February 11, 2013

Mailbox: Proof That Everyone Will Stand In Line, Even If They Don’t Know What For

It’s not often that an app is released with such anticipation and fervor as that which has surrounded the release of Mailbox.

But to say that Mailbox has been released is a bit disingenuous. iOS users are free to download the new email-taming app, but this only puts the user in a queue to use the service whenever it becomes ready. For now, Mailbox tells these potential users where they stand in the queue to begin using the service, and for many of these users, they have quite a long wait ahead of them. It seems as if people are simply excited about the idea of being able to use a client that promises to change the paradigm of mobile email. At the time of this writing, there are easily more than 383,000 people currently waiting in this line, anxious to begin using the service. It’s likely all this talk, all this synthesized exclusivity, is driving excitement for this app that so few people have used. Those who have used it, like John Brownlee from, are calling it “The Best Email App We’ve Ever Used.” So, what’s the big deal? The aptly titled app promises to turn email into actionable items, into a kind of To-Do list that will help users handle their email efficiently and achieve the nirvana that is Inbox Zero. In an interview with Liz Gannes of All Things D, the CEO of Orchestra — the company behind Mailbox and another popular productivity app by the same name — admits that releasing a new email client as a startup company may be crazy, but believes its’ something that needs to be done.

“You gotta create something everyone has so many expectations around but, generally speaking, has a lot of bad habits around. You have to build something that’s familiar enough, but different enough that it actually pushes people to have better experiences,” said CEO Gentry Underwood. “Our key innovation is that we are working on the “why” of mobile email. What people want to do on their phones around mail is really different than what they want to do on their computer. The No. 1 use of email is triage.”

Email as triage might be the best way to explain our current attitude towards the aging medium. Inboxes are rarely full with messages that need to be taken care of straight away. Some messages can be handled later, some need direct attention, and far too many can be ignored for long periods of time — even deleted immediately. According to Underwood, using email on a mobile device has led to a lot of “uh-oh” moments where people either forget they were supposed to respond to a particular message or lose a message in the shuffle of things.

Using a swipe and gesture based UI, Mailbox looks to give users complete control of their inboxes with minimal effort and time. Once Inbox Zero is achieved, Mailbox rewards the user with a Creative Commons image of a serene and relaxing scene, like the sunset on a beach. As Mailbox puts it: “Work smarter, not harder, never put off until later what can be done now, and figure out a way to make even the most burdensome chore fun.”

On the downside, Mailbox only works with Gmail at present and doesn’t yet support the iPad. There’s also the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have already queued up to use the service, meaning the longer you wait to download the app and get in line, the longer you’ll have to wait to begin using what could or could not be a terrific app. As it stands, very few of us will ever know.

Image Credit: Orchestra, Inc.

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