Cloze: Tidy Up Your Inbox

Right now, there are two huge trends in app development: weather apps and email apps. I get more emails about weather apps and email apps than I know what to do with. I’m not complaining, though. These developers are often making really impressive apps but, apart from great user interfaces, I fail to see what they’re really putting their tech-savvy skills to use with. Interfaces are great, but they could be outdone anytime Apple decides to update their own Weather or Mail apps. Sometimes, these apps are a little short on features.

Cloze is the exact opposite. It’s a free universal app for iPhone and iPad that combines email and social media updates into one centralized feed. What really excites me is that Cloze doesn’t think the problem lies within the communication’s interfaces but rather within the interface’s management of communication. Combining email and social feeds has been tried before by a few other developers, but I’ve never felt it’s been executed well. Let’s face it, making an app like this is tough. Does Cloze have the technical knowhow and design skills to make their app user-friendly and feature-filled? Let’s find out.

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Getting Started

The tour is detailed enough to explain away the Mystery Meat.

The tour is detailed enough to explain away the Mystery Meat.

The first time you open Cloze, you’ll be asked to create an account. The app uses a unique “social management system”, as I call it, and puts all of your email information and social networking under that account’s umbrella. If you choose to set up Cloze on another device, all you need to do is punch in your original user ID. When you set up your account, the app sends you an email advising you that they’re busy compiling your information and when they’re done, they’ll let you know. It can take days, but despite my thousands of archived emails and tweets, it took only half an episode of Dexter for everything to be finished.

When it’s all set up and ready to go, you can expect a guided tour of the app. It’s a really in-depth tour and frankly it can be a little overwhelming. Gratefully, if you need to revisit the tour at any time, it’s available in the Settings menu. As far as the app’s layout, it’s mostly simple. The tutorial makes sure that you recognize some of the more complicated intricacies of the app before getting started, but there’s still a lot to explore.

The Cloze Score

This is how Cloze rates your relationships.

This is how Cloze rates your relationships.

Cloze handles your relationships in a similar manner to Klout. People are given a score according to your relationships with them, and you can adjust that manually if need be. The more contact you maintain with somebody, the higher their rating will be. From there, Cloze organizes your inbox based on the ratings of those who are in contact with you. Your inbox is broken down into Key People, Other Mail, Bulk Mail and Losing Touch. When any of those compartments is completely cleared (or archived, in the case of Gmail), a checkmark appears.

The Cloze score is a really interesting way of handling things. Even my roommate, who occasionally also has the role of close confidant, has a low Cloze score. This is because our communication via social networking and email is kind of moot and unnecessary. His girlfriend, who has become a dear friend, and I communicate regularly via email. She has the highest Cloze score of all, but only a 60.

Cloze's filtered inbox.

Cloze’s filtered inbox.

Could the problem be me? Is it that I don’t communicate enough? I don’t know, but I can set a goal for the Cloze score if I want. So I said I wanted to improve my roommate’s Cloze score, but I’m honestly not sure what this does for me. The consequence of this scoring nonsense is that it places arbitrary non-human scores on real relationships. I keep electronic communication at a minimum with friends, but as a result, they’re filtered out of my email, which is beyond silly.

Getting Organized

Cloze handles email pretty well, but it's too bad there's not a general inbox.

Cloze handles email pretty well, but it’s too bad there’s not a general inbox.

That’s right: Cloze organizes your inbox by its arbitrary score. Most of my email and social life gets tucked away in a compartment called Losing Touch, which implies that my relationships with most of who I keep in touch with must be terrible. This is the first problem of two big ones within the app.

The second problem is that there is no traditional All Mail inbox where I can look through every piece of mail. I keep a relatively clean inbox compared to most people, but Cloze filters a lot of it out. And some of it, like a tuition email from my university, is of grave importance. Cloze could be a great app if it just allowed me to view all of my email and then rank relationships based on how often and how frequently I reply.

The Interface

Social media feeds look great.

Social media feeds look great.

I actually really like Cloze‘s user interface. It’s easy to navigate and it makes a lot of sense visually. The tutorial explains away all of the Mystery Meat so there’s no frustrations. After the tutorial, you’ll know that holding down on a contact’s avatar brings up detailed contact information and detailed information about how the contact got his/her Cloze score. You’ll know which button suggests Replying to or Forwarding an email.

There’s also a lovely addition to the app that helps it compete with Mailbox: You can save emails for later today, tomorrow, next week, etc. For some people who are tired of Mailbox’s waiting list, Cloze could be the solution. It’s offering the exact same functionality right now with a different interface.

The interface itself is reminiscent of other social networking and email apps overall. There isn’t anything particularly shocking about it which for some people is going to be a good thing. There’s a sense of familiarity within the app that makes its friend-rating seem a little less absurd. To be clear, this is a very good thing.

The problem I have with the interface is that it can be a little slow. Cloze is still in its early days and I can only assume it will get better and faster as time goes on, so it’s not something I’m terribly worried about. It really struggles with looking through different mailboxes, which I think might be related to the sheer amount of data it’s fetching.

Final Thoughts: Is Cloze Revolutionary?

Conceptually, Cloze is a great idea with a lot of potential. The promise is there. The problem is the scoring system which is decidedly inhuman despite what it actually attempts to do. If Cloze allowed me to keep track of all of the email in my inbox, that would get it a better review too, but as it is, Cloze is unfortunately inefficient as a primary source of email and social media. I hope it improves in the future.


Summary

Cloze is a great concept with a lot of potential, but it has some improving to do before it can replace any of my go-to apps.

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