How I became a Superhuman (email app review)



Review: Superhuman desktop and mobile email app 

Superhuman email app review - the mobile spoon


I first heard about Superhuman when a member of a productivity group I’m subscribed to, asked for an invite to a new email app called “Superhuman”.

Being an productivity and email freak who literally tried all the email clients ever invented (seriously: all of them: Mailbox, Boxer, Newton, Trove, Timyo, Boomerang, Spark, Acompli (Outlook), Edison, Polymail, Redkix, Inboxcube, Hop, Chuck, Unibox, Loop, Astro, Cloze, Missive, Mailspring) - I was immediately intrigued.

I entered the discussion searching for an invite link and learned that one of the group members was not accepted to the beta program because his use cases didn’t match the pre-requisites 😳.
“Invitees only?! Beta candidates being disqualified?!? That’s exactly my thing!” 
I thought to myself and headed over to www.superhuman.com (yes, they really own this domain) to get the app everyone is talking about.

A paid beta

Trying to register I quickly realized Superhuman costs money. The mobile app can only be installed through TestFlight, which means it’s practically still in beta stage.
“Who do they think they are? Apple? Charging a monthly fee for a beta?#@?”
Interesting enough, having to pay just made me more anxious to use Superhuman.
I immediately entered my credit card details and moved on to the onboarding stage.

The onboarding process is insane 

Being an entrepreneur developing a B2C app, I pay a lot of attention to onboarding processes I experience. There are many things to learn from other products and I often log down what I find, but I admit I have yet to experience such a well thought out process like with Superhuman.

It starts with a quick registration which is a usual thing for early (invites-only) products.

Then you receive an email inviting you to fill in a short survey.
This survey is far from being short, it’s designed to help Superhuman decide whether you are a good early adopter candidate or not while collecting more data about potential users.
Smart move.




Lucky for me - I gave the right answers in the survey and got pushed forward in the queue!!! (Or was it just a trick?)
“OK Superhuman, here I come! Send me the damn download link NOW!” 
I thought to myself, but then came the third part of Superhuman’s onboarding - the 1x1 meeting.

So first you need to register and pay, then you need to pass the test (the survey), and then the folks from Superhuman invite you to book a 1x1 meeting using calendly.

Yep, that’s right: a personal 30 minutes training session for an email app.

“Is it so hard to use? Isn’t it self explanatory?” 
I started to have doubts about the app I just paid for and sent an email back to the Superhuman team asking them to give me early access before the training, braging about being a power user and a famous technology expert.

I got refused.

Politely.

I guess I'm not a superhuman afterall. Yet, at least...

A few days later, close to midnight, I was having a fun 1x1 session with a Superhuman rep, who helped me get familiar with some of the less obvious features of Superhuman. A totally unscalable, yet bold move by a company that really wants its' first users to enjoy its’ product.


Superhuman email app review - the mobile spoon

30 minutes after the meeting started, I was a Superhuman graduate, ready to conquer the world of emails. I got access to the desktop app, the mobile app, and knew all the keyboard shortcuts that play a significant role in Superhuman's approach to email productivity.

Editor’s Note

(Just kidding, there’s no editor here, just me…)

Things I liked about the onboarding experience
  1. Early adopters are picked carefully to ensure early users represents the right target audience and reduce noise.
  2. The product costs money even though it’s still at an early stage. Some would say it’s insane, others (and myself included) would say it’s another brilliant way to position the product and filter out irrelevant early adopters
  3. The 1x1 meeting was a great opportunity for me, the user, to understand the vision of the product. It mafe me feel highly engaged.
  4. It was probably also the best way for the team to learn about my email habits and challenges. 

Editor’s Note #2:

(Still, just me adding my thoughts)

After reading 's (Superhuman's founder and CEO) brilliant article about how superhuman built an engine to find a product/market fit, I’m now even more impressed with the onboarding process which is, clearly, a result of their product strategy and designed to filter in only the users most likely to love the product and recommend it (which is kind of what I’m doing right now… so it’s working!)


Before heading  to the product review, check these out:
  


Desktop App


Superhuman email app review - the mobile spoon


Minimalistic Design

Superhuman’s minimalistic design aims for maximum efficiency and minimum distraction.
There’s no bells and whispers, no fancy stuff, just a clean, distraction-free user interface, designed to help you concentrate on handling your emails.
Instead of having multiple views showing folders, email list, and reading pane - you have to deal with one view at a time, so when diving into an email you only see that email. It’s quite annoying psychologically speaking, but the best way to get out of this state is to handle the email... which is the whole point of it.

