The new Mailbox app for iPhone and iPad: so far, a waste of time

Like many of you, I had been hearing about this new app called Mailbox. The buzz said it was a killer mobile app that was in nearly every respect superior to the default e-mail program in iPhone and iPad. So I went to the App Store and signed up, only to be told that I was in line behind a couple hundred thousand people. Wow, I thought. This must be some hellacious app.

Then, a few days ago, the news broke that Mailbox was being bought by Dropbox.

“Rather than grow Mailbox on our own, we’ve decided to join forces with Dropbox and build it out together,” Mailbox said in a Friday blog post. “To be clear, Mailbox is not going away. The product needs to grow fast, and we believe that joining Dropbox is the best way to make that happen.”

Nice, I thought. Full steam ahead.

It isn’t that the iPhone app is a trainwreck or anything. It’s generally a pretty good way of managing e-mail (and I get a lot of it, using multiple accounts, each day), although there are two issues that need addressing. The first is that it can be difficult adding an account from any ISP other than the big services like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. Like my E Street ISP account – it’s doable, but even with all the info you need in front of you, it isn’t easy, and it’s damned sure not intuitive.

Second, why in the tapdancing motherfuck am I not allowed to “select all” when I want to clean up my goddamned inbox?! It’s like Apple hired a hateful wanker from Microsoft to handle mobile e-mail functionality.

All of which is to say that I wasn’t feeling a desperate need for what I imagined Mailbox would be, but I was interested in taking it for a spin.

Last night I got the message that my Mailbox was ready to set up. So I open the app, follow the instructions to add an account, walk through the little tutorial, etc. And I quickly hit on a problem: Mailbox isn’t an app for handling your e-mail, it’s an app for handling your Gmail. Period. It doesn’t let you add Hotmail or Exchange or Yahoo or AOL (not that you should want to, but that isn’t the point), and it certainly doesn’t let you add accounts from smaller ISPs like E Street.

Mailbox offers users some slick, elegant ideas for managing their Gmail, it’s true, although it mainly seems devoted to letting me do things that I don’t have any interest in doing (like kicking an e-mail over to a special “save for later” queue). May work for you, and by all means check it out, but it’s not the game-changer that all the hype led me to expect.

Even if I loved it, though, it still complicates life because I’d have to use two e-mail apps instead of just one. Oh – and if it lets me select all to clean up the inbox, I haven’t figured out how yet.

If you’ve heard that it’s a Gmail handler with some cool features for arranging and organizing inbound e-mail and you like that idea, then by all means check Mailbox out. If you rely on services other than Gmail, then keep moving. They may let you add other services in future releases, but for now it’s going to be a waste of your time.

14 comments on “The new Mailbox app for iPhone and iPad: so far, a waste of time

  1. Hi Samuel!

    When you set up Mailbox, there’s a button at the bottom of your inbox called “Help Me Get to Zero” – you can use this to archive all, or archive all except stars or unread messages. If you’ve begun processing and that button has disappeared, just remove and re-add your account in Settings to reactivate it.

    You can also perform batch actions – more details here: http://www.mailboxapp.com/help/#tips.

    While Mailbox is only available for Gmail and Google Apps accounts now, we’ll support more clients as we grow. Stay tuned :)

    If you have questions or feedback, you can find us on Twitter (@mailbox) or at support@mailboxapp.com.

  2. Hi Samuel!

    When you set up Mailbox, there’s a button at the bottom of your inbox called “Help Me Get to Zero” – you can use this to archive all, or archive all except stars or unread messages. If you’ve begun processing and that button has disappeared, just remove and re-add your account in Settings to reactivate it.

    You can also perform batch actions – more details here: http://www.mailboxapp.com/help/#tips.

    While Mailbox is only available for Gmail and Google Apps accounts now, we’ll support more clients as we grow. Stay tuned

    If you have questions or feedback, you can find us on Twitter (@mailbox) or at support@mailboxapp.com.

  3. please, do a little research.. it’s easy to select all, it’s easy to trash vs archive, and it says VERY clearly that it’s gmail only. if you’re going to write an article ripping them, at least know wtf you’re talking about. this post is full of uninformed criticisms.

    is the app perfect? no. but at least read the support section & the faq. takes like 4 minutes. less than it took you to write this.

    • 1: I was able to find some of what I had missed at first with some deeper searching.

      2: If you can show me where it says “Gmail only” I’d be grateful. It talks a lot about Gmail and illustrates Gmail functionality, but I can’t find where it says no other platforms are yet supported. Not saying it isn’t there, but if it is it’s not obvious. Perhaps I could have/should have inferred that.

      3: I was also VERY explicit that I was responding mostly to the hype and buzz. The company isn’t responsible for that and I don’t blame them for it.

      4: I was also very explicit in noting that the things I was missing might be appearing in forthcoming iterations.

      5: Finally, I couched my comments within the context of how I use e-mail and allowed that others, who operate differently, might disagree, and that these folks should by all means try it out.

      Liz at Mailbox has been most kind and helpful, and I have no interest in purveying ill will toward them. I’m optimistic that in future releases they will produce something that I love above and beyond all existing mail apps.

      • on the home page of http://www.mailboxapp.com/ it says “for iphone + gmail” in the top right of the screen. on the itunes store, third paragraph is “Note: Currently for Gmail only. Other email platforms coming soon.”

        and to be clear, you can trash things with slow swipe to the right (turns red). fast swipe right is archive (turns green). using the bar at the bottom (for select all) handles both gestures, as well.

        • on the home page of http://www.mailboxapp.com/ it says “for iphone + gmail” in the top right of the screen.

          I think I interpreted that as meaning that it’s available for the iPhone platform.

          on the itunes store, third paragraph is “Note: Currently for Gmail only. Other email platforms coming soon.”

          Yeah, I looked on their Web site, not on the iTunes store.

          All things considered, I’m optimistic about the future. Whatever gripes I may have about its usefulness to me at present, it may well turn into the best app on the market.

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