My Honest Six-Month Review of Proton Mail

I opened a free Proton Mail account in September 2023 to test one of its features and decided to keep it. Soon after, I ditched Gmail and fully embraced the new violet colors of my mailbox. Main inconvenience? Spelling the word “proton” every time someone needs to write down my email address.

This is not the only downside of a Proton Mail inbox, although there are few others and even fewer good alternatives to its (almost entirely) encrypted email service. And this is not a sponsored post.

Proton Mail review in a nutshel

The good: Proton Mail is a free, privacy-focused, user-friendly, and secure email service. The bad: a closer look at its encryption protocols and logs policy raises minor concerns.

What is Proton Mail

Proton Mail is a free, private email service that offers end-to-end encryption, data protection, a customizable layout and user experience, and robust security features. It can be accessed through a web app, mobile apps, and the Proton Mail Bridge email client. 

Proton Mail is the founding product of the Proton company, it paved the way for Proton’s  suite of privacy-oriented tools. The idea came from a group of scientists working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN, from the French), which is famous for its particle accelerator and dark matter research. As CERN hosts a proton collider, one can only guess where the name comes from.

The company has been headquartered in Geneva since its foundation in 2014. It’s important to note that the Proton Mail servers are also located in Switzerland, a country with robust data-protection laws. Proton’s mission is to provide an alternative to the internet tools 

dominating today’s market, opening the way to “an internet that puts people before profits.” Proton has expanded its offer to include several privacy-oriented products and grown its team to over 400 employees. 

Switching to Proton Mail from your current email provider

It’s easy and free. First, you need to open a Proton account, which is very straightforward. Go to the Proton Mail website and click “create a free account.” You’ll be taken to a page with pricing plans. We’ll talk about these further down the line. If you’re new to Proton Mail, select the free version, as you can always upgrade it later (suggestions to do so will be visible as you use the free version, but they’re not insistent and are easy to dismiss). 

Protonmail Review: Proton Mail plans

Once you select a plan, you’ll be asked to create your email address. No matter which pricing plan you choose, Proton will let you select from two domains at this stage: and If you purchased the Mail Plus or Proton Unlimited subscription, you’ll be able to create either one or up to three custom email domains later on.

After confirming, you’ll be prompted to create a display name and set up a recovery method. Only then will your new mailbox appear. Don’t dismiss the prompts: the first one will ask you to pick a theme and, after clicking “next,” you’ll be taken to the email-forwarding setup, which features a convenient, integrated Google sign-in button.

Protonmail Review: Automatic forwarding prompt ProtonMail

You can set up forwarding from Gmail or any other email provider now or do it later on, with the Easy Switch feature accessible from the main menu. Here, other popular email providers are waiting to be abandoned (like Yahoo and Outlook).

Protonmail Review: EasySwitch forwarding in ProtonMail

Proton encryption: what exactly is encrypted, and how does it work?

Migrating to Proton Mail is easy. The question of encryption could be slightly more confusing and has been the subject of some controversy, so let’s take a quick look at what exactly is encrypted by Proton Mail and what isn’t.

You need a pair of keys to make encryption happen. This means that even if you use an encrypted email service like Proton Mail, chances are the majority of your recipients or senders don’t. That’s why Proton Mail relies on several encryption methods to secure all scenarios. 

End-to-end encryption

End-to-end encryption is the most private and secure, but it’s only possible when both the sender and recipient use Proton Mail. In this case, the content of the email, together with embedded images and attachments, is encrypted on the sender’s device using the sender’s encryption key before even reaching Proton Mail servers. 

A padlock signaling end-to-end encryption will appear whenever you send a message to other Proton Mail users. 

Protonmail Review: End to end encypted email to partner with padlock

Zero-access encryption 

Whenever a non-Proton Mail user sends you an email, it first reaches Proton Mail’s servers in its unencrypted form. Proton Mail automatically encrypts its contents and attachments using zero-access encryption. Zero-access means that no one, not even Proton Mail, can see the contents and files sent—the encryption key ensures it’s only visible to its recipient.

Sending encrypted messages to non-Proton Mail users

If you’re like me and don’t have friends who use PGP encryption when sending emails, you can send password-protected emails with Proton Mail. This works for anyone using an email provider other than Proton Mail. Start by composing your message like usual, then hit the lock button at the bottom of the screen. A pop-up window will ask you for a password and password hint, which will be sent to your recipient. 

Protonmail Review: password protected Proton Mail

If you’re not like me and sharing encryption keys is your daily bread, Proton Mail makes this easier for you. Proton Mail expects its users to send end-to-end encrypted messages, making this a built-in functionality. To use it, save your PGP keys in “settings,” then compose your email as usual and click on the three dots to attach a public key to your message.

