ProtonMail Release Update

As many of you know, ProtonMail was previously scheduled to release today. However, we have had some issues getting our mobile app approved, specifically with the Apple App store. At the time of writing, our app still has not been approved for release. For certain technical and scheduling reasons, we need to be able to launch all features on all platforms simultaneously. Because of this, we will delay our release (iOS/Android/Custom Domains, etc) until we get app approval, which we are hoping will occur next week.

We did not anticipate getting delayed by this process, but the entire approval process turned out to be quite lengthy, especially since we needed to get permission from both the US and French governments. Even though ProtonMail is a Swiss company, Apple is a US company, so all apps provided through the app store must comply with US encryption export restrictions. This leads us to the surreal situation where software from a Swiss company needs US government approval to be distributed. We needed a similar approval from the French government to distribute the app in France.

To answer a commonly raised question today, we don’t believe the delay is related to the ongoing FBI case against Apple, but that case is very concerning to us and could have far reaching implications. We have asked some legal experts to review the case and see if releasing ProtonMail in the App or Play stores could have any privacy or security risks.

It is hard to estimate how much longer the approval process could take, but we are hoping that everything is completed next week as we have already submitted all of the relevant documentation. We want to thank all users for your patience and apologize for this unfortunate delay. In the event that approval is not granted soon, we will find other ways to distribute the apps to the ProtonMail community. If the process drags on too long, we will also make modifications on our side to allow us to release custom domains separately and earlier.

Best Regards,
The ProtonMail Team

About the Author

Proton Team

Proton was founded by scientists who met at CERN and had the idea that an internet where privacy is the default is essential to preserving freedom. Our team of developers, engineers, and designers from all over the world is working to provide you with secure ways to be in control of your online data.

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99 comments on “ProtonMail Release Update

  • What kind of impact did having to comply with “US encryption export restrictions” have on the app? Can you elaborate on that?

    • No impact, we didn’t make any changes, but we had to apply for permission to export our app out of the US.

  • I hope you will distribute the mobile app also directly from your website, for those who dont want to use google play store.

    • I hope so too, otherwise i wont be able to use it. it would be the same situation as the Signal encrypted messaging app on android, you need to have the google play store and google play services. lets hope that protonmail will not have these things.

    • Exactly, a simple APK download on protonmail itself would be handy. As some people, like myself, refuse to install the play store on their android phones.

        • Google essentially has root level access to any mobile device running Google Play Services.

          This could conceivably give them access to not only every file on your phone, but also call history, SMS history, GPS hsitory, the works.

          Thus, while the ProtonMail app may be secure, you’d be leaking enough metadata that any privacy gains from using ProtonMail would mostly be eliminated.

          Note that while this is not 100% confirmed, enough doubt exists that it should be a consideration for anyone looking to improve their privacy – i.e. a goodly portion of ProtonMail’s userbase.

          • +1

            I agree as well – I think Protonmail would be more secure without google services dependencies. I need to log in once or twice a day, and I get a ‘Google Play Services required’ notice, but other than that the mobile app seems to work fine.

        • Not everyone wants to associate their phone with a google account, because its pretty much impossible to reverse it.

        • Yes it is bad – it is very difficult to have play store and framework GAPPS and still have privacy.
          Apps like ProtonMail should work on pure Android (AOSP builds).
          APK download + F-Droid is a must have for privacy apps.

          • Completely agree. I participated in the Beta testing of the Android app and unfortunately (at the time of testing) push notifications were not supported without using GApps. I reported this as a bug since I think it only makes sense that users who care about their privacy probably want to use a GApps-free phone. F-Droid is a must, but I guess if the App is OpenSource, this shouldn’t be a problem.

          • +1

            I agree as well – I think Protonmail would be more secure without google services dependencies. I need to log in once or twice a day, and I get a ‘Google Play Services required’ notice, but other than that the mobile app seems to work fine.

    • hm yes, who knows what apple or google are secretly forced to do with the itunes/google play files.
      i would feel saver to download the android apk directly.

