2013

Review: MailBox. Is It Worth The Wait? (Yes)

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Mailbox has been at the center of everyone’s attention for the last few days. Well, at least those of us who follow such things anyway. To be truthful, I can’t remember the last time an email app has garnered so much attention… Or any app for that matter. So, why? What makes this app so special that, as of this writing, there are reportedly over 700,000 people waiting in line (A line? I’ll explain in a min)to get to use it? That is indeed a great question. But the answer is not simply as black and white as one would expect.

The app itself is a pretty cool, and unique take on email. Basically it’s centered around the idea of a zero inbox, meaning empty. While some have been practicing this for some time in older email apps, I for one, prior to using this app had over 18,000 emails in my inbox going back some 4 or 5 years. The idea of deleting, or archiving all of those old emails just didn’t sit right with me before, because well… I might need it someday, and the archive folder isn’t directly searchable within the default mail app.

The very first thing you see when you open your mailbox (after receiving your welcome notification and adding your gmail accounts) is a prompt to auto archive your old emails, and for an email hoarder like myself, it was a very scary button push. Admittedly, their was that brief moment of panic when it finished and I found myself looking at an empty screen. Never fear though, the fully searchable archive is just a tap away from your freshly zeroed inbox, and all of your emails are safely inside.

The inbox itself is just awesome. That’s really the only way to describe it. It’s so very well thought out that it makes every other email app I’ve ever used seem droll and uninteresting. As new mail arrives in your inbox, you instantly receive a push alert from mailbox, unlike the 15 min intervals apple makes you wait. It should also be noted that since these push notifications come from the cloud, there is zero battery drain, as opposed to apples method which, although only uses a tiny bit of battery, will eventually zap your battery dry. From there, you have a few options, you can read it, short swipe to archive, longer swipe to delete, throw it in a todo list, or schedule it to be re-delivered at a more appropriate time. Eventually, once all email has been dealt with, you are left with your empty inbox again, and a nifty “image of the day” letting you know there is nothing left to do.

Sounds pretty great huh? But now you’re asking “What’s this line thing? Why do I have to wait to use an app?”

There are two popular schools of thought here as to their rollout scheme. The first, and the reason the developers have given publicly, is that while they are pretty sure their servers can handle the load, three quarters of a million people hitting the server all at once trying access registration would have totally knocked out their service, or at very least made it quite slow and unresponsive. This of coarse would have caused frustration and eventually lead to a lot of angry users. This certainly wouldn’t do. So, they developed a pretty nifty and transparent que system to manage the influx of traffic. On a first come, first served basis, they assigned everyone a number. Then when your numbers up, you will get a notification that your mailbox is ready. As they have been ramping up, they have been gradually increasing the amount if new people they are allowing to register every day. I got in on day two, with a line number 8665, and as of this writing they have welcomed around 40k accounts to the service.

Some of you, as can be seen in the apps reviews, angered by the wait, have been flaming about how it’s just a publicity stunt. Well, even if it was unintentional, your right in a sense. It’s all anyone’s been able to talk about the last few days. Hash tags like #mailboxwaitingline have been trending for days on popular social networking sites, and frankly I really enjoyed watching my number roll down… It was kinda fun.

At the end of the day, although the wait is frustrating, it is much less so then a server dependent app with a broken server. There is an old saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” This app is absolutely no exception and very much worth your patience. If your way back in the line, take heart, they are adding more and more people every day, and soon enough it will be your turn too.

Mailbox is available on the AppStore now for FREE here.