Samsung’s super-sized Galaxy Note changed my life

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my puny iPhone 4 with disgust, wishing with all my might that it were bigger. It’s too portable, too pint-sized, and those qualities have no place in a society that values 6,000-lb SUVs and 2,000-calorie meals over hatchbacks and sensible portions. I’m tired of misplacing a dainty device that was designed with the average hand in mind, and I’m sick of having a smartphone that’s not interested in being anything else.

You can imagine my delight, then, when Samsung took the wraps off its gigantic Galaxy Note, a device the company promises will blur the line between smartphones and tablets. I had to have it, had to see what I’ve been missing with my laughably small, all-too-practical iPhone. Weeks later, I did, and there’s no going back.

The Galaxy Note’s tagline asks if the device is a tablet or a smartphone, but like a girl in Spanx, it’s so much more.

With my wife spotting me, I hoisted the Galaxy Note from its crate, fired it up, and salivated. Never before has 5.3 inches been so excessive, I thought. Glorious.

 Galaxy Note vs iPhone 4

Next to the Galaxy Note, my iPhone looked like a useless toy, like a plastic, bubble-spitting lawnmower beside its real-life counterpart. It was then that I realized my life would never be the same. I’d found an Everlasting Gobstopper – this behemoth would satisfy my every appetite.

Galaxy Note TV

LCD or Plasma? That was my dilemma before the multi-talented Galaxy Note came into my life and spared me the expense. I hung the Samsung in my entertainment center and never looked back. Surely this is what James Cameron had in mind when he reimagined Fern Gully.

 Galaxy Note iPad

But the downsizing didn’t stop there. My iPad was next to go. Why have two touchscreens I can’t possibly fit in my pants? I figured. The Galaxy Note scratched that itch, too.

 galaxy note gym

Who needs a gym membership? With the help of some packing tape, the Galaxy Note attached to my wife’s arm and killed two birds with one 5-inch stone: It pumped out tunes on the go, and it gave her an upper-body workout that a set of free weights would struggle to match. It also saved me a trip to the local court.

 Galaxy Note bulb

Afraid of the dark? Not with a Galaxy Note by your side. Samsung’s full-figured phone filled in for my nightstand lamp and ensured the sun never set in my apartment. And I could swear I’m slightly tanner.

 Galaxy Note bookshelf

An iPhone, we can all agree, is a shitty librarian. It’s too small and soft-spoken to be taken seriously. The Galaxy Note, on the other hand, demands attention like a fat kid on a diving board. It had no trouble keeping my books in order.

After just days with a Galaxy Note, my forearms have never been so toned, and my apartment’s never been so bare. Is it a tablet? Is it a phone? It’s everything. Next up: surfing. Literally.

Pretty design isn’t always effective design

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs had an innate instinct for creating and identifying effective design. One of the most common reasons why Apple users love their Apple products is because of the “design,” that “fundamental soul” of the product that makes them “just work.”

However, “effective design” is not just design that is visually appealing.

Effective design can be pretty, but a pretty design does not guarantee that it is effective design.imac g4 design Pretty design isnt always effective designIf you were to deconstruct what Steve Jobs meant when he referred to the “fundamental soul” of the product, I think qualities of effective design, these “successive outer layers of the product or service,” would follow what I call the “Design Stack.”

Much like how there is a tech stack that has layers of components that power an app, there is an analogous “Design Stack” with individual components that powers the way someone experiences your product.

I believe that the structure of a Design Stack will give you clarity around your goals for why something in the design should be the case, rather than just designing something because that’s the way it’s always been done before, or that your “gut” tells you to.

Here is a high level outline of the successive layers of the Design Stack:

  1. Business Goals
  2. User Goals and Psychology
  3. User Flows
  4. Wireframes
  5. Mockups
  6. Prototype

These components are all tied to each other – they drive decisions in each of the other components.

1) Business Goals

Define what you want to accomplish as a business and the success metrics associated with success. This could be something like:

  • x% market share
  • $y revenue per month
  • 25% DAU/MAU (engagement)
  • 5% conversion rate from a landing page (acquisition)

It is important to keep your business goals in mind as you design so that all of your design decisions help accomplish your business goals. This might not seem like “design,” but it is an important part of design thinking.

2) User Goals and Psychology

We are all psychologists when designing.

In addition to the business goals (#1), it’s important to understand the mindset of your target user. What are the different personas of your users, and what do they want to accomplish with your product?

