Mailbox for iPhone aims to reinvent the way you manage your inbox

Mailbox for iPhone is a brand new email app that's primary purpose is to let you focus on the messages that matter right now and store away the ones that don't. The Mailbox project seems to draw inspiration from both task management philosophies like Getting Things Done, and email management philosophies like Inbox Zero. Through a list of gestures, swipes, and taps, you quickly filter through emails and drill down to the content that matters right that minute, without being distracted by the rest.

When you first launch Mailbox for iPhone, you'll be asked to sign into your Gmail account. Yes, that means Mailbox will have access to your Gmail. That's how it does its magic. If you have concerns about that access, you're better off with a regular email client like Apple's own

You'll also need a reservation code and private number in order to gain access. We're assuming this will change at some point once server load on their end balances out, but for now, it could be a long wait for some users.

Reservation line aside, once you actually gain access to Mailbox and sign into your accounts, you'll be given a brief overview of how to navigate around the app itself. You'll spend a majority of your time in the main Mailbox menu. This is a combined list of all the Gmail inboxes you currently have set up on your iPhone. Along the top you have 5 icons. The first menu icon pulls out the side menu and lets you drill down to items such as settings, adding new mailboxes, or viewing individual inboxes on their own. The far right icon is a compose icon, exactly where you'd expect to find it.

The middle three icons go together and work with the Gmail label system. The first are items that you've marked as later, the next is your inbox as it sits right now, and the last is completed items. This is where items will get sent as you manipulate them in your inbox and move them around. This is where Mailbox really starts to excel over other mail clients as it takes advantage of the built-in labeling system that Gmail offers.

Basically, you start by opening your inbox like you would on any other client, but the way you interact with your messages is very different. Your main inbox within Mailbox for iPhone is meant to be used for tasks and messages that need your immediate attention. If a message comes in that can wait, simply start sliding to the left and a time icon will appear. Release your finger and you'll then be asked to schedule a time that you'd like the message to appear in your main inbox again. After you've completed a task, start sliding to the right until you see a green checkmark and it will be moved to the completed section.

Mailbox also has support for archiving messages. This is where swipe gestures are really handy. Just like you would slide your finger to the right over a message to mark for later, if you continue sliding your finger across the message even further, you'll then see an icon for archive or delete, if that's how you have your Gmail inbox set up. Sliding all the way in the opposite direction brings up the list feature. Again, this integrates with Gmail labels and allows you to mark messages as tasks. The defaults are to buy, to read, and to watch. You can also create new list items, aka labels that will sync up to your Gmail inbox.

The combination of gestures and swipes within Mailbox make it easy to quickly clear out your inbox and focus only on the messages that matter right at that moment. Anything that you've marked for later will appear back in the main inbox at that time. The badge count on the Mailbox app only focuses on items that are either unopened or still in your main inbox. The badge will update accordingly when you sort messages out or into the main inbox or when you receive new messages. Mailbox supports push notifications which means you'll see notifications as soon as they arrive.

While Mailbox is a great way to stay organized and on task, the Gmail only support option may limit some users that use other options such as iCloud. While we understand why Mailbox took that role considering the label system that Gmail provides, it's still a little disappointing to not see any other options available.

The most intriguing thing about Mailbox is the way it handles messages. Instead of dumping things into folders that you may or may not remember to go back to later, Mailbox will do the heavy lifting for you and move them back at the time you've designated. If you like to answer personal emails at night and only deal with work matters during the day, Mailbox will make it easy to stay focused and on task without distraction.

The good

  • The overall design is stunning
  • Push notifications are extremely fast, sometimes even beating the native iOS Mail app by several seconds
  • The gesture driven interface makes it quicker to sort through messages than traditional folders and tapping to delete or move methods
  • You can add labels almost as fast as you can mark a message as complete
  • Moving messages back to the inbox when you need to read them may be invaluable to forgetful individuals

The bad

  • The reservation line is extremely long at this point and users could wait a while in order to get in
  • Not ideal for inboxes that involve multiple users
  • Sometimes it can be easy to accidentally swipe on a message when scrolling
  • Gmail only support, which rules out anyone with an iCloud email for their primary email

The bottom line

Mailbox for iPhone has an elegant interface and an amazing underlying concept. If Gmail is your primary email client, Mailbox is better in every way than any other option out there. Everything from the interface to the way messages are handled through automatically creating labels within the app just works. The gestures are easy enough to get used to and you'll find yourself flicking and swiping through emails in no time.

