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Pop3 vs IMAP VS SMTP: What’s the difference & Which One Should You Use?

January 29, 2022, Written by 0 comment

How email protocol is used in email sending is something like the ocean, you only know it from the outside but don’t know about what’s inside. 

In email sending, multiple email protocols are used such as SMTP, IMAP, and POP3 and in this blog, you will learn what they are used for. In fact, there is a major difference between the two protocols i.e. SMTP and IMAP. 

I’ll help you understand the differences between SMTP and IMAP. We’ll also discuss POP3.

Let’s get started. 

What is SMTP? 

SMTP abbreviation for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and its universally used an industry-leading standard protocol for email sending. 

Its process is only defined as sending, relaying, or forwarding messages from a mail client to a receiving email server. Generally, standard senders will use an SMTP server to carry out the process of transmitting an email message.

In conclusion, SMTP is used for just email sending to the server. 


  • It is a push control protocol
  • It is a connection-oriented protocol
  • It makes use of TCP at the transport layer

What is IMAP? 

If SMTP is all about sending, then what is IMAP?

IMAP stands for Internet Access Message Protocol that continues the task of SMTP further, which deals with managing and retrieving email messages from the receiving server.

Simply put, IMAP is used for message retrieval and the aspect of this email protocol is to successfully decode an uploaded message and send it to the recipient server. 

In conclusion, IMAP will be used for receiving messages.


  • Accessibility 
  • IMAP uses fetch technology

The key point to remember (SMTP vs IMAP) is that SMTP is about sending emails. So, if you’re looking to enable email sending within your application, then you’ll be using SMTP over IMAP.

Example of SMTP & IMAP Working Together

It is hard to understand the working process of these two email protocols. If the company is sending transactional emails such as password reset, etc., and maybe receiving paycheck notifications – chances are you are using both SMTP and IMAP. 

Here’s how SMTP and IMAP work together to transmit an email message.

  1. When you draft an email and click on “Send”, it uses SMTP to send your message from your email client to an email server.
  1. After this, the email server will use SMTP to transmit the message to the recipient’s receiving email server. There it checks your email for spam, bad reputation, and other protocols.
  1. Upon successful response, the recipient’s email client will fetch the message using IMAP and place it in the inbox for the recipient to access.

There you have heard enough about SMTP and IMAP, let’s proceed to POP3. 

What is POP3? 

POP3 is similar to the IMAP email protocol and is another protocol for receiving email. 

Users or email clients have the option to either choose IMAP or POP3 for email fetching and receiving agendas. But mostly it depends on how you want to access your emails.

So, what’s the difference between POP and IMAP?

POP3 is slightly less approachable compared to IMAP by email hosting professionals. Why? 

POP3 fetches and lands the email from a server to a single computer, then deletes the email from the server. On the other hand, IMAP stores the SMTP forward message on a server and synchronizes the message across multiple devices.

In this way, IMAP is a more powerful and renowned method for receiving email if you’re working across multiple devices.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t use POP for email purposes, wisely you can use it when you prefer to have all emails accessible offline.

Also Read: 

What Is an SMTP Server & How does it works

What is the difference between SMTP server, SMTP relay, and SMTP service

Dos and Don’ts on setting up an SMTP Server

Summary of the SMTP, IMAP, and POP3 Email Protocols

To wind up our blog post on using SMTP or IMAP, here’s a quick summary:

  • SMTP is the industry-standard protocol for sending emails. If you are involved in sending emails, then you’ll use SMTP instead of IMAP.
  • IMAP is a widely used and common protocol for receiving email. IMAP syncs messages across all devices.
  • POP3 is another email receiving protocol but limited to a single device. It deletes the email from the server once fetched and received. 

That’s all..! 

Want to strengthen your email campaign and email server? Try SMTP server for email marketing from Time4Server Pvt. Ltd. 

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