Mailbox: How Apple would do mail if they put their mind to it [Review]


After an excruciating wait, we finally have access to Mailbox, the new email client on the block that is making big statements about how “it will change the way you do email”. Keep in mind that there are so many great email clients out there, including Gmail’s native app, Sparrow, and even Apple’s own mail client baked right into iOS (in some ways). So, how does this newcomer stack up?

The first experience in using the app came from the reservation system, which Mailbox says is to make sure that they don’t overload their servers. I joined the queue on the morning it came out, yet I was the 115,586th person in the queue. So much for getting up early. It would take just under a week to finally get my hands on this much-anticipated app.

When I did finally gain access to the app, setup was just a matter of entering my Gmail account details (at this stage, Gmail is the only supported email service on Mailbox, which doesn’t make it a complete replacement for the iOS client yet) and all my emails appeared in the inbox, like you expect.

What you now have to get accustomed to is the fact that Mailbox doesn’t treat your inbox like a dumping ground for older emails – that’s supposedly the job of the Archives folder in Gmail. Before Mailbox, I was happy to let my older emails sit in the inbox, simply because I was unaware of the Archive feature, until now.

The whole philosophy of Mailbox is to help get your inbox to zero, and keep it there. There are two main ways that it tries to do this: It makes managing emails as easy as swiping to the left or right, depending on what you want to do, and rather than displaying emails in their conventional format, emails are displayed as a conversation (however, rich-text emails seem to be exempt from the conversation structure).

For me, the first way that it helps to clear out your inbox is the most effective. In a matter of a single swipe, all the emails sitting in my inbox were moved to the Archives folder, where they should’ve been in the first place. New emails, or “conversations”, as Mailbox calls them, become the only things in my inbox, and once I’m done with them, they go into the Archives, or, as I’ll explain, will be deferred for a later time.

I find the deferring feature one of those “Why didn’t they think of this before?” things. While it’s not that hard to live without it, it becomes especially useful for emails that you can’t act on at the time you receive them, and for reminding you to act on them.

On the whole, this is a really great email client with some neat little features that make going through your emails really quick and easy. Recent outages of the app’s back end have soured the reliability of the service, but it’s safe to say that these outages will eventually become fewer and further between. If you’re still debating whether to join the queue of well over 700,000 people, get in now before more people join. Even though you’ll be waiting a while before you can actually use it, it will definitely be worth the wait, and the app’s back end will probably be more reliable by the time you’re finally given access.



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