  • We should not be hostages of countries, organizations or companies that do not respect the privacy, we should seek alternative ways

  • Could you explain a little bit more, why the iOS and Android apps have to be launched (almost) simultaneously?

  • First you told that the servers are not ready but the custom domains and app were already ready in January. And now the app are not ready and you can still not release the custom domains and other services before the app ?! Come on, what is going on really ?

  • Who cares for the stores, just offer the APK for download.
    There are users which don’t want to use a google play store account!

  • Did you get approval for the Android Play Store version? Surely Google is also a US company or are they less scared to approve?

  • Personally I think you are making it the wrong way.

    This is the second time you are delaying launch.

    Aside from mobile apps you should think about rolling out core features like personal domains and more space. You also promised you would grant early adoption for personal domains to people who donated.

    I really like the idea of this project and donated several times (indiegogo, ios app, android app) please give us the real meat.

  • Dear,
    Who cares for approvals by US and French governments? If the stores on Android and Apple are not appropriate places for protonmail app distribution, just propose it on really-free platforms like F-Droid of a simple APK to download from the secure side of protonmail webapp.

    French government is actually entangled by several dangerous laws against encrypted messaging, focusing on the “struggle” against terrorism. In fact, the goals consists in controlling the communications of people. So, don’t expect any cooperation from them… or protonmail users should excpect some governmental backdoors….

    • +1
      If Proton cooperate with Apple, Google/Android, US and French governments = why migrate to Protonmail?? It’s the same to stay with GMail or Outlook at this point……. :-(

      • It requires permissions to distribute app via Play and App stores since both are located in US. They already stated to deliver apps in alternate way if permission is delayed. Please be patient.

  • Ahh here we go, another sudden push of date. You guys keep telling us to wait and wait, it was to be released originally in December but nope, cuz of attack you guys got delayed to January. Then you guys suddenly announced because of some technical issues you guys would push to today (18 february) but now because of App Store approval, you guys saying next week. Well, ProtonMail is terrible at customer service.

    1) I mailed alot regarding any release date, but answer i received was not clear as a blue sky, instead foggy.

    2) They could push the Android app to us without approval as Google Play Store doesn’t require that, yet they are NOT doing it.

    3) They could publish both iOS and Android app for their site untill it gets listed on Stores. Many people have Jailbreaked iOS to install, as of Android, everyone can install any app out of the store so what ProtonMail here does is, to keep wait and get any little tiny bit of penny out of it by selling out betas.

  • There must be far more to this delay. I get that the iOS app may be delayed by Apple or possibly never approved at all. I also get that the Google Play Store operates in regions and it sounds like the French store is a bottleneck. The Android app could be released in the regions where it is approved and the APK could be made as a download directly from your website, bypassing Google Play all together.

    The additional premium features can launch regardless of the mobile apps. Custom domain names, more storage etc. You have customers ready to buy services from you, but if you keep delaying customers will begin to lose faith. I have to admit that I was ready to move my domain and emails to ProtonMail. After this delay I am questioning whether I should do that. I was ready to go Premium this morning and am very dismayed by this delay that simply does not make any sense. Which leads me to believe there is more that is not being shared, which is cause for concern.

  • I appreciate your concerns to be a leader and not a follower. As everyone seems to say. Why bother with Google/Apple and just download directly from the site directly. It makes no sense to push code to Google/Apple when they are under the US. If we can find your site, we can find your download.

    • On Android, alternative distribution methods require getting users to choose to “Install from alternate sources”, which is a massive security hole. Downloads from the Play Store are signed and easy to get for the vast majority of Android users. Side-loading APKs introduces a myriad of security and usability issues (How do you update? How do you confirm your APK hasn’t been tampered with?).

      Alternate source installation on iOS is even sillier and is basically a non-starter for the overwhelming majority of users.

  • “This leads us to the surreal situation where software from a Swiss company needs US government approval to be distributed.”

    Well, this is not surreal, this is reality…

  • These comments are hilarious. People are offered a secure, FREE email and all they do is complain when it doesn’t immediately meet their needs!

    If you want the app so bad, then donate and get access to the open beta. Otherwise, calm down and be patient.

