Mailbox (iOS) review: What mobile e-mail should always be

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

The Good Mailbox has a minimalist interface, lets you file away messages to revisit later, and makes organizing e-mails swift and seamless.

The Bad Mailbox only supports Gmail for now, doesn't display Gmail labels, and you can't select multiple messages at a time.

The Bottom Line If you want an uncluttered, low-maintenance e-mail client that will help keep your inbox organized and empty, Mailbox is the app for you.


8.1 Overall
  • Setup 10
  • Features 7
  • Interface 8
  • Performance 9

Yesterday, Mailbox for iOS 6 or later launched on iTunes, and because of overwhelming demand, it has a reservation list users must line up for. At the time of this writing, the list is about 570,000 people and growing.

It's easy to see why. Mailbox and its creators, Orchestra Inc., want users to have a clean inbox that you can easily maintain, and preferably empty out, daily. Emphasizing swipe-gestures and quick categorization, this app takes a minimalist approach to e-mail so you can do away with the messages you don't want and stay on top of the ones that you need.

Basic interface
Mailbox's streamlined look keeps the app's overall aesthetic uncluttered. All of its action buttons are icons, which is initially confusing because you don't know what's what, but they make sense after you go through a short tutorial.

Above your inbox is a navigation bar. On the left is an icon with three lines for menu items (you'll recognize this from apps like Facebook), and on the right is the usual "compose new message" icon that's common in iOS.

In the middle are three icons: a clock, Mailbox's logo, and a check mark. Hit the clock (or "snooze" icon) and you can access all the mail you've set aside to deal with later (again, I'll expand on that). Hit the check mark and you can see all your archived mail. The Mailbox logo returns you to your inbox.

Mailbox (iOS) - basic interface
Your inbox in Mailbox (left) is straightforward and doesn't have any surprises. Tap the icon on the top left to access menu items. Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

You can access all three categories from the menu list, as well. In addition, when you hit the menu list, you can also bring up trashed and sent mail, general app settings (where you can set up your Gmail accounts if you have more than one, customize your signature, adjust notification settings, fuss with sync preferences, etc.), and get some troubleshooting tips.

In its aim to be minimalistic, the app has done away with Gmail labels. I use my labels and folders I set up in my Gmail all the time. And some labels directly connect to different e-mail addresses altogether. The only way I can access those e-mails is if I go to my archive folder. The fact that I can't access my labels irks me a little. Instead, there are "Lists," which Mailbox presets, so you can file away e-mails under a certain category. You can create more as you go along, but you initially start with "To Buy," "To Read," and "To Watch."

When you open up a single e-mail, you can still access the previously mentioned navigational icons. At the bottom of an e-mail are several arrows. Hit the arrow pointing to the left to reply to the message. Next to it are double arrows (for reply all), and a right arrow (for forwarding).

E-mail threads look similar to chat threads. When you open an e-mail conversation, only the first sentence of all previous e-mails will display. The most recent e-mail will show in full. To expand previous e-mails, simply tap on the preview. Unfortunately, there is no way to expand all e-mails in the thread at one time.

Mailbox (iOS) - ordering and thread
You can drag messages in any order you want in your inbox (left). Multiple e-mail conversations display similar to chat threads. Screenshot by Lynn La/CNET

Swipe your mail away
Swipe gestures are heavily employed with Mailbox. To organize your e-mail, the app uses five "zones" of categorization. You move e-mails individually to these zones depending on how you swipe.

Hot Products

More Best Products

All best products