Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps… Mailbox for iOS

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mailbox app

Managing email across multiple mobile devices can be either an uninspiring task at best (using the iOS mail app) or unwieldy at worst (the infuriatingly buggy Gmail for iOS app). The unenviable task of sorting through ones email and circumventing the existing apps in the marketplace and preinstalled on ones phone is a task not easily achieved, but desperately needed. Enter Mailbox.

Launching to a veritable landslide of positive press, Mailbox has been in my hands for a month or so. And what a month it has been. Beta testing for select members of the press since December, launching in February, sold to Dropbox for $100M in March. Quite the ride for its creators over at Orchestra!

After playing with Mailbox since it came out of beta (order number 15,422 thankyouverymuch), I can attest that while not perfect, the app has changed my inbox experience for the better. Before diving into that though, let’s talk a bit about Mailbox’s email mandate. Essentially, Mailbox wants email to be simpler, encouraging a clean, well-organized inbox, which few people can claim in this day and age of send-an-email-get-an-email, ad infinitium.

In an incredibly stripped down, minimalist approach, Mailbox lets you delete, archive, revisit and add emails to lists with a swipe of your finger. That’s what makes it a tremendously easy user experience; I mean, who doesn’t love to swipe!

Swipe Right

When you swipe right in the app, you are asking Mailbox to either archive the email or delete it, depending on how quickly you swipe. Swipe slowly halfway across, the message turns green and archives. Swipe more quickly to the right and it turns red and deletes. Sometimes my finger has a mind of its own and I accidentally delete when I mean to archive, but the most recent update of the app offers a “shake to undo” feature that while not sexy and exciting, has turned out to be handy when I’m particularly clumsy.

Swipe Left

My more favorite feature is swiping left to save for later: sort of a hybrid archive and reminder setting. If you know me, you know I need reminders on a regular basis. For everything. Especially with email; I get so much of it! When I swipe left, I can choose to be reminded of this email again either tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, next month, etc. etc. This is particularly handy for those of us (me) who have organizational problems on occasion (all the time).

When the time comes for Mailbox to remind you of the email again, it reappears in your inbox but starred and with a Gmail filter on it so it is easily distinguished. I appreciate that.

Note: These three features can also be accessed from within an individual email, but I’ve found I rarely use them there, preferring to get organized from the main screen.

Room for Improvement

The two problems I’ve uncovered with my consistent Mailbox use feel rather significant. First, and most important: I have not yet successfully been able to forward attachments. In my line of business that is a rather key feature. Secondly, when I forward an email, it removes it from the original chain and separates it, which makes finding that particular email rather challenging later. If the Mailbox team can fix these, the app would be practically perfect.

Although Mailbox has been live for quite some time, the demand remains high. While at a party this weekend in North Carolina, I extolled the virtues of the app to some friends, who immediately downloaded it… and was #419,000 in line. With 40 people behind her, which was comforting. Don’t worry, I promised her. It moves rather quickly and is absolutely worth the wait.

Other posts in the “Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps…” series can be found here.