Mailbox has finally been released in the iTunes App Store amidst much excitement and hype. The app is free and only available for Gmail right now, so no risk to download and try out, however there is quite a wait for activation, as I discuss below.

How Mailbox Changes Email

The Mailbox app aims to solve the problems created by email that was created thirty years ago without consideration of today’s needs. The developers recognized that “people [myself included] use email as a (terrible) to-do list” and developed the app to perform as an inbox where you can sort your emails by urgency, archive, and snooze the messages for later. The goal was to support your ability to get to Inbox Zero, and even rewards you with a daily featured Instagram photo when your inbox is clear.

The Queue: Genius or Problem

As great as the hype surrounding the Mailbox app sounds, I have yet to be able to use it. I am still waiting for my turn to activate the app because the genius of the app includes a fascinating promotional method for building buzz: a queue for activation that is being described as “beyond insane”.

Because I reserved my place in line a month ago, I was able to “skip ahead” in line and start with merely 45,000 people ahead of me. At the time of writing, 24 hours after downloading, I had 32,000 ahead and 582,400 in line behind me. Whether this is only a method for creating more interest is unknown, but I find it intriguing as a device for marketing. Had they told me I would need to wait another week until I could download, it would not have fazed me and also not have been memorable. However, I find myself constantly checking my place in line, comparing with my friends, and trying to determine how fast the line is moving. Mailbox describes the way they are rolling out the app in terms of a curve – over time the rate reservations are filled will increase.

Mailbox App and Labels

As quickly as I became excited about the Mailbox app, I suddenly hesitated when looking through Twitter conversations and found this:

Labels are critically important to me. I use them as folders, and I recognize that some people do not think this is the right way of using Gmail, but it is what works for me. Before Gmail had the option to use labels as folders I could not make the switch and continued to use Yahoo’s frustrating email system for far too long.

Twitter and the message boards are burning up on this topic and as for me the jury is still out. I will reserve judgement until I can see how the Mailbox app works, that is if I ever get to the front of the line.



  1. Aaron Street Aaron Street says:

    As the early-adopter that I am, I was number 15,000 in line, so I got the app last week.

    It’s slick and fairly intuitive, with the ability to make people much more email-productive.

    However, as you noted, the fact that it doesn’t currently support adding Gmail labels before archiving is a glaring omission.

    Also, as someone who generally keeps my inbox at or near zero, I haven’t found that it has saved me much time, yet. I’ll give it a few more weeks—maybe waiting to build up some junk in my inbox—to see if it’s helpful to me.

    Which is all to say: The people most likely to find it and use it (internet hipsters who know what GTD is) might be the people who will benefit least from it.

    • Josh Camson says:

      I got it last week as well. I’m working on a more thorough review, but I think it has been helpful. I’m dreadfully guilty of keeping lots of email in my inbox, and this has helped me keep things in check.

      You can add the emails to a list, which applies a label. You can add labels in Gmail underneath the Mailbox label, and it archives them there no problem.

  2. Aaron Street Aaron Street says:

    Another little nit pick (to which there might be a solution, but I haven’t yet bothered looking):
    When iPhone notifications are turned on, all incoming emails receive a notification, which means if I’m working at my desk (like, right now) and churning through lots of email, then go to check my phone for something, my other notifications (calendar appts, text messages, etc.) are buried under dozens of Mailbox notifications.

  3. Ken says:

    I waited 2 weeks to get the app and in honesty I am underwelmed

    there is a distinct lag in getting new mail, I can’t put the mail in portrait mode

    and at the moment,their servers are reporting “Cant get a Connection”

    I have gone back to the Gmail app, its faster, I can use my labels again, I can use portrat mode, and the email is instant

    I fear Mailbox as some way to go before it as a chance of being my first choice email App

    It looks like another Sparrow to me, a lot of Hype but with little substance

  4. Kim Curtis says:

    From a marketing perspective, Mailbox’s approach of hype and wait is brilliant… It reminds me of the huge lines you see outside of nightclubs and when you finally get in you realize that everyone is outside waiting in line creating buzz; not in the club.

    Labels seemed to be a big issue: They do not automatically sync with your existing labels but you can move your existing labels under the [Mailbox] label and they will be there for you to use (long swipe left).

    Running a Live Chat Lead company ( we get a lot of emails from all sorts of different sources and the Mailbox App has been a handy way for me to snooze (aka put off) leads that are not as urgent as others.

    The Jury is still out as to whether I’m going to keep using it or not…

    On a side note, I read that Dropbox bought them for $100M. Selling was the smartest thing the founders could have ever done (Andrew Mason from Groupon should have done the same).

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