  • What are their goals?
  • What is the status quo to accomplish those goals?
  • What gestures or use cases are they used to?
  • What is the frame of mind or context of when they will be using your product?
  • How do they feel when they use this? utility, happiness, nostalgia, aspirational, etc.

When forming these user goals, draw from your own personal experience, but also do user studies on the problem you are trying to solve to form a full picture of how people will interact with your product. Understanding the psychology of your users is at the core of user experience design.

3) User Flows

Next, based on the user goals and psychology (#2), what decisions and steps do the users take in your product?

Map out these user flows like a tree with branches.

tumblr inline mgbcqtEmnP1qzx0db Pretty design isnt always effective design 

It is very important to start here before going to the wireframes because you can visualize the context in which each view exists. You can answer questions like:

  • Are there too many steps to sign up?
  • Is there information overload on a view?
  • Is the first time user experience clear?
  • Does this view drive natural viral engagement?
  • Are there user flows that a user is most likely to abandon your product?

There are many tools out there, but recently I’ve been excited about this new tool called POP. It lets you wireframe on paper, take photos of them with your iPhone, and simulate user flows without actually building the product.

Also, UX Archive is a good resource for a collection of popular iPhone apps’ user flows.

4) Wireframes

Now we’re getting somewhere. The wireframe is what is often seen as the natural starting point for a “design.”

A wireframe is a schematic or other low-fidelity rendering of a computer interface, intended to primarily demonstrate functionality, features, content, and user flow without explicitly specifying the visual design of a product. – “Wireframes,” Konigi

The goal of the wireframe is to determine the information architecture of the product, to best accomplish the user flows (#3).

That’s it.

Don’t try to design how the product will look in your wireframe. You want to focus on the interaction design, not the visual design. This is what you should accomplish in your wireframe:

  • The kinds of information displayed
  • The range of functions available
  • The relative priorities of the information and functions (hierarchy)
  • The rules for displaying certain kinds of information
  • The effect of different scenarios on the display1

5) Mockups

Finally, after accomplishing the previous layers of the Design Stack, we are ready to tackle the mockup, which focuses on the visual design of your product, how it looks, how visually appealing it is it is.

Whether something is visually appealing is highly subjective, so I won’t go into great detail on what this looks like.

The general guideline that I would recommend here is to keep with the theme of this post: make sure that your visual design accomplishes your goals in all of the previous steps of the Design Stack: your business goals (#1), user goals (#2), user flows (#3), and wireframes (#4).

6) Prototype

I’ll add on to the Design Stack the prototype of your product because the translation of a product’s essence from a static mockup to a functional product is just as important to the user experience design.

This is a semi-functional version of the product built out enough so that you can feel the interaction of your design. They are minimal, usually built with only HTML/CSS and some JavaScript to demonstrate the effect certain interaction decisions will have on the overall product’s goals.

Here are some examples of how building a prototype can add more nuance to your product’s user experience. These are all design decisions that you need to take into account.

  • For an iPhone app, should tapping a button swipe left-to-right or bottom-to-top?
  • How important is speed when loading new content? Should you have a loading indicator for a particular view? Making your users wait too long can cause low engagement, which can affect your business goals (#1).
  • Should you reload the entire page or refresh only an element of the page?

Depending on the situation, some designers like to skip the mockup stage directly to the prototyping stage and come back to the visual design later.

Measure!

Throughout this whole stack, you should be measuring and (in)validating your assumptions. I’ll cover this in a separate post.

Wrapping Up

The Design Stack creates valuable dialogue around design decisions that without this framework can many times seem superficial or not concrete.

By framing your design decisions this way, you can not only be a better holistic designer, but also help convince non-designers (and even other designers) of the value of your design and process.

Who dropped the ball worse, Microsoft or OEMs?

I want to like Windows 8, I really do. Ever since Steven Sinofsky stood up at Wall Street Journal’s D10 conference a few years ago and revealed the dramatic reimagining of Microsoft’s prized operating system, I’ve been hooked. It just made sense to me: Instead of lugging around a tablet and a laptop, why not converge the two? And so I waited…and waited….and waited for October 26th, 2012. I even told friends and family who were considering a new laptop to wait  and see whatever hardware Microsoft and its OEM partners had in store for us. Well October came and went, and then November followed….and then December. Almost 3 months after Windows 8 was released my thoughts on the launch can be described in two words: Utter disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Windows 8. In fact, tech review websites love Windows 8 too. But regardless of how much Microsoft succeeded from the software standpoint, the hardware is not there. I don’t know whether I’m more infuriated by the Surface’s attempts to be everything and succeeding at nothing, or that not a single Windows 8 Ultrabook has been able to get a very good review, including one from the guys over at The Verge. Both make the situation equally horrific.

