My growing dissatisfaction with reading email using the iOS email client on my iPhone led me to sign up for the free Mailbox app (recently acquired by Dropbox) and use its features to help better manage my email.

Upfront, I must mention that the Mailbox app only works with Gmail and Google Apps Mail. This wasn’t an issue, since my two primary email accounts run on those services. However, it would be good to see the app support Office 365 and IMAP email at some point in the near future.

Manage email with Mailbox

One email management feature I’ve come to depend on in Mailbox is deferring (or snoozing) email by giving it a short left swipe (or a flick). You then have several deferral options (Figure A):
Figure A

Defer email with a quick left swipe.

Even if you don’t use your iPhone to respond to the email later, your iPhone still alerts you that it’s time to deal with your deferred email. I use this feature often to defer email I receive late in the day and want to respond to when I return from the gym or first thing the next business day.

You also have the option to select an email in your inbox and archive it with a right swipe.

Work with lists

With a long left swipe (imagine more of a push), you can file an email from your inbox into a list (Figure B). I’m still getting used to the lists feature. While I do like it, if you don’t get the swipes down correctly, it can be easy to forget about the feature or think something is wrong with the app.
Figure B

Lists available in Mailbox.

This is a useful feature if you want a better organization option directly from your iPhone. Personally, I’ll probably find more use for lists on my iPad vs. my iPhone, since that’s the primary interface to my email.

When you log into your Gmail account, a new folder structure for the lists and the messages you’ve deferred will now appear.

Compose email

Composing an email in Mailbox follows the same process as the native iOS email app. The only difference is that the emails you send now have the sig file “Sent from Mailbox for iPhone.”

Fight spam with the Mailbox app

The area that made me hesitate to adopting this app as the primary email app on my iPhone is spam email. On my iPhone, I’d fallen into the habit of sending unsolicited emails to my spam folder directly from the iOS mail app, so when I began using Mailbox, I had to get used to tapping the X in the right corner to delete email.

Inbox Zero and Mailbox app

The concept of Inbox Zero is a productivity goal that many of us never seem to achieve, but the Mailbox app aims to change that for mobile users.

When you scroll down to the bottom of your email inbox, you’ll find a subtle but effective button that says “Help me get to zero,” which haunted me when I was testing this app.

When you tap on that button, a screen appears that offers you the option to Archive Everything, Archive All Except Unread, and Archive All Except Starred (Figure C). For testing purposes, I selected Archive All Except Unread, and then I tapped Archive. The Mailbox app prompted me again if I wanted to Archive All Except Unread. When I tapped Unread, the app began its archiving process. Unfortunately, for those of us with Gmail accounts on the beefy side, there isn’t a progress bar.
Figure C

Take back your inbox with the Mailbox app.


The Settings page for the Mailbox app includes control over other email accounts. It also lets you change settings for Lists, Snoozes, Sync Preferences, Notifications, and App badge count. Figure D shows the Mailbox app Settings screen:
Figure D

Mailbox app settings.

Mailbox for the iPad

When I was finishing this post, an iPad native version of the Mailbox app went live in the App Store. It includes all the features in the iPhone version. Figure E shows the Mailbox for iPad app sending a new email:
Figure E

Mailbox for the iPad.

My early testing of the app shows it to be as feature rich as the original iPhone app.

Final thoughts

Despite being somebody who checks out iOS apps on a regular basis, it took a while for the Mailbox app to grow on me. However, Mailbox eventually replaced the iOS mail app on my iPhone’s quick launch bar. This app has my full recommendation if you’re seeking a mail app for your iPhone with better organizational tools.