Superhuman is new email software that’s created quite a buzz within the tech community. Superhuman describes itself as “not another email client,” but a product “rebuilt from the ground up” that will make you “feel like you have superpowers.” Many of its users are effusive about how it revolutionizes their drudgery of email. Some of that might be attributed to the need to be invited in and its waiting list of more than 300,000, according to the company’s CEO.
In its more than fifteen years of existence, email has gone from an easily navigated collection of personal and business correspondence to a huge mishmash of spam, ads, promotions, invitations, receipts, and phishing schemes, all obscuring the important communications that makes up the rest.
Email has become our filing cabinet, to do list, and a source of all kinds of information. We’re constantly searching for attachments, previous communications, appointments, and receipts. We highlight our emails to remind us to follow up. No longer is email valued as just a way to correspond, but by how easy it is to accomplish all these other tasks. On top of all this we’re deleting, unsubscribing and blocking all the spam.
I’ve tried all sorts of solutions for my own email, including products that sort my mail into folders and filter out the bad stuff, but they all require training, and none work perfectly. The best solution I found is SaneBox, an add-on to any email that does a pretty good job of sorting email into a whole set of folders.
I’ve used Outlook, Apple Mail, Gmail, Spark and others on my Mac. My mainstay has been Gmail read through Apple Mail or Spark Mail. But AppleMail doesn’t always play well with Gmail and is buggy. For example, Apple Mail’s send box has been glitchy and it can take many minutes to view my recently sent mail. Apple has not supported this product and it shows.
Like many, my current process is to cycle through my inbox, rarely deleting read email, just reading and going down the list to the next. Often I’ll designate some to unsubscribe or cut and past some info onto a calendar or todo list, or forward to others. I’ve never attempted to empty the inbox.
Superhuman claims they can get you to an empty inbox in just a few days and convince you that’s a good thing because an empty inbox means your work is done. They say you’ll spend less time in email and be able to eliminate all the frustration and complexity of navigating and acting on your email.
I knew I just had to try it. There was no mention of price, just the opportunity to apply and join the waiting list.I applied over a year ago. Once I answered some questions about my current email practices and the computer I use, I received a polite response saying I was not currently eligible because my computer at the time (a Macbook 12-inch) was not powerful enough to work with their software.
Fast forward to early July. Now that I’m using a new MacBook (a 2020 MacBookPro), I contacted them again and asked them if I was now eligible. They responded, making sure I knew they don’t allow multiple accounts to be integrated into their inbox, and that I still use Gmail, a requirement for Superhuman. While I now use two email addresses, an Apple address and Gmail, I knew I could forward the Apple email to my Gmail account and get around that limitation.
The next step was to provide a credit card and make an appointment for a 30-minute call from one of their “onboarding experts,” a live person to take you through the software by sharing your screen, providing some fundamentals and answering questions. That’s also when you learn the cost is $30 per month. Ouch! For that amount I could get a new iPhone! But if it saved all that time and transformed my life? Reluctantly, I thought I’d try it for a month and see if it was all it was cracked up to Beas good as they promised.
I’m now in my second week of use and I am going through the important mail in my inbox every day in a lot less time, and each time I do I empty it. I’m using it to remind me of follow up action, and I can search for anything in my emails almost instantaneously. If there’s something I want to follow up on I can have the email return to my inbox anytime I choose. For example a shipping notification saying my order would be arriving in 5 days can show back up in my email 5 days later. Or meeting notes that I need for an afternoon meeting will show up just before the meeting. No need to leave them in my inbox cluttering it up.
My inbox is separated into Important stuff, News an Other category by choice. I can respond to an email with the click of a few keys and I can block a sender with the press of four keys. In fact most everything I do is accomplished by using keystrokes. Once you learn the appropriate keys for what you want to do, any activity takes a second or two. The actions happen quickly, no waiting, apparently the need for a fast computer.
The interface is modern, sleek and simple. The extra headers, labels, characters, and extraneous information are all stripped from the email so it’s more like reading a letter than a conventional email. I can review my email from the list view or quickly go from one opened email to the next, reminiscent of Hey that I reviewed last week. When you empty your email the screen turns into an attractive photo of a serene scene.
Superhuman is not a stand-alone email software. It’s actually a “wrapper” or completely new interface for Gmail. Thus, the underlying engine is Google’s. Everything you do with its interface, such as blocking senders, instructing email to return later, and identifying email as spam is actually sending those commands to Gmail, which already has those functions, albeit often obscured and not easy to use. When you first realize that, it makes the cost fo Superhuman seem even more excessive than it is. I’m actually just paying for something I could do directly with Gmail? But, in reality, I’m being asked to pay for the experience convenience, time savings, and lack of frustration.
So is it worth $30? I don’t know. I’m not yet convinced, as good as the product is. It’s certainly worth $10 or $15 to me and I’d not hesitate at that price. But I need to spend another few weeks with it. Often a new product can mesmerize because it’s new and different. What happens after the novelty wears off? Will this be a life-changer that is well worth the cost, or something that’s nice, but not worth the money, considering other alternatives. For me this needs to be so much better and do everything so well, that it becomes something that would be a sacrifice to stop using. I expect to figure that out over the next few weeks and will let you know.