I love new apps. One form of my bio says “inveterate beta tester.” So it’ll come as no surprise when I say I got in line a couple of weeks ago for the hot new GTD Inbox Zero-influenced iPhone email app called Mailbox.

Their marketing strategy was nothing short of brilliant. Instead of signing up beta testers who forget until they get the you’re in email, the folks at Orchestra, Inc. let you download the app to your phone. But when you open it, all you see is the countdown. I started behind more than 300,000 people.


It became a daily (ok, several times a day) thing to check in and see how far I had progressed in the line. I watched the numbers change and even figured out that they were allowing new users in at about one per second.

So late last week when I finally got this screen, I was completely geeked up.


Here, you’re prompted to enter your Gmail credentials. Apparently it supports multiple email addresses, but I didn’t explore that.


The app is based on the idea of processing everything in your inbox; you either handle it immediately or save it for later (tomorrow, next week, next month, someday, etc.).


The interface is swipe-based, which is lovely. A short swipe to the right (above, with the green bar) archives a message; a long right swipe will delete it. Brightly-colored bars give you visual cues that tell you how far you’re going.

A short left swipe leads you to the menu below, which lets you decide when you want to deal with the selected message.


A long left swipe adds it to the list of your choice and it’s nice that it adds it to your gmail window as a label.

In a lot of ways I love this app. I can see that it would be a useful personal organization tool, especially if you’re a fan of the Gettings Things Done (GTD) system. One review I read bemoaned the lack of support for iPad and Mac, and I agree. While I can clear out the inbox, it doesn’t sync with my desktop mail client, which I use most often.

The biggest dealbreaker for me, however, is the lack of support for labels, at least in the way I need it to support labels. As I have five email address that are forwarded to my main Gmail account, I depend heavily on labels and filters for organization. If I were to buy in to this system completely, I’d have to route everything through the inbox, which would drive me crazy on the desktop.

Still, if you’re not a label/filter addict and use your iPhone more than a desktop to read and process email, you’ll probably love it. I’m going to keep it around and watch as the team interates and upgrades, because I think it has huge potential to be an invaluable tool.

Verdict: I’ll keep it, install the updates, watch it and re-evaluate if and when they support labels, and iPad. And if they go all the way and do a Mac app, it might just be killer.

Are you in line? How many ahead of you?

Go get in line here.

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