Mailbox Review: Clever, Intuitive Mail App That’s Great If You Only Use Gmail
When the Mailbox app hit the App Store earlier this Spring, the tech blogs exploded with joy. Here was mail done cleanly, intuitively, sleekly, better. Of course, there was the two-week wait initially to actually use the app, as the Mailbox team only slowly rolled out their server load. That situation has changed recently. Mailbox team ended the reservation system and now allows everyone instant access to all the features Mailbox has to offer. But like so many others I waited my turn. I wanted to know if Mailbox was as good as all the bloggers were saying when this email client first launched.
So, was it? Yes and no. Mailbox really is a great mail app, but it suffers from one crippling limitation.
Mailbox is specifically designed to help you clear your inbox. The app makes it easy to categorize and manage every e-mail that comes in. Something you want to keep? Swipe right to archive. Something you want to delete? Do a long sweep across. Want to defer the e-mail, respond to it that evening or the next day? Swipe left and tell Mailbox when you want to be reminded. Before long, you’re looking at an empty inbox, and Mailbox rewards you with a colorful picture-icon.
Overall, the gesture functions in Mailbox are intuitive and effective. My only complaint is that it can be hard to trigger a delete; both delete and archive are right-swipes, with only the length of the swipe determining which function is triggered. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to chase an e-mail into the archive to delete it because my “long swipe to delete” wasn’t quite long enough.
In terms of design, the app is clean and flat with some effective use of color to signal functions. Fonts are readable; icons are distinctive; the “You’re all done” icon is pleasant as a little treat after you’ve finished your tasks. It fits the iOS design aesthetic very well, but it’s also distinct from it. I would very much love for Mailbox to be my default go-to mail app. It is that good.
This brings me to Mailbox’s one glaring limitation: it is an app that only works with Gmail. I like Gmail; my primary personal e-mail address is Gmail. But you know what isn’t Gmail? My workplace e-mail. Or my secondary personal e-mail (the one I use for things like bills and websites that require logins). Or the Outlook.com e-mail I’ve been using recently for some writing projects. So even though I like Mailbox, I still use the iOS Mail app as my primary e-mail app because I need to check all of those e-mail accounts everyday.
Granted, I may be atypical with my five different e-mail accounts. But so many people nowadays have at least a work e-mail and a personal e-mail, and so this has to be common problem for users. Mailbox is a great user experience, but if I have to go into the other mail app anyways, why not just do everything there?
I would have loved nothing more than for Apple to have bought Mailbox and integrated it into the core iOS Mail app. Unfortunately, Dropbox bought it instead, which just seems like an odd purchase. It certainly doesn’t signal exactly what the future of Mailbox looks like. For now, it’s the best Gmail experience you’ll find on iPhone; if you’ve got non-Gmail accounts, though, you’ll have to decide if the interface is worth having two active mail apps on your device.
Our score: 4 out of 5
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