Microsoft knew they needed to inspire great hardware for this launch. That was the point of the Surface. A hero device they could show to consumers and be like, “Hey, this is the future of computing. This is what a laptop looks like.” But the Surface wasn’t that device. Let’s ignore for a second that they released the full “Pro” version of the Surface three months after their official launch date. Let’s ignore the fact that Windows RT cripples the speed of this supposed “iPad dethroning” device. I could spend all day nitpicking, but in the end it comes down to one simple thing: unless it’s on a desk, it’s NOT a laptop replacement.


The fact is you have to sacrifice traditional laptop use cases in order to fully appreciate the device.


The kickstand/Touch Cover thing is really cute, and I initially thought it looked amazing when it was first revealed. But it’s also extremely limiting. The fact is you have to sacrifice traditional laptop use cases in order to fully appreciate the device. You can’t comfortably sit with the device on your lap and type. No matter how cool the other functions may be, that ruins it for the consumer. It’s no longer a “laptop replacement.”

lenovo yogo microsoft windows 8 Who dropped the ball worse, Microsoft or OEMs?That brings me to the Lenovo Yoga. I want this computer to be my next device. From a form factor perspective, it is EVERYTHING THE SURFACE SHOULD BE. Innovative and daring reimagining of what a laptop is? Check. Design that can fully utilize the potential of touchscreens? Check. Design that ensures the device is just as capable as a traditional laptop? Check. Software that is optimized and works the way it should out of the box? Nope. Just look at the review; flawed touchscreens, software/performance bugs, and inconsistent touchpads. These are things that Microsoft could have nailed if it had decided to pursue the Yoga’s form factor.

I’ve spent a long time rambling to get to two basic truths about Windows 8:

  1. Microsoft dropped the ball when it came to picking a form factor for their “hero device.”
  2. The OEMs still cannot do the basic software optimizations needed to offer an acceptable Ultrabook experience.

Maybe Microsoft will release a new product within the Surface family that can actually be used as a laptop. Maybe Lenovo and the other OEMs will release some software patches that give their products the respect Windows 8 deserves. I don’t care which one of the two gets fixed first, but it better happen soon. My patience is growing thin and that 13-inch Macbook Air is starting to look mighty enticing. Get your act together or you’ve lost a loyal customer.

How iRadio combined with iTunes will create the ultimate music experience

Apple’s “iRadio” service is supposedly on its way. Here’s how I think the company would fold it into iTunes.

Rumors surrounding Apple’s upcoming “iRadio” service are coming fast, with a recent report claiming that negotiations with record companies are in the final stages. This means that iRadio could be unveiled sometime in the near future, possibly at Apple’s WWDC conference in June. Given all the speculation, one big question that still remains unanswered: How will iRadio integrate with Apple’s existing iTunes Store?

As CNET reported earlier this month, iTunes will work hand-in-hand with iRadio to create an incredible music service. “That includes a quick way for consumers to buy a song they hear, potentially boosting download sales from iTunes, as well as a revenue share of new audio ads Apple is planning to add to the free service, according to sources.” This will be the basis for iRadio, as the iTunes Store is already completely established, leaving Apple the task of simply integrating the two into one comprehensive product. However, Apple may have already started this process, slowly introducing the concept of iRadio, albeit in a restricted manner.

Over the past few months, iTunes has provided streaming of several upcoming albums on the iTunes Store, notably David Bowie and the Birds of Tokyo’s latest. Approximately two weeks before the album’s release, iTunes provided exclusive streaming to anybody, to get a feel for the album before its actual release. In fact, Apple has done this on a number of occasions in the past, with the Red Hot Chili Peppers also having their album streamed before release back in 2011.

Although this only occurs for a limited number of albums, it could have larger ramifications come the release of iRadio. Apple still relies on iTunes Store sales for a large amount of profit, and it’s clear they do not want to see sales from it drop dramatically upon the release of iRadio. Therefore, iRadio may largely work in conjunction with the iTunes Store in order to introduce listeners to new music, before they consider buying, just as iTunes is doing with free streaming of upcoming albums.

Unlike Spotify or Rdio, Apple already has a music purchasing system in place and this needs to have an affect on how they run iRadio. In this way, iRadio can extend the music discovery capabilities of iTunes, while still pushing for the actual purchase of the music through the store. Whereas Apple currently only offers a 90 second preview of songs, iRadio can stream the entire song to listeners, enticing them with the concept of actually purchasing the song/album for themselves.

