Orchestra released its heavily hyped and anticipated mail management app, Mailbox, to the App Store yesterday. The free app lets you access your Gmail account and turns email chains into chat-like conversations. Like Clear, you use gestures instead of virtual buttons to navigate, with swipes letting you delete messages or “snooze” emails to get them out of your inbox temporarily to reappear later when you can deal with them.
Here’s a teaser video showing how Mailbox works:
Orchestra first teased Mailbox for iPhone in December and it impressed TechCrunch enough to call it “the best email management app you’ll ever use” and prompted The Verge to declare it to be “nothing short of spectacular”.
The free app debuted in the App Store yesterday but there’s a significant snag you should be aware of. The parsing and formatting of your emails to show the chat-like conversation view and snooze your emails is handled by Orchestra’s servers and in order to avoid overloading their systems, the company is limiting access to the app’s functionality. So when you download Mailbox you’ll get in a virtual line and a countdown will show you how many people are ahead of you to get access and how many are behind you.
Orchestra offered the ability to register in advance for Mailbox in late January, sending you a text message with a couple of codes to use when the app became available in the App Store. I’d done this pre-registration on the day it was made available but forgot about it when Mailbox came out yesterday and at first the app told me there were about 170,000 people ahead of me to get access to actually use it. I found my pre-registration codes later and entered them (hold down the mailbox symbol in the app to display the code entry screen if you skipped entering them the first time you opened the app like I did). When I’d checked my status yesterday, there were 17,701 people ahead of me and as I write this post today, there are about 18,680 people ahead of me and over 580,000 people in line behind me. At this rate, I should have access to use Mailbox in about 17 days if the approval rate holds steady.
Holding back access to use Mailbox has had a negative effect on its App Store rating. Right now, there are over 300 1-star reviews for it and the overall average rating is just two stars. Clearly, many users are not taking the need to wait well at all. While I understand the need to make sure their systems can scale and work for all users, I have to think that there could have been a better way to release the app and avoid preventing most people from being able to even use it right away.
At any rate, if what’s shown in the teaser video intrigues you at all, download Mailbox today and be prepared to be patient and wait. It’s free, so you’ve got not nothing to lose in terms of money and only a little to lose in terms of time to take a few seconds to open the app and get in line.