A Million Little Mailboxes
March 24, 2013

A Million Little Mailboxes

Can a million users be wrong? That’s the question to ask this week as Dropbox’s recently acquired Mailbox app for Apple’s iOS has hit the million user mark. The free app debuted in the Apple App Store on February 7, arriving as a download for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users.

However, actual access to the service was doled out on a first-come, first-served basis that included a reservation system. It is hard to believe that users would actually sign up and then wait in a queue for access to email, but this is how Google’s Gmail launched for desktops a decade ago.

As of this week, one million reservations had been filled and yet there are still a number of uses in line. Mailbox could prove to be so successful that some (a lot in fact) will someday be able to boast that “I was one of the first million users.” It appears in this age of mass followings on Twitter, countless friends on Facebook and the like that we’re actually at that point where being in the first million is something unique.

As of press time, Cnet’s Lance Whitney noted that there were nearly 500,000 people still in front of him waiting for their access to the Orchestra developed Mailbox.

What remains the head scratcher in this is that the email has been on mobile devices for years, even before the smartphone became such a ubiquitous device. So what exactly is the deal that makes Mailbox such a compelling app, notably one that people will wait line, or at least a virtual queue, to take advantage of?

In a word, gesture.

Mailbox is clearly an attempt to reinvent the interface of email. Why isn’t really addressed, and in many ways this could be seen to run contrary to the long standing notion that “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” but clearly developer Orchestra is playing to the beat of their own drummer. This has meant changing the interface.

This latest update thus includes some user interface enhancement, but also addresses some performance issues. More importantly the latest version shakes things up… literally.

Users can now “shake to undo.” You didn’t mean to delete that email? Then shake the phone instead of doing a few clicks.

This isn’t to say that the touch equation has been taken out of the mix. iOS is still very much a touch-driven experience. Users still need to swipe and press and drag and generally touch the screen, and that isn’t going to change. After all, users can’t exactly fail their arms about to access email.

Mailbox is also clearly aimed at those who simply don’t deal with every email instantly or in the order these come in. The system allows messages to be in whatever order you, as the user, like, just as you could do with physical mail. Since there are times when email is important but you just can’t deal with it, there are features such as “snooze,” which allow email to be put back in the queue while a reminder can be sent about it.

In this way the message isn’t buried in the stack, as can often happen with email.

Mailbox can sync up with Gmail accounts – and at this point only Gmail accounts – albeit with some features stripped out. For iOS users this could be way to streamline their email management.

Image Credit: Cyborgwitch / Shutterstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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