Mailbox is Shutting Down; Here are Three Alternatives

queer-your-tech-header_FINAL_640web-640x290I love technology. One of the things I love about it is its unfailing march forward into bigger and better solutions; its very nature is one of malleability. There’s something amazing about that: if it works, keep it; if it doesn’t, toss it and figure out something that does. But the downside to that is constant change. I am a creature of habit in my advancing age — there was a time I couldn’t imagine having a routine for anything, but now I start my morning in pretty much the same way every day. Imagine my sorrow when apps get abandoned and slowly sink into the cyber acid pits. The cycle looks like this: try a new indie app that seems innovative and pretty; fall in love with said indie app; indie app gets acquired (yay indie app, your creators have fistfuls of money now! Good for them!); larger company keeps indie app running for a few months; larger company quietly shutters indie app, cannabilizes its best features for an ultimately inferior product or redirects the company altogether; I search for a new indie app to fall in love with because WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?

So it goes with Mailbox, the app I’ve been using for legit ever to (try to) maintain a zeroed out inbox. Earlier this week, Dropbox announced it was letting the software go to seed:

When the Mailbox team joined Dropbox in 2013, we shared a passion for simplifying the way people work together. And solving the email problem seemed like a strong complement to the challenges Dropbox was already tackling.

But as we deepened our focus on collaboration, we realized there’s only so much an email app can do to fundamentally fix email. We’ve come to believe that the best way for us to improve people’s productivity going forward is to streamline the workflows that generate so much email in the first place.

Analysis by Casey Newton at The Verge presents a slightly different opinion about why, exactly, Dropbox is shuttering Mailbox:

For a time, Dropbox believed email could be part of its suite of personal productivity apps. But the company belatedly realized that the only way it could live up to its $10 billion valuation was to begin steering toward the enterprise. And if there was a way to fit an email client into that strategy, Dropbox couldn’t find it.

There’s a world in which Dropbox accepted slower growth and a lower valuation and maintained its original focus on personal productivity. It’s a world in which the company’s suite of products would likely include messaging and creation tools and powerful ways to organize your music, photos, and documents. It’s a world that feels much more interesting to me as a user of the company’s products. And yet it’s hard for me to argue that in this world Dropbox would make more money than it’s making today.

Sounds about right to me. Add all of this to my favorite calendar app shuttering in October, and I’m one big frowny face right now.

So what’s an individual to do? Well, there’s always Inbox by Gmail, but what if you use a lot of different sorts of email addresses for work, school and your personal life? Here are some good alternatives I’ve found in the past few days of seeking to replace Mailbox. Maybe you’ll find them helpful too!


Favorite iOS App: Spark

I’m actually now super in love with Spark and am choosing to hate change just a little less because it introduced me to this lovely, slick app by Readdle. It has a lot of the same features as Mailbox (swipe to archive, snooze, etc) but is far more customizable — you can reconfigure what each swipe means, for instance, and add folders and even your calendar to the side bar. That’s another thing — you can add calendar events directly from the app when you get emails. Mailbox couldn’t do that. This also has a pin feature that enables pinning a message or several messages to the top of the inbox. I also am enjoying the fast replies, like quickly saying thank you or simply “liking” an email. Really wonderful, and also really free.


Favorite Android App: Outlook

I know, I know. I usually despise all things Microsoft. But actually? Actually the Outlook app is really great? I feel like my fingers are burning just typing that out. Outlook has incorporated the same swipe n’ snooze gestures that made everyone feel like a vanquisher of email when Mailbox rolled out. They also absorbed all my favorite parts of Sunrise calendar into their calendar as well, and it’s all packaged in one mobile app. That’s really cool because you can (extremely quickly) email someone that you’re running late. That kind of integration just makes good sense.

Now the cool part is that this app is free on both Android and iOS. You can also access the same thing through Outlook.com (totes free). But when you get into the Outlook desktop apps, they get into that Microsoft clunk I don’t care for.


Favorite Desktop App: Airmail

While it’s only available for Mac, I do have to give a shoutout to Airmail ($9.99) for being just lightning fast and fun to use (I made a cute illustration of a narwhal, our school mascot, my icon for my school email address). It’s hyper customizable that way, and I love their “to do” function that sets aside email you still have to handle into a separate folder, making it easy to play the zeroed inbox game. If you want to give it a shot before buying, Airmail does have a beta download you can get your hands on — it’ll give you a good feel for the software. They also plan to release an iPhone app soon.

