I can’t remember when I first signed up for Mailbox, but today was the day: after a couple of teasing text messages last month, which gave me false hopes and magic codes I couldn’t yet use, I finally got access to the elusive Mailbox app.
I’ve only had it in my hands for a few hours now, but for the most part, it was worth the wait.
Here’s what works:
Mailbox has a lot of shortcuts built in for how to organize your mailbox: four different swipe types, eight scheduling options for boomeranging a message back to your inbox, and a number of default lists to categorize messages by. Potentially overwhelming? Definitely. Luckily, their onboarding is pretty straightforward:
To get through to your mailbox, you actually have to get through all 20 screens in the sign up flow. Between granting gmail access, updating the app, and getting through the onboarding tutorial, it’s definitely one of the longest tutorials I’ve had to run through, but the UX is clean and the app is super zippy, so I ended up not minding much in the end. The app also quietly syncs in the background while you’re running through onboarding so it’s ready to go by the time you’ve walked through it.
Speed and ease of use: Mailbox feels lightweight, despite all its functionality. This is likely because everything is layered: it has all the expected features of a standard app inbox and would be easy to use even without those extra long swipes. It’s like having a basic and premium version all in one app.
Default lists: I have a terrible short term memory, so constantly email myself notes, links, reminders, etc. In iOs Mail, that all gets mixed up in my inbox since whatever I’m emailing myself is meant to be front of mind but naturally gets buried over the course of the day. Mailbox assumes a lot of people use their mobile inbox that way, and takes it a step further with default lists to organize things by. Even if you organize by folder in your current inbox, you get to skip a few clicks and file without even opening the message. It’s intuitive, and I like skipping steps.
Here’s what doesn’t work:
Default lists: Wait, didn’t I just say that was great? Well, yes, but only sort of. Chances are, if you’re the type of person to download Mailbox, you’ve got a system in place already for dealing with email on your phone. Doesn’t mean it’s a good one, but it’s likely you’ve hacked something together to tame your inbox, and that may or may not fit into Mailbox’s formula.
In my case, I meticulously label folder by folder by folder. Unfortunately, Mailbox is no good at integrating those folders. There’s no way of me filing things into my old folders - I have to create a new list if I want to file messages into a specific spot. That’s a drag, and also means that if I’m checking my email on desktop, I get a list of Gmail labels, and then a separate list of Mailbox labels: two times as many to scroll through does not make me feel like I’m streamlining my inbox.
Notifications: The default is on, and frankly, this is excessive. It would be one thing to change the badge number of notifications, but I don’t need them piling up on my homescreen whenever a new message arrives in my inbox. The only time notifications are useful is as a reminder alert if you’ve archived a message to reappear later.
Also a drag, that darn red badge:
Somehow my Mailbox badge number is always higher than my Mail badge number. This is the opposite of satisfying. Here’s their rationale:
Overall, I’m going to keep giving Mailbox a shot; I’m hoping there will be some updates out soon that remove redundancies, but even now it definitely makes me want to spend time in my inbox. For now I’m enjoying it’s zippiness, and totally overusing its boomerang feature. Now to archive: “Write Mailbox review.”