I got to download the much-hyped Mailbox app the day it was released. I’ve been out of town for the last week, so the app has been my main way to process e-mail. For those who don’t know, this is a free iPhone-only app that works with Gmail (and Google Apps) to help you get to Inbox Zero. The app helps swimmingly with that goal. But can it replace the default iPhone Mail app?

What I Like about Mailbox

Swipe Gestures

If you love swipe gestures, you will love Mailbox. That is the whole premise behind the app. With one swipe you can delete or archive an entire e-mail thread. But you can also perform several Mailbox-only functions. You can add e-mails to a list, or have them magically reappear in your inbox at a designated time or on a certain day.

Smooth Design

This app is sleek. It looks good when you’re using the inbox, and the swipe gestures all work well. Even the compose menu has a nice look to it.

What I Don’t Like About Mailbox

Unfortunately, some glaring issues with the app keep me coming back to the default Apple inbox. First of all, there is no landscape mode. If I have to type a long e-mail on my iPhone, landscape mode is a must. Second, there is no access to non-contact e-mails. In other words, the auto-fill feature that Apple uses in its default mailbox does not exist in the Mailbox app. I use this feature pretty regularly, so it’s a dealbreaker for me.

Absent those two issues, I would continue using the app. But you should be aware of a few other issues. The app defaults to a new e-mail signature with a reference to the app in it. Also, you cannot use your existing Gmail labels. But there was some concern in Karin’s post about the labels. The labels exist when you go to Gmail. They’re just nested under the “[Mailbox]” label. You can create labels in Gmail and they appear in the app.

Finally, there is a delay in receiving the e-mails. When you open the app it has to download the messages. It does not download the messages in the background.


Mailbox App

Reviewed by Josh Camson on .

Summary: Mailbox is a great app to help you empty out your bloated inbox. But it may not be suitable for every day heavy usage.

Overall score: 3 (out of 5)

One Comment

  1. Brendan says:

    An interesting review. I’ll admit that I’m less impressed with the app than I was for the first day or so.

    On the labels issue, in order to use your existing Gmail labels in the app, you need to go into Gmail on a browser, and edit your labels so that they are nested under one of the new “[Mailbox]/” lists that the app creates in your Gmail account. If you do this, you can then long right-swipe in the app to add the email to your desired label, and also pull up every email that has the label in question.

    Admittedly, this solves my biggest issue with the app to date, because I am a heavy user of labels and find them very useful. The issue I have is that I know that the underlying philosophy of the app isn’t really consonant with this, and so if I use it this way it’s not really going to be the mind-blowing paradigm shift of an app that it could be. I still find it useful for snoozing items and outright deleting others so that I can get to a clean inbox, something which was always elusive for me in the past. But ultimately the jury is still out for me on this app currently — I suppose I will have to form a more concrete and definitive view after using it with the labels system for another week or two to see how useful it really is.

    I will admit that I am somewhat pampered by having also used the Gmail app on the latest android devices, which has pretty much the full-blown experience of the browser account built into the app. So that’s probably skewing my perception of this app a bit.

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