So how are you digging into your email right now? What abandoned apps are you still mourning (like Google Reader)? Tell me everything!

Staff Writer for Autostraddle, Part-time Faculty at The New School (teaching digital storytelling), Managing Editor for Scholar & Feminist Online at Barnard Center for Research On Women. Follow me on Twitter @AEOsworth or on Instagram, also @AEOsworth.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.

12 Comments

  1. Spark looks like it could be a good one! I kind of hate Inbox, but I think it’s mostly because I haven’t given it’s swipe-based features a solid go?

    Also, now I’m sad again about Google Reader. No other RSS reader gave me the same user experience as Google, which means I’ve dropped reading RSS feeds (and a lot of blogs) as a result. I should utilize pocket more, I guess?

    • I second your mourning of msn! I miss how ubiquitous it was: I used to run msn constantly in the background of whatever I was up to on the computer as a teenager and it managed to be unobtrusive yet functional in a way that skype isn’t.

    • I know it’s kind of expensive, but Fever (feedafever.com) is a really good RSS reader. I’ve been using it since Google announced they were shutting down Reader and I love it. The sparks/kindling model that Fever uses is extremely useful for finding interesting news from high noise sources (like a newspaper’s full feed).

      • That does seem like an interesting model! Requiring your own server to run it on does seem a pretty high barrier to entry for most users though, even among RSS geeks…

        Potter, you may have tried feedly but I’ve found it to be a reasonable replacement once I tweaked it to high information density mode…

  2. Being the technically challenged numpty I am, apps for email are a bit too far ahead of me. I can sympathise though, because I am still mourning MSN. It honestly worked so much better than Skype!! I didn’t have extra passwords to remember. My mum knew how to use it! The video quality was so much better and more reliable. Although I will admit, it was only me and my family still using it when it closed…

  3. I am actually pretty content with my email solution right now. On desktop I was a big fan of Thunderbird as it was cross platform(started using it when I got an iBook when that was new). But, right now I’m using the default Windows 10 app as it surprisingly does a good job. And on mobile I’m using the Android gmail app, which for about 2 years now has supported other email services besides gmail. I email more from my Surface 3 more as I prefer the keyboard over touch screen, even on the 6in display of my Nexus 6.

    Does it count if I am mourning Netscape for nostalgia sake?

  4. On the client front, I’m actually okay with the stock OS X and iOS offerings – they have their occasional annoyances, but it’s the law that any other would also have some, just in different places.

    As for providers, I’m feeling the itch to leave Google Apps.. I’m not very comfortable with the nature of the company’s data mining ways – I’d sooner simply pay for an app or site, than be just another sliver of data to be sold on and matched up. Fastmail looks promising – $40/year for the level needed to support your own domain isn’t so bad.

    I’ll offer email a hug when it needs it. ^_^ I’ve got so many memories in my email folders, spanning back to 1995 or so. And it all still only weighs in at a few GB.. that’s quite a precious bit of storage, for me.

  5. I’ve tried Outlook, but think that Blue Mail is better. I really love to be able to customize everything in an app and Blue Mail allows for that. It seemed overly complicated at first, but even after only a few days with it, I’ve gotten the hang of it. Mailbox definitely had a simplicity with good features that I loved, but I think Blue Mail is a similarly awesome, if more complicated, app .

  6. Dammit, I’d been waiting and waiting for the promised new version of Mailbox which would work with other IMAP accounts (I don’t use Gmail). Still, I appreciate if when companies do one thing well – and Dropbox itself is a cornerstone of my work.

    Have to let folks know about the issues I’m having with Airmail though – it might be fast but it’s buggy as hell – in fact this week I finally got real mad and asked for my money back. Judging by the support forums it’s not just me having these issues. About one in ten emails doesn’t appear to send, it sits in the sent folder with a ‘draft’ label on it and is inaccessible. The folder/labelling system doesn’t work – things sometimes delete from one place but not another, messing up my work flow. Loads of other bugs too, but these are the two that sealed it.

    It’s a shame because I love the look and feel of it and genuinely want to use it. But it was causing me more problems than it was solving. Off I go back to Mac Mail till I find a better solution – nooooooo…

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