Mailbox will be great for some people. But it doesn’t reinvent email, it just automates a process that may not work for you. Mailbox is simply a tool. A very nice one, a well-designed one. I like it. But it’s just a tool and a blunt one at that. No app will save you from e-mail. You can’t swipe and sort your way to a better you, no matter how long the line is.
In the months leading up to Mailbox's release, the Internet was aflutter with influential people sharing their excitement over the beta version of the app. Every few days, people would, without prompt, begin gushing about the capabilities of the then-impending app.
Interests were piqued, anticipation was high, and the hype was borderline impenetrable.
And then, just prior to its launch, Orchestra announced that the app's launch would be staggered. In the eyes of the tech world, this immediately likened Mailbox to the launches of big name products like Spotify, thereby bringing Mailbox into mainstream consciousness.
Suddenly, this comparably small app, was being considered in the same breath as some of the world's largest digital products. Outside of the few who had access to the app, people were tripping over themselves to register their interest and to get in line for its release.
In retrospect, the approach was very clever.
Although many continue to fuss over the wait time, the mere fact that these individuals are so focused upon the app and their respective positions in the queue betrays a deep-seated desire for, and curiosity in, the highly-touted app. Negative as these sentiments may be, the negativity stems from a sincere, and definably positive, sense of desire.
This staggered and highly user-engaged release has resulted in an illusory effect over those in the queue. They've been subjected to incessant hype and excitement, but they cannot yet access. So, they simply must believe it's worth it.
The experience simply could not be a let down after such a hard-fought battle to gain access, right? I mean, look at those numbers! Look at how fast they're ticking!
I certainly bought into it. As evidenced by Mr. Honan's article, however, not all have.
Although I was not one of the lucky few with early access, I did register my interest suitably early for the product. Accordingly, I received access to Mailbox within 24 hours of its launch last week. And in the moments leading up to my entry into the glorious world of productive email, I was literally doing a countdown with Myke Hurley via iMessage.
It was embarrassing.
As someone who prides himself upon pragmatism in technology, I was disproportionately giddy. I was holding off on responding to emails just so I could experience Mailbox with a fittingly enormous list of unread items.
Was I satisfied with what I received?
Surprisingly, yes. I was far more than satisfied.
Since the beta of Sparrow early last year, I've felt disdain for Apple's stock Mail experience. I've been waiting for a medium through which I'd feel comfortable contending with my ever-worsening inbox. Lacking push notifications beyond last year's beta, Sparrow simply could not hold up under day-to-day usage. Equally, Google's official Gmail app — which is actually fairly good post 2.0 update — simply hasn't been deserving of my trust or reliance following its 1.0 fiasco.
So, upon opening an app written from the ground up to support Gmail users, Mailbox proved to be immediately refreshing. It boasts a great many experiential benefits, whilst also introducing a variety of innovative takes upon the otherwise troublesome inbox characteristics.
And, in my eyes, it finds a great deal of success in doing so.
Delaying items by several hours or days is intuitive, the animations are delightful, and Inbox Zero is incentivized in a wonderfully productive manner. Perhaps you disagree with the notion of delaying items, but I actually tend to think it's a remarkably positive piece of functionality.
For pressing or important items in my inbox, I typically allow them to reside there, often utterly unattended for weeks. It's distracting and poses a great many annoyances when attempting to sustain some semblance of digital cleanliness.
I'd argue that delaying these items until they are pertinent and relevant is far more powerful than simply allowing them to remain fallow and annoying.
Mat Honan sees Mailbox as some sort of "blunt" email placebo. Perhaps he's right. But that's not to say that blunt instruments or placebos are without value. As fallible humans with finite time, we often need subtle psychological allowances to allow us to move forward. Equally, we often need blunt tools to beat stubborn elements of our lives into submission and change.
Although the Mailbox experience is illusory, it has the benefit of projecting some semblance of control onto our otherwise anarchic digital lives. Blunt as the method may be, the result boasts delicate and plentiful benefits.
Unlike productivity apps that require extensive learning curves, Mailbox is simple. You open, you attend and delay, and you move on. It's an intensely enjoyable, borderline intoxicating experience.
Imagine an extremely potent version of Realmac's beautiful to-do app, Clear, designed to contend with an overwhelming volume of actionable data. Rather than creating items in OmniFocus to attend to email, you simply gesture to the left or right within Mailbox.
Although you're not realistically "fixing" anything, as Mr. Honan argues, I'd suggest that you are contributing valuable engagement. The email you must attend to remains there for you, but you move things around in a manner conducive to manageable productivity.
I don't mean to gush as so many have done before me, but I'm simply very impressed by the work Orchestra has done with Mailbox. The app has contributed a remarkably positive spin on an otherwise painful portion of my day — no small achievement whatsoever — and I believe it's undeserving of the pedantic criticism it's been subjected to over its actionable contribution to email.
Perhaps Google could simply absorb the beneficial elements of Mailbox into the stock Gmail experience on the web, Android, and iOS, but, for now, Mailbox is freely available to offer an extremely well-designed spin on your inbox.
Fleeting as it may prove to be, I've never felt this content with my email. I've never felt more in control. Deluded as that may be, I'm happy with that reality.
If you're in the queue, I urge you to wait it out. Marketing-laden as the queueing technique is, there's a great deal of positivity to be uncovered from within the app. And I strongly encourage you to withhold judgment until you have a chance to dabble with the app subjectively.
Honan condescendingly sees Mailbox as little more than a "blunt" tool. I, on the other hand, recognize and praise the value of a blunt tool when dealing with an otherwise unwieldy problem.