    • In principle I agree with what you say. But I must add one thing – there are lots of people ready and waiting to sign up as paying customers as soon as the custom domain facility is live. That’s the only think holding anything back for many – the ability to transfer their existing domain email.

      The sooner they release that facility the sooner they can get a regular income stream and be less reliant on donations. The apps can wait! And anyone who wants them can always donate and enter the beta as I have.

      It’s a bit silly to plead poverty and say you’re reliant on donations when you have a modest customer base ready and waiting to sign up for a monthly package for the last two months already!

      • +1 !! Yes, I’m not only waiting for a free e-mail, but I’m ready to pay for using my own domain name and making Protonmail my main mailbox. For that I need to be sure that protonmail team is able to make appropriate choices, strategies and assume the privacy tenets. When i learned the release was pushed back, that was not a problem for me, but the reasons for that (i.e. waiting for different approvals from Android, Apple and governments) constitute a problem for me.

  • Good lord. The degree of self-righteous entitlement on display in these comments is sickening. These people have worked long and hard to provide you with something exceptional FOR FREE. Show some respect and gratitude.

  • I expected apple/from US might make this application an complication,however why go through the apple store besides marketing and profit making?
    Why not /script an code for an download online, such as an APK? Like Pyger with the level of encryption it offers apple/android is the last place i trust, put it online make is known without 3rd party

    • Why should the app be free? It is more fair to pay for what you get, for what other people do for you. Many people want everything for free and that is the cause of many problems, including being a target for ads. This ‘free’ is a lie.

  • I appreciate all the hard work that you are doing for us the community. However, please don’t keep pushing a delay on one thing if everything else is set to go.

  • Thank you for the update and please don’t let the negative and suspicious feedback get to you. Most of us are happy to wait if it means a better roll-out and the rest are likely just anxious for the update.

    That said, I agree with others who request that you publish Protonmail to F-Droid for people like myself who are Android users but not Google users. Even if you don’t want to publish it to their main repository, you could host your own. Heck, I would even be willing to donate hosting for the cause.


    For those of you who didn’t get beta access to the Protonmail app and refuse to use Google-tainted Android ROMS, I have some slightly bad news. The beta disappointingly requires Google’s proprietary Cloud Messaging; a component of Google’s terribly invasive, battery draining, activity tracking Play Services. I think it is safe to assume the initial release of the Android app will also have this requirement. While we work to convince them to write the app in a way that doesn’t rely on this component, you should know that there is a work-around: free software advocates are actively developing an open source stand-in. If you’d like to learn more, visit the following link:

  • Could you explain more about the process and why you need permission from the US govt, this seems a little suspect?

  • You are offered a free, secure, zero knowledge email, and the creators don’t release the apps or service on an expected date and you whine about it. Are you serious?

    If your going to use a Free service, be patient. They don’t have Money and have to receive through donations which you ungrateful people don’t give to.

  • They have already stated to deliver apps in an alternative way if the approval takes too long. No need of being impatient for nothing wrong on their part.

  • Am I the only one who can access Protonmail on my mobile phone with a mere web browser? I mean, I’m impatiently waiting for the app too, but hey, I can survive one more week using the browser…
    +1 though as regards the possibility to download the APK here even before Google allows I-don-t-know-what.

  • When the apps are ready, please provide a way for us to verify their authenticity. For example, post the hashes of the app files so we can verify them ourselves. We want to be sure that Apple/Google/governments haven’t tampered with them.

  • Delays happen – all sorts of them. I can wait.

    tbh I’m not that interested in Mobile apps though I did sign up for the Android Beta. But I have to confess at some confusion. Why bother with Apple or Google when there are alternatives? – FDROID for Android is one – I guess there’s an equivalent for Apples too – though I have no idea and don’t wish to. And I can’t see a reason simply not to publish them on The Proton Web. At least for the moment.

    But it’s not my descision – and I can live with that.

  • I do not understand why you continue to make apps for ios and android. Please invest in open source. Make an application on unbuntu phone.

  • All of the answers to all of the whining and complaining are in the original post. Read the full post.

