It all started a while back when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed.  I came across a tweet by MG Siegler singing the praises of a new app from the team that brought us the to-do app Orchestra.  MG went on to say “this is the most excited I’ve been about an app in […]
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Will Mailbox for iPhone transform your email inbox?

It all started a while back when I was scrolling through my Twitter feed.  I came across a tweet by MG Siegler singing the praises of a new app from the team that brought us the to-do app Orchestra.  MG went on to say “this is the most excited I’ve been about an app in a long time. I’ve been testing it out for a few weeks now and it’s already the app I use most often.”  Hugh–a new take on email management.  Where have I heard that before?  But there it was, a little secret being whispered in the background of blog posts and tweets everywhere.  It wouldn’t go away, and as with most secrets, not knowing the complete story increased my desire to find out more about this app called Mailbox.  Then I saw the video, and my intrigue grew into an obsession.

The Problem

A full inbox can be paralyzing for some people, especially for those of us who lean heavily on email for work.  When left to flounder, it usually leads to a counterproductive atmosphere that can have a detrimental effect on your psyche, not to mention your ability to stay on task.  When your inbox is full, or even overflowing, it’s hard to decide how to prioritize what needs to be read first, much how to keep it all organized.

The Solution

Put email in its place.  Sounds easy enough, but what does that really mean?  Simply put, it means that with Mailbox for iPhone, you now have a very simple but powerful set of options at your finger-tips to quickly and efficiently sort through your inbox so that when you are done, all that’s left is the “stuff” you need to focus on now.  How you choose to get your inbox to zero is completely up to you.

Where to start?

Before I go any further, it is very important to note that Mailbox is designed to work seamlessly with Gmail only–for now.  Luckily, this means that if you have a Gmail account, every zone in mailbox maps to a part of Gmail so you can access all your lists you have created on the desktop version as well.



For me, I was curious about Mailbox for iPhone months ago.  I started following them on Twitter right away so I could keep abreast of developments as they became available.  When I heard that we could sign up to be potential beta testers, I submitted my email address right away.  I wasn’t chosen to be a beta tester, however my early adopter enthusiasm did give me one advantage–I was notified before the app was officially released last week, and I received a code to enter and claim my place in line when it finally went green.



This gave me a distinct advantage and an opportunity to test Mailbox before the main stream got a hold of it and it went viral, quickly adding to the line of potential users.  When I heard that the Mailbox app was available, I downloaded it form the app store, and entered the code I had been emailed.  In less than 8 hours I moved up over 7000 spots.  By lunchtime there were now nearly 600,000 people behind me in line.  In the early hours after downloading Mailbox I was concerned at the pace in which the reservations were being filled.  However, I remembered reading that the creators of Mailbox had explained that since it uses cloud based servers, the software was more susceptible to being overloaded.  Obviously they didn’t want to start off with an unreliable service, so they decided to go with the reservation system to gradually add people.  Unfortunately, this process will seem slow at first, but the caveat here is that they can potentially address any unforeseen issues before things get really crazy.  Here is the graph they used to explain their rollout–seems reasonable to me.



How does it work?


In order to deliver email as quickly as possible, send push notifications, and keep an accurate badge count on your home screen, Mailbox checks your email from the cloud.

All cached emails are stored securely in a way that’s not readable by humans (not even the ones on our team). More details can be found in our Privacy Policy, but the short version is that your stuff is your stuff and not ours, we take your privacy very seriously, and we do everything we can to keep your messages secure.

The meat and potatoes of Mailbox for iPhone is in how and where you send the email messages that are delivered to your inbox.  There are four basic swiping gestures that assist you in getting your inbox to zero.  First, there is the swipe to the right.  While viewing your inbox in the summary format all you have to do is simply touch on an email and slide your finger to the right.  This action will change the area to the left of the swipe to a green color with a checkbox in it, illustrating that your email is being placed in your archive folder.



That was easy, one down 3199 to go!  I need to mention here that at first this process may be a little intimidating, especially if you use and abuse your inbox like I do.  I tag emails in Gmail all the time, but then there they sit, accumulating and multiplying like dust bunnies under your bed.  Another interesting note to mention is that your badge count is set to default to your inbox conversation count and not your new messages only.  Luckily I found this info quite easily in the settings section.  I knew something was wrong when my badge count was much larger than what I had anticipated.

A longer swipe in the same direction (to the right) will send an email to your trash instead of the archive.  This action will be represented by a dark orange (X) on it.



The next two gestures are activated by swipes to the left.  A simple swipe to the left will reveal the option to snooze an email.  When you snooze an email you have several options to choose from.  You can read the message later in the day, in the evening, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, in a month, and my favorite–someday.  You also have the option of picking a specific date and time to have your email delivered.  Further, in the settings you can set the parameters for when your day starts and ends, and also indicate a specific time frame for the later today, and someday options.



Lastly, a long swipe to the left reveals the option to send your email message to a specific list or folder of sorts.  This is the option I tend to use the most so far.  I’m sure it’s the least destructive of the available options.  Perhaps you might even call it the “safe” choice.  I would expect most people trying Mailbox for the first time might use lists as well.  There are a handful of default lists (shown in the image below_right) but I deleted them all and created my own based on my needs.













While I was in my “exploring” mode looking around inside Mailbox I discovered the ability to send large numbers or groups of emails to the same place all at once.  Batch swiping as I have come to know it, is achieved by scrolling down to the bottom of any view populated with messages and swipe in either direction.  You always know the destination location of where you’re sending your message because the appropriate color coded bar along with the symbol for the specific destination is revealed during the swiping motion.  In addition, you can reorder messages in lists and smaller inboxes by tapping and holding on a message and then place it in the order you desire.

Final thoughts

Is Mailbox for iPhone worth the hype?  Absolutely–every bit and probably more.  What is the one app on your iPhone you spend the most time in everyday?  For me, the answer is easy–email.  If there was a tool available that could assist you in reducing the amount of time you spent everyday in email, and not only made your experience more productive but also enjoyable, wouldn’t you you use it? I can say with a thunderous roar, the answer would be yes!  Mailbox isn’t a gimmick.  I believe it’s here to stay, and I for one will always welcome an inbox of zero over a cluttered, disconnected collection of forgotten and misplaced emails.  At a price of FREE, how could you go wrong?




(image source: Mailbox)



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