This would abolish any need a listener would have to visit another streaming service to hear an entire album before buying, because it would all be available in the one area, iTunes.

Importantly, Apple could possibly strike a sweet deal with the record companies allowing for more streaming of unreleased albums, and this could truly present them with a golden opportunity. With exclusive access to an album before its actual release, listeners would flock to iTunes to listen, and it would establish Apple as the dominant player in both the music purchasing, and the music streaming departments.

HTML5 is for the web, not for mobile apps

Android, iOS, and Windows Phone all support building applications with HTML5 and other web technologies. It all sounds great, right? Let’s take a look at some of the “advantages.”

  • Learn one thing then apply it both on the web and mobile
  • Build it once then run it everywhere
  • Use tons of javascript libraries and knowledge already available on the internet
  • DRY

Sounds great, but there is something missing. Everything stated above is all about you the developer and you the creator. Instead, the focus of an app should be on the user and solving their problems or needs.

Before falling in love with the points above, you should ask yourself two questions:

  • What are the benefits of the customer?
  • What are the drawbacks for the user?

Benefits

I have hard time finding any. The user does not care for any of the points. In fact, the user wants a solution to his problem or need, delivered quickly. Some developers claim that web technologies provide faster results because they don’t have to learn new stuff and in general it’s faster to write such apps in javascript than in Java or Objective-C. I disagree.

I’ve developed apps both native and non-native for all platforms, and Html5 apps don’t deliver faster results. Developing in javascript is not faster. In fact, making a complex app takes about the same time or even longer. Learning native technologies takes time, but that is time well invested in something that you will use over and over again to deliver results.

Could there be specific reasons to use HTML5 in some cases?

Yes, there are. One very specific reason is when your customers don’t want the app to be limited by App Store rules. You can build an HMTL5 app and distribute it over the internet. Of course, there are other limitations.

Drawbacks

Slow & Sluggish

No matter how much you optimize your app, it will always be slower than a native one, and the users will feel the difference.

Limited availability of specific underling technologies of the platform

Phonegap tries to solves this, but it doesn’t do it completely. Most devices have some capabilities that can enhance the user experience, but you’ll be missing on those opportunities.

HTML5 does not look and behave like native app

There are many frameworks trying to solve it, but none does. Your app will feel foreign compared to all the native apps they use.

Conclusion

You should have a really good reason to build an HTML5 mobile app, and saying “that’s what I know” is not a good one. HTML5 is the right technology for a web app, but it’s not the right technology for a mobile app.

The Internet, new media, and the new American dream

Is getting paid for your thoughts and/or ideas the new quintessential ’American Dream’? Seems like everyone is trying to carve out a niche in online media and e-commerce these days. And why not? With a struggling economy, people have become more resourceful and are looking for ways to bring in extra money or to pursue a passion. The rise of the internet has not only democratized publishing and distribution, but has made it possible for people to make a living doing what they love. Andrew Sullivan, Louis C.K., Leo Laporte, Marie Forleo, Mac Miller, John Gruber, and Ray William Johnson are all great examples of digital trailblazers making a living via the internet. All have found success by building a following from nothing or leaving mainstream publishers/distributors to go it alone in the wild west that is the internet. It’s the new frontier for talented musicians, writers, podcasters, pundits, and entertainers. The idea in itself isn’t new, but over the past couple of years we’re hearing more and more of these success stories. Of course a lot of the hugely publicized stories are from those that were once attached to large media conglomerates like Louis C.K. or Leo Laporte. At some point they decided they could do at least as good of a job on their own while having more creative control and sometimes earning more money than they did before.

People like to say things like, “I can’t do what they did, they were already famous”, and in some cases that’s true. In 2007 alternative rock band Radiohead left their long-time record label EMI, and released an album independently via a “pay-what-you-want” model. Allowing fans to pay whatever they thought the album was worth to them. This was unheard of at the time and people thought they were crazy to do it. The little experiment worked and they went on to sell 3 million copies of their album, earning them more money then their previous album. Most unknown or indie artist couldn’t get away with such a stunt, in fact most artist give away music with hopes of eventually getting people to pay for music in the future. But times are changing…fast. In 2011 a little  known rapper by the name of Mac Miller released his first independent album (after years of free mixtapes and songs) and it debuted at #1 with 144,000 copies sold in the first week. Only the second independent album to ever debut at #1. No major record label marketing blitz, no traditional old media talk show tour, just using mostly the internet and performing live shows building up his fan base Miller was able to galvanize a rabid fan base willing to support him and his music career. Yes these are still examples of anomalies but the path is becoming more viable for more artist and entrepreneurs  There has been an increasing number of high profile artist that at one point had major deals and by choice or force decided to go it alone using the internet as their rallying point. Sure the fame may have subsided but in some cases they are earning just as much if not more than they were signed to a major record label.

