Mailbox made a big splash on the email news scene back in February when version 1.0 was released. I reviewed version 1.01 on iPhone.AppStorm and was really pleased by how the app worked. Probably the most famous item Mailbox is known for was the infamous queue line, which slowly allowed users access to the app. Some people threw negativity toward the app for this style of release, but I felt it was uncharted territory for a developer to release an app along these lines. No matter what your opinion was, it did show the developer cared about the release experience and kept their servers up and running during the initial launch.
Mailbox was not finished making headlines. Just after being on the iPhone for a month, the Mailbox team announced they were joining Dropbox. Soon after joining Dropbox, Mailbox was able to remove the queue and allow anyone to bask in an empty inbox. One common complaint that has been with the app for the past few months is the lack of an iPad app. Well, Mailbox has finally delivered. Let’s look into why the app made headlines and see if the iPad version lives up to the hype.
Still Only Gmail
Although the app is free, there is one important item to note before rushing out to download. The current Mailbox version, version 1.3, only supports Gmail.
Within the Gmail support, Mailbox does include support for Google App accounts as well.
The Mailbox team is promising to include support for other IMAP email providers, such as Yahoo and iCloud, but no timeline is given. Also as given away by the queue process, it is probably clear that Mailbox does run your email through their servers — they do this in order to provide push notifications for new email. It is probably either something you are going to be comfortable with or not. For me it is not a huge concern, but one you should be aware of.
Reaching Inbox Zero
The ultimate goal with using Mailbox is reaching a clean inbox. The actual term of Inbox Zero was coined by Merlin Mann. The actual meaning per Merlin is,
That “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox — it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.
All this really means is that clearing out your inbox will allow you the freedom to focus on more important things in your life. So how does Mailbox help you clear out your inbox? It utilizes swipes while viewing your inbox to move messages quickly out of your it and out of your mind.
A swipe can either be to the left or right, but two destinations are available from the completion of each swipe. To differentiate between the two destinations Mailbox will show the result of each swipe depending on the length of the swipe. To quickly archive something perform a short swipe, to the right, on a message. Performing a long swipe, to the right, on a message will send the message to the trash. Speed has no influence on the destination of the swipe but only the length of it will determine the end result of the action. Archiving messages is now easier and quicker than ever before.
We still have another direction in which we can swipe to clear these messages off of our mind. The outcomes of swiping to the left also vary by the length of the swipe. A short swipe to the left allows a user to schedule an email to appear back in their view at a time determined by the user. When scheduling emails a popover box, including several different scheduling options, appears. An option exist to pick a specific day for review, but most of the options are generic such as next month or someday, which will remind you in three months about the email. The scheduling feature is incredibly useful for moving those unimportant emails to a more suited for reading section.
A long swipe to the left offers up the option to choose a list to store the email. Putting emails into a list is great for grouping together certain items such as a shopping list or maybe even a birthday wish list.
Design and Functionality
As if it was not apparent from the screenshots, Mailbox is a well designed app. The fluidity of swipes makes it easy to move through several emails quickly. A slight learning curve exist when first learning the appropriate swipes, but the app provides good clues when performing these swipes to makes sure each action is as the user desired.
Although, there will undoubtedly be times an email ends up somewhere the user did not desire, tracking down these emails is easy because the scheduled and archived views surround the inbox view. Clicking on one of the other views shows all of the emails you have scheduled or archived.
If you are looking for an email but still can not find it, a stealthy search bar lives under the menu of each view.
My only complaint with the design of the iPad app is that it lacks support for portrait orientation. Hopefully this will be fixed with an update in the near future. I think allowing the users to choose which orientation they prefer is always better than limiting the orientation to just one orientation.
Email On iOS
If you only use Gmail and only handle email while on iOS, then Mailbox is your perfect app. For the rest of us it is important to note how Mailbox works within Gmail so you can find your email while not using the app. The app creates a main folder called Mailbox. Under this folder is a folder labeled Later which will house all of your scheduled emails. Under the Later folder are folders for each list you have created. It will be interesting to see if Mailbox brings any of their email workflow to the desktop with a Mac app or maybe through a Gmail extension.
Whatever your working style, there are probably times we struggle with email. Some days the messages pile up and I cannot decide what to do with certain messages. Mailbox can be my solution to this by allowing me to schedule it to a later time. This not only clears it out of my inbox but frees my mind to arrive at the appropriate response before the message reappears.
The Orchestra team did a great job of bringing the Mailbox experience to the iPad. The app is stable, well designed, and fun to use. Unfortunately some of the same complaints of version 1.01 still riddle the app with the biggest being it only supports Gmail. Other apps including Mail Pilot are on the market now which support any IMAP email client. Hopefully, Mailbox will join the party soon. When it does, I believe the app will be nearly perfect.