Marius Budin

About Mailbox for Android

I don’t usually write about apps, there are a lot of them aimed to boost productivity and I care a lot about losing time with stuff that should get out of my way sometimes and email as we know it certainly needs some tweaks. So when I found out Mailbox for Android came out, the iOS app 1 million people in 6 weeks stand in a line to get access and Dropbox instabought it for $100M,  I thought my problems were over, so much hype when this came out, people gonna love it, it’s gonna be an instant hit on Android…except it won’t.

The app it’s rubbish, I cannot describe it with other words, it’s an iOS port, it’s a bad iOS port. I can’t believe dinosaur thinking still force developers to copy things from one platform to another, both Google and Apple are very specific in their guidelines. As a developer I’m actually used to get this kind of comments I suppose high directives and engineers had when the planned this, “This has to be exactly like the iOS app” “we have to maintain the same experience across platforms, users are used to the app this way”. I don’t actually get this, there is what, 1% of the total user that have both and iPhone and an Android, let’s screw all the 99% people used to the platform not the product? People expect consistency on their device, and their device supports one platform. I’m not saying it must be two different products but you develop the idea, you don’t copy the app, focus on the idea, it’s the most important thing you have to develop, not the app itself, you can then use the framework to make user’s life easier by respecting their customs, you don’t want to risk the success of your idea by trying to force people to use a design pattern you think is nice. As an Android user, Mailbox feels like I should play by their rules, use the app but now everything works like this…

You open the app and the first thing you find is a very bold statement, “put email in it’s place” which sounds great…if you can actually do it. Also a tiny logo at the bottom “Made by Dropbox” which I asume it’s just a misspell for “bought”. But hey! they have the app now and when you pay that kind of money, you should take some advantage of it, and they do, you can’t even pass the first screen without a Dropbox account, why the hell do I need a Dropbox account for my mail?, Dropbox is an online drive, you backup your things there, Why do I must use Dropbox account? But fear not! They’ll not save your emails there (or at least not telling you), they use it “to store and sync preferences across your devices”…big facepalm here, this is like telling people they need  house to get a car because you store the keys in the house. There are many apps that can sync user’s data across devices and even cross-platform and Google already made this fairly easy for developers, you don’t need an account of anything to do this, you can offer it as an alternative but first, you cannot force users to “sync preferences across devices”, it has to be optional, use it by default but make it optional and then if you want to sync them, offer your beloved Dropbox as an alternative, not as the only option and let the users skip the step, remember they downloaded the app to “put their email in it’s place”.

And that is just the first screen which has actually little to do with the app but you come with a frustrated experience already and then you see they cover the status bar with some iOS style notifications to tell you the app is updating accounts, syncing stuff and more. This is just bad, on a comment in Google Play, +Cyril Mottier said “Worst iOS port ever :s Please don’t hack my status bar!” and I have to agree, this feels like a hack and it’s horrible, Twitter had this in one of the first versions of their Android app, which also was an iOS copy at the beginning, and people hated it, they removed it shortly. But that’s not all, every single time you open the app, the notification bar is temporarily hidden to show a “everything is OK” message (“no new mail”), no comment…

The “swipe right to archive but also swipe right but a little bit longer to delete ” and also “swipe left for later abut also swipe left but a little bit longer to add to a list” is just stupid on Android, it might work on iOS but “swipe to dismiss” is a known gesture on android, it’s integrated in the very operating system, we use it to dismiss notifications in the status bar, delete rows on lists, cards or to dismiss something and it works the same in both directions and it does not have multiple actions depending on how long you swipe because swiping something out means you want to get it out of there, it has to be quick, if  I have to stop and see how long I swipe, I lose the same amount of time as selecting and pressing a button, even if that’s 2 steps.

Also, don’t mess with my mail signature, I understand you want to sell your product but “Sent from Mailbox” is the new “Sent from my iPhone”, it’s unprofessional, it distracts people reading your emails and it adds a relaxed and informal attitude to your emails, I’m not sure  everybody  wants this activated by default, you discover it after you send the email because it doesn’t show while writing the email, it’s added when you send it.

And finally, this is not something done wrong actually, it’s  just not done and for me is very important, and that’s labels and filters, I have a lot of them in Gmail, and I mean a lot. I have 7 account in my gmail and several redirections, it’s mandatory to maintain it somewhat ordered. Mailbox’s lists system is just not enough.

In conclusion, I think the app has a horrible UX and lacks functionality, I would like to see a way to snooze mails in Gmail but I would not sacrifice everything else just for that.