Protonmail Review: encyrption keys in settings
Protonmail Review: attach public key proton mail

To learn more about how different types of encryption work, and why it’s more complicated to send encrypted messages with other email providers, check out our article on how to encrypt emails in Gmail and Outlook

What is not encrypted

Two things are not encrypted, and that’s true for free users and paid-version subscribers. Both come from Proton Mail’s decision to prioritize functionality over privacy. Let’s take a look.

Proton Mail does not encrypt email subject lines 

The reasons for this are twofold. On one hand, Proton Mail is limited by the OpenPGP encryption standard it adheres to. This standard has the benefit of being used by other email providers, and allows Proton Mail users to send encrypted emails to people who use a different email provider. Unfortunately, by default, the OpenPGP technology provides end-to-end encryption in which the subject line, as part of the header packet, is not end-to-end encrypted.

The other limitation is that, with the subjects of your emails encrypted, you would not be able to search through your mailbox because end-to-end encryption breaks searchability. 

Proton Mail does not encrypt some elements of your contact information

Display names and email addresses are encrypted at rest but not in transit. Proton Mail needs access to this information to suggest the right contact once you start typing the name or email of your recipient in the contact field. Again, encryption would prevent the search feature from working. All other elements of the contact profile (telephone number, physical address, etc.) are secured with zero-access encryption.

Proton Mail privacy policy: how private is it?

Let’s talk more about privacy, which is why you’re probably considering switching to Proton Mail in the first place. 

Proton Mail servers are physically located in Switzerland and Germany, countries with strong privacy protection laws. The Proton company is based in Switzerland, meaning it must abide by Swiss law and, in edge cases, could be asked to give up information on user activity if a Swiss court order is issued. In case of a subpoena, Proton Mail has an obligation to inform the user in advance that their data will be logged.

That said, Proton Mail can only give up data it has access to or, in other words, that isn’t encrypted. According to their privacy policy, these data points include:

  • Sender and recipient email addresses
  • The IP address incoming messages come from
  • Attachment name
  • Message subject
  • Message sent and received times
  • Number of messages sent
  • Total number of messages
  • Amount of storage space used
  • Last login time.

Proton Mail also claims that user data is never used for advertising purposes and publishes a transparency report with information on legal orders the company has received, contested, or complied with over the years.

Proton Mail security features

Does Proton Mail have what it takes to be called a secure email account? Among its most notable features, and one that you’ll notice right away (thanks to a prompt), is two-factor authentication (2FA), which requires a second form of verification before access to your account is granted. 

Another measure I appreciate is link confirmation, which is an added safeguard against phishing attacks. This feature makes you confirm the URL before you get redirected to a website, and it can be enabled in “settings.” Another good security measure is the “auto show embedded images” toggle, which you can switch off to reduce the risk of opening an image infected with malware.

Encryption, whether end-to-end or zero-access, is both a privacy and security measure, as it changes the data into useless gibberish, even if leaked. 

Next comes the enhanced tracking protection, enabled by default for both the paid and the free versions of Proton Mail, which blocks email trackers often sent in marketing emails or newsletters. These include tracking pixels that tell the sender when their email was opened, on what device, and sometimes even in which approximate physical location. And, on the Proton Mail web app, tracking links in your emails are stripped of their tracking elements (UTM parameters) so that when you click on them and get redirected, the sender cannot monitor your behavior.

Protonmail Review: Proton Mail trackers blocked

Related to this is another feature that is both security- and privacy-related. Proton Mail shows an unsubscribe button whenever you receive an email as part of a mailing list. It helps you take your email address off mailing lists, and you don’t have to look for it in the body of the email or visit the page to unsubscribe. 

Protonmail Review: Proton Mail unsubscribe button

You can also have Proton Mail unsubscribe you from the sender’s mailing list every time you move an email to the spam folder. To enable it, go to settings -> more settings -> messages and composing -> “auto-unsubscribe.” 

And if you don’t want messages from a particular sender to even be delivered, you can click on their email address and select “block this sender” from the drop-down menu. Lastly, you can create simple filters to send emails from a specific domain directly to spam or trash or create custom filters (if an email contains a particular word, it’s automatically moved to a specific folder). The free service offers one active filter at a time, but you can create up to 100 active filters if you have a paid account.

Paid Proton Mail users get the additional benefit of the Proton Sentinel program, an advanced security system designed to protect users from data theft using human and AI analysis. Sentinel provides more detailed information on account activity, quicker threat escalation pathways, and strict challenges to suspicious logins.