    The several delays have been completely understandable and thoroughly explained by Protonmail each time.

    Releasing a new website client and apps on two platforms needs considerable technical coordination. It’s not just turning on a switch for each one.

    For 30 years all exported encryption for US-released products (like the mobile apps) have required government permission. This is nothing new.

  • Asking US goverment to approve privacy application is like asking daesh to allow christianity on their teritory.

  • “We have asked some legal experts to review the case and see if releasing ProtonMail in the App or Play stores could have any privacy or security risks.”

    Seriously this does not need a legal expert to figure this one out. Of course it does, thats common sense. Its giving aways full control to shitty profit maximizing cooperations who can to whatever they want to the Apps they host. Buried in some terms or not.

  • Can someone fill me in on what benefit routing domain mail through Proton Mail will provide with their custom domains feature?

    • The benefit is that you can point people to any e-mail address you want and have it end up in your ProtonMail inbox. This is very important for businesses–for example, a lot of companies have addresses, but they’re actually using the Gmail servers.

      Aside from the obvious benefit of using your preferred name in the domain, it means your address is stable even when your provider is not–a company could switch from Gmail to ProtonMail while keeping all of the same addresses.

  • Okay so anyone that has reviewed the blog posts and the workings of Proton Mail, their logistics and their team and everything else that has been made available to us – with discernment can see that they ARE ON OUR SIDE. They WANT this to be ready for EVERYONE and want it to be AS GOOD as it can be
    Now, if they say there are technical and scheduling reasons why they have to delay – then those reasons are going to be very good indeed?
    Launching aps through Apple is probably a necessity for marketing reasons. it is necessary to get Proton Mail out there. It is necessary so Proton Mail can earn back the fortune they have spent on creating this.
    And Apple, being a massive multinational, has strict laws about things like apps. Aside from any paranoia or NSA or whatever – they also have stringent requirments that must be met.
    Now, it is EXTREMELY disapointing to witness the level selfishness exhibited in many of these comments. Aren’t you human beings? Aren’t you adults? With maturity, with empathy, with patience, with gratitude and appreciation for a bunch of strangers (Proton staff) you have never met and probably never will, whom are bending over backwards in order to make your life better? A utterly humanitarian service, that is as good as anyone has EVER seen (usability plus kick ass security) – that has the bona fide street wise cred of being subject to the biggest DDos we have ever seen (well equal to, from what they say).
    So, how about you look in the mirror. And ask yourself what kind of a human being are you? One where the world revolves around you? Where your needs, your selfishness, your instant gratification are the things that define your reality? Grow up, all the whingers. Be patient. .

  • and, yes Proton Mail doesn’t want – and shouldn”t be – some hidden little apk laying around on f-droid. We all love and respect f – droid and git hub and whatever.
    But the aims of Proton Mail need to be far reaching. This needs to be universal. This needs to have more members than gmail. This needs to be a precedent. THAT is why Apple store is necessary
    most people don;t even know what an APK is
    And as stated, proton mail need to launch everything all at the same time – for reasons that are clear to them.

    And in response to the complainers – ever take a look at the page of staff bio’s on this website?
    How many of those people do you reckon you’d beat on an IQ or aptitude test? Any? Yeah? You think?

    • I agree with you. Open source is theoritically nice, but it did not give us the best apps so far. And why should apps be free? I would like to see a serious alternative to Google and Apple, but until now there is none.

      • “Open source is theoritically nice, but it did not give us the best apps so far.”

        Just cringe-worthy when people say things like that. Do you even now what OpenSource is? I don’t see how releasing the source code has anything to do with the quality of an app per se.

        Second OpenSource doesn’t mean “free as in beer”. You’ll find OpenSource apps on Google PlayStore like DavDroid or Conversations – both OpenSource – and they cost money (and FYI, these apps are excellent!). Sure, this acts more as a donation since you can build the apps for free yourself or get it on F-Droid.

        The bottom line is this, though: Just because an App is OpenSource doesn’t mean it has to be free as in “gratis”. I, for one, choose to donate to OpenSource projects that I use and enjoy.

