Apple

Get Boxer to handle your iPhone email

Will Kelly reviews Boxer, an iPhone email app that might appeal to some corporate iPhone users.

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In the torrent of iOS apps that arrive in the App Store every month, along comes Boxer (formerly known as Taskbox), which is an email app for the iPhone that also includes task management. I've previously written about the free Mailbox app, and I liked it so much that I started using it on my own iPhone, but I always keep my eyes open to other options. 

I snagged Boxer for free right after it launched. However, it now costs $5.99 (USD) in the App Store. Let's take a look at Boxer and see if it's worth the price tag.

Inside Boxer

The Boxer email app should be an appealing choice for business iPhones, because it supports the following:

  • Microsoft Exchange (ActiveSync)
  • IMAP
  • Gmail
  • Yahoo
  • iCloud
  • AOL
  • Outlook.com/Hotmail

Upfront, I must say that two of the real differentiators (for me, at least) are the app's Dashboard (Figure A), which shows all of your important and time-sensitive items, and the To-do list, where you can place your messages for further action. 

Figure A

Figure A

The Boxer Dashboard.

Boxer opens to your inbox by default, but you have the option to change your opening screen to the Dashboard.

Send and receive email with Boxer

Sending and receiving email is similar to what you're already familiar with on the iPhone. The Compose screen is well laid out, except for the default Sent from Boxer sig file (Figure B) that detracts from the overall experience.

Figure B

Figure B
The composition screen in Boxer.

You have the option to tap a favorite button to start building a list of your favorite contacts. If Boxer were my primary email app, I would definitely use that feature.

Managing email with Boxer

Just like Mailbox, Boxer adds a world of difference to the once-stale email user experience on iOS devices. Something as simple as Boxer supporting Profile photos (you can add more through LinkedIn and Facebook) in your email inbox is a nice touch. Tap on a profile photo to see further information about a contact (Figure C), including links to his or her social profile, phone numbers, and recent messages. 

Figure C

Figure C

Profile information in Boxer.

The swipe actions in Boxer are quick and fluid. Swipe a message to the right, and you can place the email in your To-do list, then provide details like setting the due date, adding a priority, and adding an assignee (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Add an email to your To-do list.

A slow swipe to the left lets you archive the selected email. When you do a quick swipe to the left, it  deletes the email. Each of these swipe settings is fully configurable in the Boxer Settings. 

Click the Quick button (Figure E) to bring up a list of canned responses like "Thanks" and "I'm running late." If I were using Boxer as my default iPhone email app, I would definitely add some of my own frequent responses to the Quick Reply Templates. 

Figure E

Figure E
Some of the canned responses available in Boxer.

At first, I thought the To-do feature (Figure F) was a bit barebones when compared to many of the other To-do apps in the App Store. However, I quickly discovered that I was selling it short, because it has enough features for users who process email on mobile devices first and want the tools to aid in following up on emails later. 

Figure F

Figure F
The Boxer To-do list.

While the Mailbox app is making inroads with Gmail and Google Apps for Business users, it's nice to know that Boxer includes full support for Gmail labels and push notifications. My Gmail labels automatically appeared when I setup my Gmail account in the app. Likewise, push notifications from the Gmail account began almost immediately.

File attachment support

Boxer supports file attachments from Dropbox and Box. First, go into the Boxer settings and connect your Dropbox and/or Box accounts to Boxer. Then, when you tap on Attach, the Attach File options for Box and Dropbox will appear (Figure G).

Figure G

Figure G

Use file attachments from Box and Dropbox.

Allowing attachments might not go over well with corporate security, but it can definitely be a life saver to the mobile worker who already stores their documents in one of these services and needs immediate access to forward a document to a co-worker or client.

Security

A big reason why I mention Boxer as a potential email app for corporate iPhone users is that it enables you to secure your email with a passcode or PIN to encrypt your data. Plus, Boxer never stores email or passwords on their servers (a potential bonus for those pesky regulatory compliance audits).

Boxer also enables you to encrypt your email database on your iPhone using a secure password.

Settings

The Boxer Settings screen takes a bit of scrolling, but it's still easy enough for novices to follow. One disappointment is that I couldn't find a setting to turn off the "Sent from Boxer | http://getboxer.com" signature that shows up in every email. This would be a big thing for me if I paid full price for the app.

Final thoughts

While I'm still quite pleased with Mailbox and have no plans of replacing it, Boxer would be my first choice if I ever have to access non-Gmail email accounts from my iPhone. The $5.99 price point might be a bit pricey for some users, but it could be worth it if you need a better app to manage email on your iPhone.

If you own an iPhone, what's your favorite email app? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.


About

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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