Proton Mail user experience: how user-friendly is it?

A Proton Mail review wouldn’t be complete without a paragraph or three on its look and feel. And there isn’t really much to say about it. I didn’t feel the need for a tutorial after signing up, which is probably the best review an app can get. 

Writing emails with Proton Mail 

Composing messages looks similar to how it does on Gmail. The “new message” button is in the top-left corner. Once you hit it, a new message window pops up—it won’t cover your view of your mailbox. You can send your message right away, but you can also schedule it to be sent the next day or a week later. Custom scheduling is possible for paid users.

Protonmail Review: ProtonMail schedule send for later

In addition to scheduling, messages you send can also be programmed to expire or disappear from the recipient’s inbox after a set amount of time. This option is available from the same window where you compose your message. Click on the three dots in the bottom-left corner and select ”expiration time” to access it.

Lastly, all emails sent from a free Proton Mail account will come with a footer saying “sent from Proton Mail secure email.” To remove it permanently, you will have to subscribe to the Proton Unlimited email account. Otherwise, you can either leave it as is, or, if you don’t like it, delete it from every email you send.

The main menu is on the left-hand side, and you can change the layout easily (add rows, make it more compact, etc.). There is also a small selection of “skins,” most of which are in somber and muted colors, mostly grayscale, with those signature violet elements. 

Organizing your Proton Mail mailbox

You can create folders and labels to color-code and sort your emails to stay organized. Working with these is intuitive, with the “+” sign being used to create a new label and the cogwheel to manage existing ones. The free service will allow you to create up to three folders and labels.

Protonmail Review: Proton Mail labels 1

Proton Mail mobile app

The Proton Mail mobile apps are just as intuitive as the web app and come with useful features, such as sliding a message to archive it, move it to a folder, or trash it (customizable in settings). The menu bar is hidden and will appear after tapping the three horizontal bars in the top-left corner. Simply tap the icon on the top, right-hand side to compose a message. Like in the web app, you can schedule your message to be sent later and to expire.

Here’s how the Proton Mail iOS app looks on my iPhone:

Protonmail Review: Proton Mail on iOS

What if you need to contact Proton Mail customer support

Let’s hope you never need their customer support. The Proton Mail FAQ is an extensive list of all the questions you could possibly ask, and for good reason. The page will reluctantly let you fill out the contact support form, that is, once you confirm you really could not find your answer among the FAQ. Contacting customer support should be your last resort.

I tried this form once and never received an answer. It seems that even Proton Mail is aware of their slow response times, as they suggest reporting a problem instead for a faster resolution time.

Sending an (encrypted) email to their customer support worked better as I received an email back to confirm they got my request. It said that paid users’ requests are prioritized, so I prepared to wait. I waited ten days for a response but it never came.

The costs: Proton Mail pricing plans

Proton Mail has three main pricing plans: Proton Free, Mail Plus, and Proton Unlimited. In addition to the mailbox, users get limited or extensive access to other Proton products. Here’s a recap of how much each package costs.

Proton Free account

The free and paid versions will get you a privacy-focused mailbox with all the encryption options available. Proton Mail’s free email service is, unsurprisingly, the most restricted one. That said, I never felt the need to upgrade.

Storage: The storage on your free email account starts at 500 MB and can be further unlocked up to 1GB. 

One email: You get one free email address and two domains to choose from ( or 

You can send up to 150 messages daily, which is more than enough for non-business usage.

Labels and folders are limited to three of each. 

Other Proton products that are part of the free account:

  • Proton Calendar (you can use up to three calendars)
  • Proton Drive: it syncs across devices and allows encrypted file sharing
  • Proton VPN service: one medium-speed VPN connection
  • Proton Pass: a personal favorite that comes with ten throwaway email aliases.

With the exception of the very subtle but non-removable ad in the footer of your emails, the free account is completely free, meaning your credit card is not required to set it up. 

Proton Mail Plus

Paying customers can enjoy more of everything that’s listed above, plus their own domain. Here are the details.

Storage: 15GB of storage, shared across all products.

Ten email addresses, including one with a custom domain.

You can send an unlimited number of messages per day.

Proton Mail Plus users also benefit from the following:

  • Proton Calendar: Up to 25 calendars that can be shared.
  • Proton Drive, VPN, and Pass: the same access as Proton Free.

The costs depend on the subscription period. Billed monthly, Mail Plus will cost you $4.99 each month. A yearly plan is $3.99 per month ($47.88), and a biannual plan will set you back $3.49 per month ($83.76).

