I selected Sparrow as one of the Best apps of 2012 -- but that was only because Mailbox wasn't yet shipping. Well, that just changed and Mailbox is now available for free from the App Store. But there's a catch. Although you can install the app today, developer Orchestra Inc. is metering out access with a novel reservation system.
Before reading any more of this post, go download the app and reserve your spot in line.
It works like this, you install the app on your iPhone, then you request a spot in the queue. Mailbox then gives you a number and tells you how many people are ahead of you and how many are behind you. When I saw the notification earlier today, the queue was around 250,000 people long. As of this posting the queue is at 423,399.
Mailbox is a promising email client for iOS (currently iPhone and Gmail only) that features simple, intuitive gestures for managing your email with one thumb. It reminds me of the simple, swipe-everything interface in my favorite iOS note-taking app, Clear.
There are five zones in Mailbox, and you swipe messages to move between them.
Swipe right to Archive
Long swipe right to Trash
Swipe left for Later (like the "snooze" bar on your alarm clock)
Long swipe left for Lists
In another unique twist, the badge icon on your Mailbox displays total conversations, as opposed to unread messages. The concept is to keep things that you need to focus on in your inbox while sending other messages to Archive or Later. You can also drag messages up and down to re-order them in your inbox (like a traditional list app), putting them into the priority that works for you -- a departure from dealing with email that's displayed in traditional reverse-chronological order.
Mailbox is a radical rethink of how you interact with email and one that's been desperately needed. I just hope that they add generic IMAP support soon so that I can switch from Mail.app forever.