Mailbox on iOS is a major improvement over the official Gmail client

The default Mail app for the iPhone and iPad is capable enough, but sometimes you find yourself craving more. Google Mail users could opt for the official Gmail app, but despite some improvements over Mail, there’s still a bit of clunkiness in there, particularly when it comes to handling larger mailboxes. But there’s another alternative, one that has just been updated to run natively on the iPad as well as the iPhone. That app is also free, and it’s called Mailbox 1.3.

Mailbox takes a different approach to handling your email, providing you with five separate zones in which to work. Mail lands in your inbox and you simply swipe it in the direction of a specific zone to deal with it in a particular way. It allows you to quickly and easily bring order to even the most disorganized mailbox.

When it comes to swiping your messages to deal with them, here are the obvious choices: mark it as read, archive it or go the whole hog and delete it completely. You can also quickly organize messages into lists, but the most intriguing option of all is "snooze". If you’re too busy to deal with an email right now, you can "snooze" individual messages, setting a more convenient time when you’d like them to reappear in your mailbox.

The focus of the app is very much on letting you power through your messages, hence the use of single swipe gestures rather than the usual select-and-tap approach of other clients. So a quick, short swipe to the right archives your messages (look for the green tick) while a slower, longer swipe to the right produces the red cross that will delete your message if you complete it (just swipe back to undo unwanted actions).

Similarly, a quick swipe to the left places the message in the Snooze list. You’ll be given a choice of how long to hide the message for, from later in the day or the evening to a month’s time or the vague "Someday". You can also pick a specific date, but we’re a little disappointed that you can set up a custom time of your choosing too. Something for a future update perhaps? In the meantime, snoozed messages are easily available should you find the time to deal with them -- just tap the clock icon, which is basically a shortcut to a special "Later" folder created by Mailbox where these messages are stored.

When it comes to arranging your mailbox into lists, a long swipe to the left will bring up the options you need -- by default, three are set up (to buy, to read, to watch), but you can add your own. These lists are again accessible from other Gmail clients or your web browser via the specially created Lists folder.

We found these controls simple and easy to use, and powered through a disorganized mailbox with over 400 messages in minutes, finally getting a job done we’d put off for ages. But Mailbox is more than just a tool for organizing your mail, it’s a fully featured mail client in its own right, and we particularly love the way messages are automatically grouped into conversation view, making it easy to keep track of where you are in a particular chat. With the elegant design beautifully upscaled to take full advantage of the iPad’s extra real-estate, we think Mailbox could be a winner, which is why -- for now at least -- it’s replaced Gmail as our mail client of choice.

Mailbox 1.3 is available now for free for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

Photo credit: Gina Sanders/Shutterstock

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