Proton Unlimited

Proton Unlimited customers get access to the entire Proton product family plus many premium features. Let’s take a closer look.

Storage: 500 GB across all products.

15 email addresses and support for three custom domains.

Unlimited number of messages per day.

Unlimited folders and labels.

Enhanced security with Proton Sentinel.

Priority when reaching out to customer support.

This is the only plan that will remove the “sent with Proton” footer from your emails.

Paying customers also have access to:

  • Proton Calendar: 25 sharable calendars 
  • Proton Drive: which can, in addition, store up to 200 versions of each file
  • Proton VPN service: ten high-speed VPN connections
  • Proton Pass: unlimited throwaway email aliases, integrated 2FA, and 50 vaults to store encrypted items.

Proton Mail is not flawless, but is there anything better?

Few Proton Mail alternatives offer a secure email service with a comprehensive list of features for free. Actually, there is only one, Tuta (formerly Tutanota), as both StartMail and Posteo require either a monthly or a sign-up fee. Let’s compare the two.

Tuta vs Proton Mail

Both of these services offer excellent privacy and security features, but in a slightly different way and at a different cost. The devil’s in the details, and in this case, the key detail lies in the encryption, which has consequences for how both email services work.  

Unlike Proton Mail, Tuta (formerly Tutanota) relies on a proprietary encryption method, thanks to which it can encrypt everything, including the body of the message, the subject line, the attachments, the sender’s and recipient’s information, and provide full-text search within encrypted emails. This means a slightly higher level of encryption since Proton Mail does not encrypt email subject lines (as the PGP encryption standard limits it). 

On the other hand, emails sent to Tuta users from other email services will not be encrypted by default, unless both the recipient and the sender somehow agree and share a password outside Tuta. For encryption to work in such a scenario, the Tuta subscriber would have to initiate the email exchange.

The other important detail is the price. Both providers offer a free version with basic functionalities. Proton Mail’s paid plans start at $3.99/month, offering more storage, email aliases, and additional features like the Proton Mail Bridge for email clients. Tuta’s premium plans are slightly cheaper, starting at €1.20/month, with upgrades for extra storage, aliases, and domain support.

Protonmail Review: Tutamail user interface

Lastly, while Proton Mail’s interface is often praised for its modern, intuitive design, Tuta’s mailbox is minimalistic, to say the least, which could discourage many new, privacy-seeking users from subscribing.

Is Proton Mail the right email provider for you?

Proton Mail is the obvious answer if you’re looking for a private and secure mailbox with an intuitive interface. The “easy switch” integration with Gmail and other popular email clients will make the transition painless. It will encrypt your emails and reduce tracking, taking your online privacy to the next level. With the easy-on-the-eye color palette and an extensive list of free features, Proton makes the choice easy. 

If encryption of every part of your email communication is your priority, and you don’t mind the aesthetically uneventful interface, then Tuta could be your better option. 

Either way, switching away from your existing mailbox to either of these secure email providers is a step in the right direction, one that could significantly reduce your digital footprint. A privacy-oriented mailbox is one source of unprotected personal information less for criminals and intrusive marketing companies to take advantage of, and it’s definitely something we recommend. 

Proton Mail Pro and Cons summary

Proton Mail pros:Proton Mail cons:
Servers are located in Switzerland, and the company is subject to Swiss law.Customer support: questions from paid users are prioritized. Otherwise, prepare to wait.
A range of encryption methods for both Proton Mail and non-Proton Mail senders and recipients: end-to-end encryption, password-protected emails, zero-access encryption, encryption of attachments based on the OpenPGP standard.

Built-in, custom PGP encryption option.
The subject lines of emails and the names and email addresses of your contacts are not encrypted so that the search feature can work.
Privacy-focused with transparent privacy policy, almost no logs.Proton Mail may log IP addresses temporarily for security reasons, and will log your IP permanently if they find out you’ve breached their Ts&Cs.
Secure email provider that provides 2FA and link confirmation, blocks trackers, features easy mailing-list unsubscription, and prevents images from loading.“Sent with Proton Mail” will always appear in the footer, unless you sign up for a paid account. Otherwise, if you wish to, you can delete it every time you compose an email.
Schedule Proton Mail messages to be sent later, and send emails with an expiration date.
Interface is child’s play, and looks good.
Apps for Android and iOS, a web app, and Bridge integration for most common email clients (like Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Apple Mail).
The free version is packed with all the security and privacy features listed above.
Proton Sentinel program for added security and access, custom domain, and seamless access to other Proton technologies in the paid version.
You can create both simple and custom filters, and have up to 100 of them active at the same time (paid version).
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