  • I’m happy to wait for Protonmail to get it right. I’ve subscribed and would be happy to support them more.

    That said, I too think the concentration on Apps is not the way I would go. Apps running on proprietary platforms like iOS, with who know which inbuilt backdoors, will always be intrinsically more vulnerable than say, access to Protonmail over a Tor browser on a fresh Tails USB system. Things like GPG integration would be a higher priority for me.

    However I can also see that Protonmail’s mission is to make zero-knowledge email transport ubiquitous. Unfortunately that means catering for platforms like iOS & Android. What I don’t understand is what security or usability advantages an App brings over a mobile browser application, in this case.

  • You could also send your APK to Aptoide and APKPure. I use Jolla Sailfish without the Google Playstore. For my ipad I wait with patience.
    Yet, it still is unclear to me what your app has to do with the American government. Does this government approve all apps form Apple and Google Play? I hope not!

    • O But I agree with Krista Keller: Protonmail should be universal and not be hidden in the alternative. So I understand why Protonmail wants to offer its apps in Google Playstore and the Apple appstore. I experience many difficulties with the alternative stores, because there is no proper system to pay for apps. You only can download free apps from Aptoide and APKPure. The outcome is that you often have apps with ads. Also in-app purchases are not possible in the alternative stores. Although I try to avoid Google and its store as much as possible, I can understand why a serious company like Protonmail wants to use this store. I still hope there will be once a good (European) alternative to Google and Apple, with Fair Pay and Fair Play for quality apps.

  • Is there a logical reason for believing there is an advantage to releasing the iOS and Android apps at the same time? I cannot think of any.

      • Thank you for this reddit link. Appreciate reading Protonmails more detailed response was valuable. Some insightful feedback. Including someones comment about how they witnessed 6 or more security experts gain a great deal more respect for apples take on privacy after observing recent events in the news – the experts doing a 180 degree turn on previous feelings toward Apple. That’s curious. Apple appears to now be gaining some degree of credibility in that area, compared to google, which, despite post – Snowden wisdom, continues to have no privacy credibility.
        This is a really emotionally charged topic for many! While I do feel we all can do with more sensitivity and empathy, I apologise if I was inappropriate or too strong in my tone earlier

  • “For certain technical and scheduling reasons”

    Just be patient people, it’s the least we can do. They have their reasons and they’ve done nothing but good things so far for privacy and email. What’s another week?

  • Well, this is worrisome. CryptoCat isn’t available in the US iOS store for (presumably) the same reason. I’m not a big fan of the US government’s war on encryption.

  • Team,

    there is a ton of language here that is inappropriate in tone and message. Hope you can get ahead without paying too much attention.

    It is neither easy to navigate the app-stores of either color nor the comm-technologies available – neither is it easy to wrap up features into a proper release.

    Please keep up your good work – a couple weeks up or down are meaningless – and will be a non-issue once you’ve succeeded …

    And even if there is one-thing-or-other that is not as good as one could wish — there is huge value in having things up and working, and the replace certain pipes once better tech is available.

    Keep on keeping on!

    • well said. thanks for your lovely attitude and supportive, insightful presence. you are cutting through the noise. As you say – once it’s all going none of this will matter

  • Is there any chance they might end up preventing the app from being released in Canada? Because I know the US likes controlling everyone else, too…

  • great
    about the « +alias@protonmail » : it should also recognize alias and register them as a single contact.

  • We’re all still waiting. This ‘approval’ must be difficult.

    So eager to get away from gmail but won’t do it until the app is here.

  • Did you have to give them the app source code for approval? If so what’s to prevent a man in the middle attack when using this app? Or what’s to prevent them from coding a backdoor into the app without your knowledge? I’m using the app as a paid customer right now but I can’t help but wonder what security I’ve given up by using the iOS app. Granted, Apple does have a history of giving the government the finger whereas Google has a history of getting on their knees and blowing them.

  • Thank you. I will support protonmail soon with upgrades etc. For now I need to use the service no charge. Thank you again for making it available for no charge, il get with your upgrades not terribly soo. Much thanks