I 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!