Posted by Hallie Lickteig

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Outbox’s intriguing new service collects your physical mail, then opens, scans, and delivers it via app or browser.

With a fleet of white Prius’ sporting giant, red plastic flags, Outbox’s “unpostman” will visit your home three times a week to collect your letters, bills, magazines and advertisements that had deposited there by official postal workers; they then get delivered to a warehouse where they are opened and photographed, and the resulting digital files are sent electronically to the recipient through the Outbox website or iPad or iPhone apps.

The goal of this new niche service is to pick up where the embattled United States Postal Service leaves off — by digitizing physical mail.

The idea is that for $4.99 a month, someone can make their pesky physical mail disappear. Using a mobile device or computer, Outbox customers can organize mail in files or forward them as e-mails, ask to be unsubscribed from junk mail, have unwanted items destroyed or request that important mail, such as a wedding invite or a postcard, be re-delivered to their home.

Following an alpha test with some 500 users, on March 25 Outbox is rolling out in San Francisco. The first month is free; the service costs $4.99 per month after that. Out box already boasts more than 600 customers in Austin, Texas, and the growing popularity of the service ensures more cities will be added soon to Outbox’s roster.

Mail service as we know it just doesn’t work anymore. Too much junk. Too much hassle sorting, scanning, and/or filing the stuff we need to keep. And, let’s be honest, so much of what arrives in our mailboxes could — some would say should — arrive electronically. The Austin-based start-up wants to make that happen by digitizing all of your physical mail making it easier to sort, trash, and even have certain items redelivered to your house.

The companion app lets you view the mail via the Web or your device, where customers have options for organizing, archiving, searching, and so on. Also allowing customers to e-mail mail and create tasks based on specific mail (like bills or an invitation). The interface can also interact with your devices calender function setting automatic reminders to pay bills or schedule events.

Outbox cuts down on clutter with an aim to reduce trash waste from fliers, mailers, and coupons, setting system reminders to toss the items when they appear in your mail again. Any piece of mail can be delivered by a simple request function and anything left unrequested for 30 days gets shredded and recycled, though you retain access to the digital version unless you delete it. Pretty nifty for the environment!

New, nimble and relatively tiny, the start-up can begin experimenting with new ways of handling mail that would take time, and possibly congressional action, for the Postal Service to do.  In addition to charging $4.99 a month, Outbox has plans to eventually deliver ads through its apps. They wouldn’t be banner ads, but rather would appear just like another item of scanned mail. So perhaps that may lead to a free version.

Outbox’s believes that once the company has saturated an area, it will be in a great position to handle same-day deliveries for e-commerce companies like Amazon. Eventually Outbox will also try tiered pricing for work addresses, and extra features such as forwarding individual pieces of mail to other addresses.

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