"A third of our beta testers get to Inbox Zero once a week," said Underwood. "When you do get to zero it doesn't mean you have nothing left to do, it means you have nothing left to do right now."
Designed for satisfaction
The app was partially inspired by Clear, a stunning to-do app that came out a year ago and wowed app designers with its fresh take on the smartphone user interface. It was all swipes and bold colors and gestures, a few new rules you had to remember but that soon made complete sense.
"Many people have heralded Clear as being one of the big moments in mobile user interface development," said Underwood. "No buttons, just gestures. Man does it feel good to check something off in Clear."
Mailbox has adapted some of those satisfying features and combined them with a traditional inbox design. Like Clear, it takes a bit of practice for the gestures to become second nature, but when they do you'll execute them without hesitation.
After tablets went mainstream, many people caught themselves mindlessly trying to tap or swipe non-touchscreen desktop monitors. People had picked up a new way of interfacing with a device that seemed more natural than a mouse and tiny pointer icon.
The same thing happens after you use Mailbox for a while. I became more impatient with sorting through mail in my regular app, occasionally swiping to snooze a message in the default by mistake.
Big dreams for future versions
The first version Mailbox app is promising, but it's still in its infancy and is far from being the savior of email.
Part of that is by design. Mailbox's developers are only focusing on mobile for now. The first version of the app only works on iPhones and can only be used with Gmail accounts.
The demands for a mobile email application are less complicated than a desktop client. On a computer, people want things like calendar and contact integration, and have complicated folder, tag and color systems.
Being mobile works in Mailbox's favor. It's a great excuse to create a stripped down email client and start from scratch, focusing only on the basics.
"The primary use on mobile is triage," said Underwood.
Orchestra does plan on expanding the app over time, depending on how it's received. The company's goal is to always offer a free version of the app, but also roll out a more advanced paid version, like Evernote and Dropbox have done.
There has already been so much demand that the company is taking precautions and rolling it out slowly with a wait list. When you download the app, you can reserve a spot on the list and the app will show you how many people are ahead of you.
Once it's in wider use, Mailbox will likely add more features, support additional email clients and develop an app for Android devices. Underwood imagines an app that manages not just email accounts, but the inbox for any service with internal messages, such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
A future Mailbox could even automatically chip in with the sorting, making sense of the automated emails like mailings and boarding passes, and even adapt based on your habits over time.
And eventually, Orchestra may create a desktop version of the Mailbox app. But for now the company is practicing what it preaches and focusing on the most important task on its to do list: create a great, simple mobile email app.