It’s hard to measure but there are ten’s of thousands of people around the world that are now either supplementing their income or making a living by using the distribution and publishing power of the internet. Websites like Etsy, Bandcamp, Youtube, and Amazon are fueling the independent art/media revolution. This surge in e-commerce has spawned other businesses like Square, Paypal, Tinypass, and Stripe to make selling items or subscriptions easier for entrepreneurs. No longer are artist forced to beg mega-corporations for a shot. If you have something to say there are an unlimited amount of tools to get your work published and distributed to the world within minutes. Writers need not wait for a major publisher to come knocking, they start blogs or twitter accounts to build a following then self-publish via Amazon and Apple’s iBooks. Sophisticated musicians aren’t beating the door down of record labels for a chance to sign a 360 deal, (new record deals that take cuts from album sales, shows, and merchandising) they are creating music at home and releasing it on Bandcamp, Sound Cloud and Youtube. The old media companies are still coming in and buying up a lot of these upstarts after they’ve made traction but they now have leverage they never would’ve had 10 years ago.

Yesterday writer/blogger Andrew Sullivan announced he was leaving the political website,The Daily Beast and was going to start his own subscription based blog entitled, The Dish. I saw tons of naysayers in the media claiming how ludicrous is was that he was leaving, and that he’ll probably fail because no one is willing to pay the $20/yr to hear his opinion. Well 6 hrs after his announcement, Sullivan put out a statement that he had already reached six-figures in subscription fees. Again, it’s not going to happen for everyone but the foundation continues to be laid. Tech blogger, John Gruber recently launched a sponsorship service on his popular blog, DaringFireball.net, where he charges $8,500/wk to place a small ad on his home page along with a post mentioning the sponsor in that week. He’s been booked solid for the past few months, which if you do the math is a pretty handsome yearly income even if he only books sponsors for half the year. No, this isn’t a get rich quick scheme, all of these people have put in years if not decades building their following and brand name. They’ve put in the work and have earned the respect (and sometimes hate) of their followers. Leo Laporte, long time tech commentator on radio and Tech TV channel, last year built a multi-million dollar studio where he produces his podcasting network, Twit.TV. They produce dozens of shows watched by hundreds of thousands of people that air live on his website, apps (Roku) or streamed via iTunes. He has targeted sponsors throughout his shows that pay to get access to his passionate audience.


Quality and consistency are the two attributes needed to succeed online. Focus on building a community first, and worry about monetization later.


Sure flash in the pans will occur, just like in old media, but the internet and it’s vast array of choices make it incredibly easy to forget those that don’t leave a lasting impression. Quality and consistency are the two attributes needed to succeed online. Focus on building a community first, and worry about monetization later. Find your niche, something you love to do and that love will be felt by those that come across your work. One of the best perks about new media is that the marketing can be free if your work is that good. People will share with their friends things that make an impact on them. With the rise of social media, sharing has become part of our daily lives. Word of mouth is and has always been the greatest form of marketing. Business on the internet is still maturing, and the majority of the advertising dollars are still in traditional media but every year the ratio is shifting. Sure, some people that make it online seek a larger platform and are bought out or taken over by old media trying to stay relevant. This has always been the case, but as the dust settles and the internet becomes not just a thing for the youth or technically inclined, but the dominant form of information consumption old media will either climb aboard or be driven into obscurity as they scratch and claw on to the past.

An interview with Mailbox founder Gentry Underwood

With 2013 now in full effect, many techies will be looking forward seeing the latest gadgets from the likes of Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft. However, for some (including us), one thing we’re really excited about is a new email app developed by the team behind Orchestra, dubbed Mailbox. Founder and CEO, Gentry Underwood, took a few minutes to answer some questions about himself, the company’s app, and his thoughts on solving problems. Enjoy!

Mr. Underwood, you began your career as a software designer, but then left to study psychology, anthropology, and community development. Why the change?

My first professional stint as a software designer was during the dot-com “boom” of the late nineties and early 2000′s. At the time a company could raise Series A financing on a PowerPoint deck and Series B on a working prototype. I worked at a firm that spent much of its time helping freshly-Series-A-funded companies build that prototype.

