Q&A with Mailbox — The Rollout of a Revolutionary, Free E-mail App

The new Mailbox app is receiving a phenomenal response, with wide coverage in major media, including a highlight in this week's issue of in Time Magazine. The goal of Mailbox is to help you deal with the daily onslaught of e-mail to achieve an inbox with zero messages. Both the app and the service are free.

The company is making the app available gradually to make sure everything is working properly. If you download the app, you'll be added to the queue of people waiting to use it. You can use the app to track your progress in the queue. According to some reports, there are nearly 1 million people in the queue, and Mailbox is releasing the app at a rate of 800 users per hour.

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After writing an earlier post about Mailbox (a post that's exceeded 700 shares), I contacted the company with further questions. Here are the answers I received from a company spokesperson.

Q. What's the main concept behind Mailbox that makes it different from other e-mail apps?

A. Mailbox is the inbox reinvented for a world on the go. 

It’s how e-mail on the phone should work: Mailbox checks your e-mail from the cloud and delivers it to your phone with lightning-fast speed. A colorful swipe-based UI makes processing a delight. And unique “snooze buttons” let you put off messages until later.

Mailbox makes getting to zero—and staying there—a breeze. After you experience a clean inbox, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Q. Do you think of it as an e-mail app?

A. Yes. We're challenging assumptions about how e-mail should work and redesigning the inbox for a world on the go.

Q. Where did the idea for the app come from?

A. We’re passionate about creating tools that take the friction out of work. We’ve noticed that e-mail is a particularly friction-filled medium that’s also heavily used, and mobile use of e-mail is especially painful. We’re inspired to fix that.

Q. How has the app been received? Do people get it?

A. We're very happy with the reception to the product and the frequency with which people swipe their way to inbox zero.

Q. Do you see mobile devices as playing an increasing role in e-mail management?

A. Definitely. What people want to do with e-mail on their phones is very different from what they want to do on their computers. The number one use of mobile e-mail is triage, and Mailbox makes this much more efficient.

Q. Any idea when the rollout will be complete and users will be able to download it immediately?

A. E-mail is mission critical and people expect it to work reliably, so our top priority thus far has been adding people as fast as we can without overloading the service. Given the importance of stability in an e-mail client, we want to maximize our chances of scaling without outages. The best way to find out how soon you'll have access to your Mailbox is to track the queue using the app.

Q. Similarly, any idea when it may be available for use with other IMAP services?

A. Mailbox is currently for iPhone and Gmail/Google Apps. We look forward to adding support for other devices and e-mail providers as we go, but we don't have any specifics to share on timing at the moment.

Q. Will it eventually work with iCloud?

A. iCloud can already be used to sync your Mailbox (under "documents and data").

Q. How seamlessly does it work with Gmail, and were there special challenges in achieving that?

A. Mailbox works seamlessly with Gmail and Google Apps.

Q. Does creating a List in Mailbox automatically create a Label in Gmail?

A. Mailbox lists already sync with Gmail labels and you can sync an existing label by moving it under the [Mailbox] label in Gmail. The team is currently working on a design that would extend label support to any Gmail label in the future.


I think it's great that developers are coming up with ways to help people deal with the huge influx of e-mail, and that mobile devices are playing an increasing role in e-mail management.


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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.