However, there are times and situations where Mailbox won't be ideals, such as collaborative inboxes. If there are multiple people accessing any one Gmail account, using Mailbox could become a challenge and confusing to people that aren't using it. Then there's always that issue that if you don't use Gmail, you won't have the option to use the service and we aren't sure if there are future plans to add other clients.

If neither of these two problems apply to you, Mailbox for iPhone is currently one of the best ways to manage, sort, and interact with your messages.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • what's the point of an app that you need a code to use? Why not just release the app and let people use it? That whole thing is stupid.
  • 9thWonder. If it was just released to everyone at once and they had issues because of strong demand would you be one of the people trashing them for releasing an app that was "half baked"? Obviously they are trying to do a controlled release to work out any bugs as they go in order to avoid chaos. I believe this is how gmail was initially rolled out. They obviously care about user experience and getting it right. I'm sure a couple of days wait won't be that big of a deal.
  • It was released to everyone at once. That's why it's in the app store. And if they release a shit app then they would deserve to get trashed. As of ow it's just an app that nobody knows if you can use cause nobody can actually use it. So i can't tell if it's actually good or crap. But If they got bugs do your beta testing before you put it in the app store and just do updates like everyone else so i got no sympathy for them. I'm sure any half way decent app maker cares about user experience, but i downloaded the app, i'm a user. And my user experience is utter crap because the app is literally of no use to me. Plus i don't know what the issue is. you release. What are they working out that's so affected by the amount of users? Besides, It's an email app. Why do they need codes to access. Is it hooking into some other server other than google. If so that's a major issue too. Is that what they are afraid of? That it will crash their servers? Are they looking to mine my email for data? hmm. The more i think about why they'd have any reason to control access the more sketchy this app sounds. Regardless they released an app to an app store that barely anyone can get access to using so if they get crap ratings it's their fault for being stupid. They are naive to expect great reviews of the user experience if the people downloading can't use it. Good luck to em though.
  • The developers of Mailbox have clarified that due to the limitations of iOS which does not allow running tasks at all time in background, Mailbox's servers actually keep track of all the emails for you, they parse through all emails you get, extract just the text, compress it and then send it to your device which causes it opens up a lot quicker! Also push notifications require considerable resources, if they give 300,000+ people access at the same time, the system would not be able to manage it and it won't work for anyone! The only way of a staged roll out was to have a reservation system.
  • What's the point of having it go through a mailbox server? They are mining data i bet. Yeah, glad i didn't give them permission anyways. But that's horrible but hey if people like it fine with them. Sounds really sketchy to me though.
  • 9th Wonder - I guess you don't like it then. Move on. The explanations given are valid and succinct. If you don't like it, just uninstall it and, as I say, move on. Life's too short!
  • already uninstalled it. but it's a free country and i'm free to speak my view as much as i want. once, or one thousand times. So you move on. Don't like what i have to say? I don't care. And i'm perfectly free to slate people that offer a product to the public that provides no user experience. They've put their product in the out their. I'm free to criticize it from now until the end of time. deal.
  • I totally agree with you on that point. If they couldn't manage so many users and didn't have enough resources why make the app free? Had they kept it paid, people who are actually interested would've bought it anyways. What they did frustrates people and seems unfair to those who would actually use the app considering there will be many who would just reserve a spot for trying out what the fuss is about and delete it after a few minutes.
  • I don't get it, it you slowly let people on to your server, can you serve handle the load once everyone is on it? I understand not wanting 500,000 people to hit your server in one day but what happens when you send out invites and you have a million users? Can the servers handle it once you have to parse all that email?
  • I'm not sure. Perhaps they're just gauging interest and adding servers or something as they need them? Cost effective but I think some users will pass if they have to wait too long.
  • I had to uninstall this app because it was draining my battery.
  • up to I looked at the receipt ov $7467, I didn't believe sister woz like they say truley taking home money in their spare time on their laptop.. there friends cousin haz done this less than twenty three months and as of now cleared the loans on their cottage and purchased Mazda MX-5. I went here,
  • Updated to emphasize that you're giving them access to your Gmail to parse on their end, on their servers. May not bother some, may bother others. Informed users make informed decisions.
  • I am an informed user and as such, I have decided against using this app. Thanks for the additional info Rene!