How desperate are you to clean up your email inbox? Would a sparkly new app motivate you to do it? If so, the iPhone app Inbox Cube (free) may be worth exploring, but be forewarned that its functionality is somewhat limited. It does have one neat feature: a visual spread of all the attachments you’ve been sent via email. But beyond that, Inbox Cube doesn’t offer much of interest, certainly not after the Mailbox app took iOS users by storm earlier this year.
When you install Inbox Cube, you’re prompted to connect to an email service of your choice: Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo! Mail, Outlook.com, AOL, or “other” (IMAP). You can connect multiple accounts to one app if you want to try streamlining your mail.
Inbox Cube Cubes
The interface is pretty simple. On the left is a collapsible pane that hides all your folders, exactly as the Gmail iPhone app has it. In the main interface are three top-line tabs for all, unread, and starred message. Along the bottom you see emails, attachments, contacts, and search. Those bottom-line choices are your “cubes,” or containers where all email, attachments, and contacts reside—hence the name Inbox Cube.
The search bar, flung to the far right lower corner, is horribly placed. A huge strength of the iPhone Gmail app is that it places the search bar at the top of every page, no matter how you’re looking at your mail on the screen. Having search at your fingertips with mobile email is indispensable, and here it’s tossed to the wayside.
I do love the attachments area, which shows little thumbnails of all your attachments. It even showed still images of animated gifs that my sister gets a kick out of sending me, and when I tapped them to “show in email,” they re-animated.
Another decent feature is the ability to be reading an email, and then swipe the whole page left or right to move to the next message. It can be disorienting if you don’t remember what message came before or after, but it’s a neat gesture that does save you time from returning to the overview of your inbox.
Anytime you see three dots, that’s an indicator you can pull up a menu to react to messages: reply, reply to all, forward, mark as unread, star or un-star it, move it to another folder, or delete it.
Swiping functions for quickly taking care of messages is supported in the main view, but there’s only one action: delete. I was surprised that other functions weren’t supported by swiping left and right with a long and short motion, as they are in the Mailbox app. In Mailbox, you have a total of four functions for how you can interact with a message. You can delete, mark as complete (so it can be archived), snooze (i.e., move it in out of sight temporarily and bring it back to the inbox later), and move to the folder of your choice.
Bulk Actions, Contacts
I don’t like that the Mailbox app doesn’t let you perform actions in bulk across multiple messages, but Inbox Cube app tries to remedy this problem. In the main view of both the email cube and the attachments cube, you can press and hold a message to select it, then press and hold other messages to perform an action on all of them at once. It’s not the fastest way to delete or move messages in bulk because you have to press and hold each message for a moment to select it, which is unlike the “edit” function in Apple’s Mail app that lets you quickly tap each message you want to select for an action. No “holding” required.
The Contacts section of the app has three tabs: frequent, favorite, and all. I didn’t find much use in it, because when I write to someone frequently, she or he is already in my address book, and the iPhone handily pulls up the contact information when I type the first few letters of the person’s name. You can tap on anyone listed in your contacts list in Inbox Cube and see a history of messages with them, but I didn’t find this experience to be novel in the slightest. Smartr Contacts for iPhone and the Brewster app (both free) both offer the same functionality, as do most contact management apps.
Inbox Cube takes a stab at inspiring mobile email users to take charge of their inboxes, but it doesn’t offer enough functionality to truly help them get it done. A misplaced search bar also holds it back from being truly useful. This app is a noble effort to do something right with email, but it’s just mediocre in the end. Though I find the Mailbox app somewhat limiting, too, at least it supports a multitude of functions with its swiping gestures, and that may be enough to entice people to use it.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc