I was having an interesting conversation over a few beers last night about Mailbox and the resounding success its become overnight. For those of you that don’t know, Mailbox is an app with the mission to ‘put mail in its place’ – which it does very well with its light, fast, and mobile-friendly UI. You’re able to quickly swipe messages to your archive or trash, scan an entire conversation at once with chat-like organization or snooze emails until later with the tap of a button.

Now, the first part of the conversation hovered around our desire to have this app and what drove us to stick with it (eg. not delete it) off of our iPhones even after not being able to use it for weeks. You see, the app launched with a wait list – the first iOS app I’ve seen to do this (at least successfully). On the one had you had my friend Sam – a hardcore web dev arguing that the wait list was so long because of its immense popularity and the server load constraints put upon the app by Gmail.

On the other hand you had myself and another friend who are both familiar with marketing techniques and we argued that was nonsense since they just got acquired by Dropbox for around $100 million and they had enough pull now with Google that ‘serverload-schmerverload’.


Where Mailbox Went Right

Whatever the reason for their wait list, we all agreed around the table that we had an insatiable lust for the product. When I first downloaded it, I was behind 400,000 other people and watched in tense anticipation as the numbers clocked down and with an almost spiteful glee as I watched those waiting behind me clock up.

As simple a marketing plan as you can get – control the supply, create demand, it worked well, and continues to work; someone around the table who didn’t have it downloaded it and instantly was behind 200,000 others. They complained loudly but then squealed with delight as they realized there were others waiting behind them (there’s nothing wrong with a good sequel every once in a while). Bear in mind too, that last night was weeks since Mailbox’s launch.


What Mailbox Actually Does

All this wait and anticipation would sadly amount to very little (or a lot of animosity) if the app didn’t live up to expectation.

To be honest, I hated it at first. I couldn’t get my head around why I would leave my regular mail app with my 7 email accounts already synced up to have a replacement that looks a little better , just with swipey features.

Big deal I thought.

But sticking with it over the span of two days – it dawned on me that I no longer thought about email in the same way. Instead of being a collection of messages sent to me that I had to check and recheck every 20 minutes (which is the intervals between my mail app checking for me mail), I was able to immediately disregard emails thanks to the summary preview and assign emails to different actions.


When my inbox became my to-do list

I’m a big fan of to-do lists. I use Any.do religiously and try to be as active as possible  but I hadn’t realised until now how unproductive my email habits were. I’ve been trying to calculate how much time I spend everyday now not dealing with spam, disregarding emails that don’t require me to add them to a to-do list for later and generally not staring at my previous emails once I had checked the most recent ones (because now I have 0 in my inbox and can’t procrastinate – no more treating my inbox like Reddit).

As much as this post seems like a big advert for Mailbox, its more of an admission that I still need to get used to the new way of thinking about email. Mailbox has taken a bold step ion the right direction, and it leaves me thinking what other stoic digital traditions can be improved?


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