Mailbox is here to fill the big, wide void left by Google-acquired Sparrow third party mail app for iOS. It takes the best features of the built-in Mail app, Gmail 2.0 and to-do list apps like Reminders, Any.DO to create a truly magical app for managing email on the go. Check out our full review after the jump.
The app comes from the folks behind the award-winning “Orchestra” task management app – Orchestra, Inc. The startup looked at how people were using their task management app and found that users were regularly sending emails to themselves that served as reminders for tasks, and – as in my case – leaving low priority email messages as “unread” to come back to them later.
Mailbox has been developed with the aforementioned situations in mind. It treats each email message in your inbox like a task in a to-do list. If an email is super important, you can quickly reply to it right away like you would in any other traditional email app, or if you do not wish to deal with it at the moment, you can quickly “snooze” it to later today, evening, tomorrow, the weekend, next week / month or to a specific date. These snoozed messages are then placed in a separate list that you can access later, allowing quick management of your inbox. You are reminded to check snoozed messages at a later time.
The idea is great and all, but what really sets Mailbox apart is the way it executes these ideas. Besides having an all-around genuinely gorgeous UI, it makes use of a handful of swiping gestures to improve UX:
- Long swipe to the left: add selected email to a list such as “To Buy”, “To Read” etc. You can add more lists from the app’s Settings. These lists are added to your actual on-the-web Gmail inbox in the form of folders so you can make use of Mailbox’s features anywhere you can access Gmail.
- Short swipe to the left: allows you to “snooze” an email. These emails are saved in a “Later” folder in your Gmail account so you can deal with them from the Desktop too.
- Short swipe to the right: Archive the selected email
- Long swipe to the right: Send the email to Trash
- Drag & Drop: order email messages like you would in a to-do list app.
Swiping gestures in Mailbox
Unlike Sparrow before it, Mailbox does come with Push Notifications. It accomplishes this by downloading your latest emails to Mailbox servers in the cloud, which are then pushed to your device (after being compressing). Now, despite what Orchestra, Inc. might say about “respecting user privacy”, this may be a cause for concern for people whose emails are highly sensitive.
Snoozed message (left), Inbox (middle), threaded message view (right)
However, like Sparrow before it, Mailbox makes use of an excellent threaded message view that displays email messages in a style similar to chat-bubbles in IM apps. I personally found this view better than the one offered by the built-in Mail app.
I did come across a few issues with the app, though.
First and foremost, it’s a little buggy at the moment. I’ve been using it all day today, and came across two instances where the app completely stopped working. In the second instance, I even had to hard-reset my phone since even the Home button stopped responding. We hope these bugs will be fixed in future updates.
Secondly, Mailbox is Gmail-only for now. Since I use Gmail for all my email needs, I don’t have an issue with this, but people using Yahoo! Mail or Outlook / Hotmail will have to wait until support for other email services and platforms is included, which Orchestra, Inc. says is “coming soon”.
Other, smaller things I noted was the lack of an option to choose different signatures for different email accounts, lack of support for landscape orientation and the inability to select multiple, specific emails at a time.
UI niceties in Mailbox.
Mailbox launched earlier today for the unbeatable price of completely free. However, as mentioned before, emails pushed to your iOS device are first downloaded to Mailbox’s own servers, so in order to avoid overloading servers, users have to “reserve” their slot and wait for their turn; the idea behind this is to gradually scale load on their backend setup. You can reserve your slot from the app itself, which you can download from the link below.