50 per month.
Despite that new fee, Newton would continue to grow, adding interesting new functionality like automated inbox sorting and a native Windows 10 app, making it one of the only email applications out there with true cross platform support across Apple, Microsoft, and Google’s various operating systems.
Unfortunately, due to the simple fact that it’s really difficult to make money off of email applications and services when free options like Outlook, Gmail, Edison, Spark, and any number of other free apps exist, Newton founder Rohit Nadhani announced that the service would be shutting down in September 2018.
Somehow, though, that wasn’t the end for Newton: just a few months later, Essential would buy the shuttered email application. Essential would go on to resurrect Newton Mail in February 2019 — one of the last commercial products that it would offer after the relative flop of its only smartphone, the Essential PH-1. The Essential purchase would prove to be a short stay of execution for Newton, however: when Essential announced that it would be shutting down in February 2020, Newton Mail was set to close up shop yet again.
It’s hard to say whether or not Kataria and Mitchell will be able to succeed in turning Newton Mail into a viable business where so many others — including original Newton Mail founder Rohit Nadhani, who shut down the service originally after being unable to “successfully figure out profitability & growth over the long term,” — have failed.
$50 per year is still a big ask for email, and while the changes and improvements that the duo looks to enact with the new company sound like welcome ones, Newton Mail will likely face an uphill battle to convince customers to take another chance on it. Still, if there’s one thing the seven-year history of Newton Mail has shown, its to never count this particular service out until its truly dead.