Mailbox: Worst. Launch. Ever!

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Since its demo video went viral late last month, Mailbox has generated the biggest tech buzz in 2013 so far. Developed by Orchestra, the folks behind the popular to do app, Mailbox promises to “put email in its place” to the extent of reaching that holy grail of the infobesity-afflicted: inbox zero. This is done by an elegant interface that allows users to swipe emails into archives, deletions and most notably, a snooze-mode where the email shows up hours, days or weeks later.

Almost immediately, tech bloggers heaped praise on this fresh new take on email management. MacWorld exclaimed Mailbox “makes managing your email a delight” while TechCrunch, in a URL that included the word “amazeballs,” deemed the app “the best email app you’ll ever use.”

So naturally, given the herd-like mentality that fuels the geeksphere, users flocked to in late January to “reserve” a position for using the app after its launch. The plan by its makers was to stage a first-come, first-served managed roll out so their servers would not be overwhelmed with the kind of surge this sort of hype would generate. Here’s where things started to fall apart.

After signing up on January 22nd (and noting there were approximately 14,000 other early adopters ahead of me), I received a registration code and password the following day via SMS text.

Then five days ago, the company announced Mailbox was now available for download in the App Store but required users to enter their reservation number and password to claim their position in the queue. After doing just that, I discovered there wasn’t 14,000 users ahead of me; there were 162,000 (and around 200,000 behind me). Given the slow pace of acceptance, it appeared it would be days before I’d be able to actually use this app.

Naturally I took to Twitter where there were countless complaints being lobbied at the @mailbox account including my Beckett-inspired observation below:

mailbox app godot

To which, the Mailbox account chirped:

mailbox app

I tried this advice (5x) to no avail. There was still a lineup of 162k fellow geeks ahead of me. So I decided to delete and reinstall the app in hopes that this reservation bug would be fixed and rightly put me in the position I reserved weeks ago. Below is what happened after I tried entering my reservation number and password, using a fresh new install:

Mailbox Reservation Epic Fail

This went on after countless attempts and advice from @mailbox to email “[email protected] w/your phone # & country code you used to sign up & we’ll get it sorted out.”  I did that and a day later, I received a link to a web page pointlessly explaining how to retrieve my original (and still useless) reservation information.

Finally I gave up on my reservation and made a new reservation from scratch. Here is where I am in the lineup as of earlier today:


Yes there are now over a quarter million lemmings ahead of me in this lethargic line of digital torpitude. According to estimates by Cult Of Mac, my wait would be roughly three weeks for an App that Apple somehow allowed to be released as a finished, functioning product worthy of download.

While playing nearly a million users may be claimed as a victory by the marketing savants behind Mailbox, the reviews in the App Store convey otherwise as angry downloaders have rated the app the lowest score possible (denying it number one ranking in the Top Free Apps charts), peppered with comments like these:

“This app doesn’t do anything except tell you how many weeks worth of people you have to wait for before you can actually use it.”

“One of the WORST marketing techniques I have ever seen.”

“An app that makes you wait in line? I’m 517,225…should be in the door by 2018! Deleting this stupid app!!!!”

While the product will likely impress the diehards who ultimately get their hands on it, one has to wonder why a clever company like Orchestra would squander goodwill with an app whose sole unique (and indefensible) feature (snooze mail) will likely be copied in messaging apps by Google, Facebook and probably, Yahoo!? A better strategy would’ve been to stick to beta testing before releasing an unfinished but highly buzzed product to the public and generating negative non-reviews like this one.

As Comic Book Guy would say: “Worst, Launch, Ever!”

For anyone who still cares, below is the promotional video that went viral: