Fixing Email: New Boxer iOS Email App Is All About Adding Features

What exactly is the position of email these days? Is it the rich relative everyone's trying to cozy up to in an effort to bankroll their dreams? Or the troubled friend in desperate need of an intervention? Either way, the market for "fixing" email - currently led by iOS app Mailbox, which wants to "put email in its place" - is one of the hottest targets for new apps and services. 

The latest player is called Boxer, which employs the tag line "email isn't broken, it's just unfair." (Apparently its co-founders subscribe to the rich-relative theory).

The two apps share a lot more than clever marketing slogans. Like Mailbox, Boxer is also an iOS-exclusive app meant to replace your native email client with one that greatly expands the user experience. Through clean design, simple list making, and nifty swipe gestures, both apps try to help users take the hammer to their inbox count.  

But while Mailbox has thrived with its singular goal of daily "inbox zero," Boxer is more concerned with casting the widest net and arming itself to the teeth with features. 

Where Boxer Has The Edge

First and foremost, Boxer works with multiple iOS email clients, from Gmail and Yahoo to Outlook and iCloud. This is great for users who have been looking for the singular email app that can unify work and personal accounts. 

"Let's differentiate by being the most open client out there. One that could be used for serious business as well," Jason Shellen, a Boxer co-founder, tells ReadWrite. In fact, Boxer is the only iOS email app that currently handles both Exchange and Gmail accounts. 

Mailbox got a great deal of early buzz from its slow-paced waiting list, which founder Gentry Underwood says was imperative to keep the server-side components of Mailbox's delivery system up to speed. Boxer on the other hand, has adopted a more user-friendly approach: it is giving itself away for free until it racks up 100,000 downloads. After that, it'll be $4.99.

Swipe To Do... What?

Boxer's swiping features are now commonplace in nifty app design, and work especially well with email organization. A swipe to the left archives the message. A swipe to the right pulls up five functions: Like, Quick, To-Do, Request, and Done. 

Quick is a familiar feature that allows for a pre-written response to be sent with the touch of a button. Boxer crafted a list for common use, but it's customizable. The To-Do option let's you set a due date and a priority level for a message, and the Request button takes that feature a step further and let's you assign a person to the message, say if it involves a task, and follow-up later. Other Boxer users can see if they've been assigned to a message and when the task is due. 

This kind of Boxer-to-Boxer interaction is a key differentiator for the app, and the Like button is the best way to see that in action. With one tap, a Boxer user can send a message that notifies someone they've simply Liked the previous exchange.

"The same sort of action used to be: 'Okay, now I need to open, hit reply, tap out an "Okay, let's go."' Ours is swipe, tap and you're on your way," Shellen says. 

This could reduce a long-standing email time-waster: when message recipients feel obligated to respond, often with no more than a "Thanks" or "Sounds good," just to let someone know they've seen the message. While the Like button currently works only in the form of a pre-written email, Shellen said visual Boxer-to-Boxer interactions are in the works. 

Features, Features And More Features

If that's not enough, Boxer also integrates contact lists from Facebook and LinkedIn, and lets you send attachements direct to Dropbox. You can also see and organize with Gmail labels, a key feature Mailbox currently lacks, despite its Gmail-only functionality.  

That many features can be overwhelming, so Boxer's acceptance will depend on its ability to walk the line between its impressive functionality and the ability of users to remember and take advantage of all that power - especially when compared to the conscious simplicity of its competitors.