For a designer it was very strange work: even though your product was ostensibly for some kind of end-user need, at that stage you really only had one customer: the VCs who might fund your Series B. As a result, CEOs tended to shift their vision often and make priority decisions based on the fickle, ever-changing interests of VCs. I didn’t know why at the time, but I found I didn’t like the work very much. I knew I enjoyed the understanding-people part of design, and that was what seemed to be most missing from the work I was doing. So I decided to look for other fields where I could focus on people and try to understand them.

In the end, though, I discovered I’m a designer at heart. I’m too problem-solving-oriented to be very good at therapy or academia. IDEO helped me re-ignite a love for design, even in the context of software, by insisting on the centrality of the user and his or her needs.

mailbox app An interview with Mailbox founder Gentry Underwood

What led you to the idea of Mailbox? Was it a lack of innovation by Apple and its Mail app?

Actually what led us to Mailbox was Orchestra. We started the company on the realization that people use email as a terrible to-do list. We thought that maybe if we created a to-do list with built-in communication we could side-step this problem. After launching and looking at what was working (and what wasn’t) we discovered that even our most hard-core users still had inboxes filled with tasks. We were trying to figure out how best to solve this problem when we realized the opportunity lied in swapping our ‘solution’ on its head: rather than build a to-do list with email-like communication, why not transform the inbox in which that communication already lived into something more organized and easily manageable?

You say that email is here to stay. Some would disagree, but I’m curious as to why you feel that way.

No technology ever dies completely, so in some senses it’s easy to promise that email will stick around. But more to the point, email is a “we” technology. You or I don’t decide to use it  – “we” do. You may attempt to quit checking email, but you’ll still be receiving them. Sooner or later you’ll likely cave in and start checking it again (perhaps after one-too-many missed invitations, etc.). If we’re going to stop using email we’re going to have to all decide to do that at the same time, and that’s a big, big thing to ask.


We wanted an interface that made such processing as fast and delightful as possible.


malbox app inbox An interview with Mailbox founder Gentry Underwood

You’ve incorporated a lot of gestures into the app. Did you find that gestures are a lot better at completing tasks then tapping?

We studied how people used email on their phone, and perhaps the most important use case was triage: scanning your mail when you had a few moments to see what was important what wasn’t. We wanted an interface that made such processing as fast and delightful as possible. On the phone, that means gestures: the small-format, multi-touch nature of the interface cries out for them.

You seem to highlight the fact that Mailbox is super fast and light. How challenging was it to incorporate all these features, yet keep the app robust?

To make Mailbox light and fast we’ve faced two significant challenges:

First, from a UX perspective, we have to re-think the interfaces through which people consume and process mail on the go while not overwhelming the user with something too foreign to easily adopt. This is a huge design challenge.

Secondly, from a technology perspective, we have to re-think how email is sent and received. IMAP, POP3, and SMTP are old, heavy protocols, and since third-party apps on the iPhone generally don’t get access to the network when not open, this slowness is felt in significant ways. To solve this we ended up creating an intermediate service between email and the app which checks mail from the cloud and reformats it for fast-as-possible delivery as soon as the device is opened. This also lets us send push messages, speeds message sending (especially with large attachments), and improves device battery life.

Are there specific areas where you feel iOS needs to evolve?

At some point I think Apple will need to let users specify a default app to, say, open a URL from (e.g. Chrome instead of Safari), view an address in (Google Maps instead of Apple Maps), or compose an email from. This is something that has been driving lots of users crazy (mostly because of the maps issue) and will need to be addressed eventually.

Any plans for an Android app?

Definitely. Startups focus or die, so we picked one device (iPhone) and one platform (Gmail) to start, but we’ve designed our infrastructure from the beginning to support scaling to other devices and platforms as quickly and easily as possible once we feel Mailbox is “working” on the first set.

What is the best advice that you’d give to app developers who are looking to solve a problem like you are with Mailbox?

The best advice I can give anyone is to iterate, paying close, sober attention to what’s working and what’s not with each attempt at a product/solution. It might look like we just decided one day to go tackle email but the truth is much more incremental. From day one at Orchestra we set out to help free people from the tyranny of disorganized inboxes full of balls waiting to get dropped. Today we’re still trying to solve that problem. In hindsight it might seem like rethinking the (email) inbox was the best way to do that, but it’s taken a ton of trial and error to get here.

Thanks for your time, Gentry.

Thanks for asking these questions!