Sprint’s Mobile Email service may have been one of the best kept secrets in the world of feature phones. Back in the days before the modern smartphone era, push email was something reserved mostly for BlackBerry handsets. This is because a BlackBerry data plan included access to a server to push emails to your handset in real time, whereas other handsets had to check for new email on regular intervals. This system was both slow and unnecessarily draining on a battery.
However, Sprint’s Mobile Email service offered access to its own dedicated server, which after configuring with your email account’s credentials, would happily push new emails to any phone that was compatible with their client. That client application was actually pre-installed on most of their late model feature phones, as well as Palm OS phones like the Centro. Unlike RIM’s proprietary system to signal its handsets of new email, the Sprint service would actually send a masked text message to the phone, alerting the application that new messages were waiting. By using this ingenious yet simple work around, simple feature phones that sported a keyboard like the LG Lotus could actually function like budget smartphones without needing a special plan.
Even today, where Android and iOS offer their own push services for popular providers such as Gmail, the Sprint Mobile Email system had a leg up on the competition: You could set up virtually any provider, be it corporate email, your own domain, or some obscure ISP — as well as the popular services from Yahoo, Gmail, and others — and have them all push as soon as new email shows up in their server. All that is coming to an end, unfortunately.
Sprint began sending out SMS messages to subscribers of the service with the following text:
SprintFreeMsg: We’re closing down our Sprint Mobile Email service on 02/01/14. Explore your FREE options now. http://sprint.us/EmailEnding
The address shown loads a mobile-formatted page with links to various alternative email clients, mostly specific services such as Gmail and Yahoo. The message comes as a sort of sign of the times. With feature phones on the decline, it likely isn’t worth keeping the Sprint Mobile Email server online anymore. It’s time to let the users fend for themselves. That being said, I wonder how many feature phone users out there will even miss the service after it’s gone.