And even though I’m not a huge fan of this approach - using it for a week makes sense.
When you have too many views at a time it gives you a better sense of what you are dealing with but it often brings you to a “scanning mode” where you mostly read and scan your inbox (as if it was Instagram or something) rather than actually handling it.


Splits

As a founder and a CTO of a company, I deal with a lot of topics simultaneously: technology, product decisions, UI, marketing, operations, HR.
The context switching when dealing with a flat email feed sorted in a LIFO style just doesn’t make sense so I’m using labels and rules to tag each email with the right label. Once your rules are established - you can somehow manage your cluttered inbox by grouping similar emails and handling them together.
But while Gmail and most email apps show all the labels in an alphabetical order list, below the rest of the folders, superhuman lets you give higher priority to your important labels by defining them as “splits”.


My favorite Superhuman feature - split inbox


Superhuman’s ‘Splits’ is one of my favorite features of the app

Splits appear on top of the main view (or at the bottom of your mobile view) and help you easily navigate between different worlds of content.
Splits help you define your priorities and work according to them, rather than letting your feed manage your priorities for you randomly.
While labels were not invented by Superhuman, I find that the implementation does a very good job in improving the way labels help you focus on your main topics and reduce context switching.



A picture out of context, but I had to: did you see Shockwave in the Bumblebee Movie???


Command Console 

Aligned with the concept of handling emails one by one by concentrating on the content and not the UI, Superhuman also introduces a unique shortcuts approach. Every letter you type starts an action. In addition, there’s a quick shortcut for opening the Superhuman Console.
The console is very smart and learns your habits so as you type 1-2 letters, the right command usually becomes the first option and hitting tab performs the command.

Superhuman console popup - extremely usefulSuperhuman’s command console 

Quickly reply to emails, add labels, unsubscribe, block senders and more.
While I find the console to be refreshing and pretty convenient, I’m not sure if this concept (mostly found in power-user tools) will work with non-technical people.

Nevertheless, the splits, the speed, the shortcuts - they all work. I already feel like I’m becoming a superhuman!

They say Cristiano Ronaldo is basically superhuman. Meh... I’m a superhuman too.


Mobile App 

The Superhuman mobile app is pretty much aligned with the desktop app. It doesn’t have the keyboard shortcuts or the console but has a few interesting gestures to support quick and seamless email handling. Splits are well represented in the mobile app and the overall experience is pretty polished despite the fact that this is still a very early stage product (not even in the AppStore yet) and requires TestFlight.
Overall, I am actually pretty happy with it already and using it as my default iPhone email app.
 Superhuman email mobile app

 


Other useful features: 

Despite the minimalistic design, there are some more useful features under the hood:
  • Send later - allows you to schedule the time your email will be sent.
  • Remind me - sets a follow-up reminder in case you don’t get a response.
  • Snooze - lets you hide an email and get it back in your inbox on a later time 
  • Offline mode that works very nicely
  • Undo send, read status, priority inbox and more 

Superhuman email mobile appSuperhuman helps you manage your emails with status reminders, send later and snooze


Weekly Tips

Every week or so, a new productivity tip is sent to my inbox.
This is not the usual marketing fluff most companies send to improve retention rates, those are useful tips designed to be more productive with the app and in general with emails.

The emails are created beautifully; they include a personal note (as if they were sent form Superhuman's CEO), a very brief description of the problem and the solution, and the best part - they include a short animated gif demonstrating the feature. No need to read, no need to click-through in order to view a video, no loading time - instant showcase of the feature and the value.

A perfect format for busy people with no time or energy to read.

Summary 

I started my Superhuman adventure because I wanted to experience the onboarding process people were talking about, and I ended up as an extremely satisfied user.
I’ve been using Superhuman email app for 1 week now, and so far it’s been a game changer for me.
With the help of the Splits I finally managed to take my existing labels (that were already well defined with Gmail rules) to the next level in managing my inbox and reducing my feed context switching.

I’m even getting used to using the console instead of the mouse.
I certainly stopped “scanning” my inbox and started handling it instead.

One week later, my inbox is still in a good shape, almost all my splits have reached (or very close to being at) inbox zero and I’m pretty anxious to keep using Superhuman as my default email client.


Update: It has been a few months since I started using Superhuman, and I'm still in love with this product. It's constantly being updated and the functionality gets better each time. It's still my default email app on both my desktop and mobile.


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Comments

Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
jls said…
Good stuff. I wonder how long will they continue with the manual approach.
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Gaurav said…
@Editor could you please recommend me. I believe i cant become superhuman without a recommendation. My email address is extramojo@gmail.com
Gil Bouhnick The Mobile Spoon
Anonymous said…
Can I get an invite to arnavon@gmail.com pleaseeee thanks!