Mailbox, Evolution of Email and Spark

Today, Dropbox officially announced what many have been suspecting for some time — Mailbox, the first email app that truly tried to reinvent email, will be discontinued. Moreover, it will be shut down just two months from now on February 26th.

This is a very sad, even while anticipated, turn of events. Mailbox was a rare example of great product design . It had a true Apple-like approach: the Mailbox team took a very complex problem (email), stripped it down to the smallest bits, and then reconstructed it as a simple yet very powerful solution.

Email snoozing, short and long swipes on email, gradual rollout with the queue to join the app users — all of these things were pioneered by Mailbox. As developers of an email application ourselves, we are among the few who can really appreciate how many very complex product design problems the Mailbox team had to solve along the way. And as the appreciation of their skill, almost every modern email app learned something from Mailbox , including Inbox by Gmail, Microsoft Outlook and Spark by Readdle .

Only a truly amazing team could have done something like this, so it's no wonder that they were bought by Dropbox only 37 days after Mailbox's public release.

Building the future of email is hard.

But why did this happen? How can an email app with such a great team, one backed by a hugely successful company, ultimately fail?

The answer is simple — building the future of email is extremely difficult and requires multi-year commitment. After a great first step, which Mailbox certainly was, should come a second step on the road to define how email should be done in the modern, mobile and collaborative world we now live in.

Moreover, 80% of iPhone users are happy with the default Mail app from Apple. Email is a hard sell and the switching cost is often perceived to be high. We are creatures of habit, and it is incredibly hard to change the email workflow of a person.

Email is one of the most used communication and collaboration tools in the world. However, it was invented 50 years ago, long before search engines (Google), social networks (Facebook), messengers (Skype) and collaboration tools (Google Docs) became parts of our daily lives. The rise of mobile has given life to completely new ways to search, connect, communicate and collaborate with others.

The reason why this is important is clear — these experiences are an integral part of email. If you use email daily:

  • You use email to communicate with people inside and outside your company.
  • Email is the most common tool to collaborate on documents, assign tasks or get reports about progress.
  • There is enormous amount of information in your mailbox and search is the only way to find it.
  • Email is the default tool to connect with people and brands (all these newsletters and automated emails).
  • For many people email is one of the essential instruments in getting things done at work and even at home

That's why so many people are frustrated by email. Each and every one of these experiences is so outdated in comparison with what‘s possible on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Asana and other modern products.

Also, collaboration isn't limited to people anymore. Now people expect all the tools they use to "collaborate" with each other. Just look at Slack and how many integrations they have had to build along the way.

With its first release, the Mailbox team succeeded at making email a better tool for getting things done. However, in the time since then, it failed to deliver a better experience everywhere else.

What's next for Mailbox users? -> Spark.

So if you are Mailbox user, you have just eight weeks to find the replacement for the email app you use and love. But don't worry too much. There is some great news, because many new things have been invented since the release of Mailbox. I may be biased, but I believe the two best alternatives to Mailbox are Spark by Readdle and Inbox by Gmail.

We've spent more than 18 months working on Spark . We wanted to build the best email experience out there and fix what's broken! So, Spark is a great choice for any Mailbox user.

I. Smart Inbox

One of the consequences of email being so many things to so many people is the enormous amount of incoming emails. The average US professional receives around 100 emails per day. That's why the first problem we fixed with Spark was to deal with the overwhelming nature of email. Thus, Smart Inbox was born.

Smart Inbox rearranges incoming emails in your Inbox to surface unread emails first. Also, it separates emails from people from the less important automated emails and newsletters and groups them by email account. This gives you an at-a-glance overview of what's inside your inbox, without the risk of missing something important.

II. Email Snoozing

Spark could snooze emails from day one, however our next update will bring it on par with Mailbox both in flexibility and efficiency . You will be able to customize snooze times as well as add new snooze options. Also, you will be able to set an alert to notify you when email goes back to your inbox.

Available in private beta this week, it will be released as a free update on the App Store on Thursday, December 17th.

III. Smart Search.

Search in Mailbox was always "average". It let you find an email in most cases, but for something more than a simple search, you would go to Gmail on the web.

Smart Search in Spark understands the context of email. It can distinguish personal email from automated, it knows about attachments and links and so on. Also, Smart Search understands Natural Language which means you can search by typing "Email from Alex with a PDF file last week" and Spark will show all email from Alex that contain PDF attachments that you got last week.

IV. Integrations.

Spark integrates with your favourite cloud services. We support Dropbox, Box, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, Google Drive and Evernote for saving or attaching files and emails. Additionally, you can save links to Pocket, Readability and Instapaper.

V. The Future of Spark

We are committed to making Spark the best email app for iPhone. And soon, we'll be bringing that same determination to iPad and, later next year, the Mac. Being an independent company gives as the unique ability to give you best email experience without tying you to Google, Apple or Microsoft's ecosystem, unlike other email apps.

The iPad version is coming in a few weeks.

Spark for Mac mock-up.

Spark is completely free and available now on the App Store . Give it a shot and let us know if it's the perfect email app for you!

We see Spark becoming a platform for the "Future of Work". We'll share more information about that, soon.

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