APP REVIEW: Mailbox For iOS

MailboxLogo+Wordmark_Vertical_BLUERating:  TekIt

Price:  FREE

Goodieness:  If Gmail is your primary mailbox service and you have an iOS device you’ll never have a cluttered inbox again all without ever having to dispose of a single email.  Sorting mail is literally addictive, like playing Angry Birds.

Crummieness: Besides not being available before….only syncs with Gmail.

Review

With one quick download my pile of emails almost instantaneously got sorted.  I can honestly say that never has an app ended up straight to my main app dock so quickly.  Same day in fact.  Mailbox by Orchestra, Inc. is exactly what the name suggests.  It’s a mailbox for email, Gmail specifically and exclusively.  It’s currently available for Apple’s iOS devices only.  If you fall into both camps then this is good news for you particularly if you’re inbox is cluttered which so easily happens nowadays as you pretty much have to subscribe to everything online.

I read the buzz about this app a couple months ago and decided to take the plunge.  It was still in beta which meant going to the App Store and downloading it only put you in a long line to getting a link to downloading  it.  I was given a number (750K and change) that I could check daily by opening the app icon to see it tick down.  After about 6 weeks a notification popped up allowing me to grab it finally.  I was not disappointed.   Note it’s now available for download instantly.  After a painless sign in screen to my Gmail account the sync began. Then a really helpful tutorial ensued.  The first thing you’ll notice that’s different about its approach to mail is that  my icon badge defaulted to listing the number of items in my inbox (approx. 454 for me at time of download).  It did not distinguish read from unread items.  Before you get in a tizzy over that, realize this is the whole point of mailbox, it aims to help you clean out your mailbox and keep it clean in a fun and visually pleasing way.  In fact there’s even a reward for doing it!  I’ll get to that soon.

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So what makes it worthy of my highest TekIt rating?  Gmail has become my primary email but I maintain 2 or 3 other accounts mostly for junk mail.  I had made Gmail my primary account with the intention to keep it spiffy but alas had fallen behind on my inbox.  It was on my lengthy to do list to cleanup but who am I kidding, it was never getting done.  I am one of those who don’t take the time to tag important emails as favorite or important.  I usual left them marked unread as my reminder of their importance.  I may not be good at keeping my inbox clean but I was at least anal about not having any nagging notifications cluttering up my icons on my home screen.  I can’t stand it, but unfortunately my mail app icon had remained in the 20s.  This is why I almost panicked at first when I saw that the Mailbox icon showed 454.  Nevertheless I plunged on through the tutorial and into my inbox.  This is where the fun began.  In the tutorial you’ll learn that there are four basic ways to sort mail, all with a simple swipe.  First is a short swipe to the right which will archive an item.  Second is long swipe right which will delete items.  Third is a short swipe left which will give you options to postpone reading mail for a select period of time.  You will be given seven options ranging from later today, this evening, to picking a date.  Once a time has been selected the item cleverly disappears from your inbox to reappear at the appointed time.  The fourth option is a long swipe left which will bring up a list of tags to choose from.  Selecting one essentially moves the item to a folder named after the tag.

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If you haven’t picked up the common theme here, this app might almost have been better served being named Swipebox.  If you’re plagued with Swipus you’ll feel at home here.  It took only two days of sorting every free moment I had to sift through my 454 items and when I did I was met with a surprise hidden behind the clutter.  It wasn’t just a blank screen but rather an image conveniently hidden behind a large ‘M”.  Tapping on it revealed the whole image.  Every day the image changes and it’s always a treat to behold.

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Navigating the app is a cinch.  Naturally more swipes left or right will access the main menu and Gmail folders or dive deeper into individual mail items.  The top is reserved for five icons.  From left to right there’s menu, items reserved for later viewing, inbox, archive, and compose.  Opening emails reveals crisply formatted messages.  Message interaction such as pinch to zoom requires a single tap anywhere within the message or a right swipe.  Composing is a breeze within an uncomplicated text box.  And lastly if you ever get too swipe happy and need to undo any action naturally just give your phone a shake to undo any last action.

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Wrap Up

I do my best to reserve the TekIt rating for things that are truly special and standout head and shoulders above all else.  There’s no question in this reviewer’s mind that if you use Gmail and own an iOS device that Mailbox should replace your default mail app, even the nicely done Gmail app.  It made organizing my mailbox a fun affair, it’s elegant, so easy to comprehend, and quite stable.  Is there room for improvement?  Sure.  Mail can only be viewed in portrait mode.  I can’t seem to assign any sounds to notify me when mail is sent and I wish that my tags would have been able to sync with ones I already had created in Gmail.  It would be sweet if we could download the daily image to use as our background as part of our reward for keeping our inbox clutter free.  These are easily overlooked and easily forgotten.  In fact not long after I installed it I took on another cumbersome task that I had too long postponed-moving all my subscriptions to Gmail so the fact that it doesn’t sync with Hotmail or Yahoo no longer phases me either, but let’s hope it will open up to other mail clients soon.  It’s pertinent to note that the app was recently swiped up by Dropbox so it’s no stretch to see some future Dropbox integration here at some point.  I honestly see no downside to that.  Happy swiping!

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