MailTime Turns Your Email Inbox Into An SMS Chat Session

There has been no shortage of apps and startups looking to fundamentally change the way we communicate by email. They range from products like Mailbox, which seeks to help users reach inbox zero, to Acompli, which adds file management and scheduling directly into your inbox. But in each case, the format of the emails you receive look more or less the same.

MailTime is different. The app, which launches today as part of the Startup Battlefield, is designed to change the way in which users interact with email and make it more like text messaging.

It starts with the thesis that email hasn’t fundamentally changed much since it was first invented decades ago. Most email clients, either on mobile or desktop, display content in the same way that they always have. And, as a result, users are stuck with a whole lot of information that they don’t need clogging up their messages.

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To deal with that, the app strips out all the unnecessary bits of email — subject lines, email signatures, etc. — and whittle them down to appear as SMS-like chat messages. By doing so, it hopes to make those messages more manageable, easier to read, and quicker to respond to.

The app has an intelligent content parsing engine and the ability to summarize long emails in a way that places messages into a conversation view. Emails that include multiple participants are displayed like a group chat, enabling users to reply-all or easily add and remove people from the conversation.

MailTime has some other interesting features. With the app, users can tag other recipients, which adds them to the conversation and assigns a task to them. It places all mentions in a place that makes them more like to-dos that require attentions and can be completed.

To recipients, messages sent with MailTime won’t look different from any other emails in their clients. And if you ever want to view the full text of a message, subject line and all, there’s a way that you can toggle to a more classic email inbox display.

MailTime’s founders had previously worked on a mobile push-to-talk app called TalkBox , which they developed in 2011. Not surprisingly, that feature has taken off on a number of different other messaging apps. Now the team is looking to reinvent the way users do email.

Question and Answer session

Q: What’s it like for users receiving emails on the other end?

A: We only require you to use the app if you want to use it. If someone receives an email from you, they will receive a very normal looking email.

Q: What insights do you have about your solution that other email providers don’t have?

A: If a normal email providers want to do this, they might do this for their users. But we have built an algorithm and other companies will have to build that.

Q: What problem does this solve?

A: More than half of all emails are sent from a mobile client. Any time people reply by phone, they only type 50 words. The problem is that email clients haven’t adapted to that today.

Q: What’s the security model? When the client connects to email, all you get is that there’s a message waiting? Is that right? I would never use Mailbox because I could never have that mail sitting on someone else’s server.

A: Every single email sent and received by mailtime goes directly from the app to the email server. We don’t make any changes, so when you open the app, you will receive it directly from the mail server.

Q: Do you have any of the Mailbox features?

A: We believe there are many tasks inside mail but don’t believe that every email is a task. We consider what things people ask you to do as a task and that’s it.