Inbox by Google – A week with a smartbox

It’s about that someone did something about the e-mail that’s become a menace. Google seems to be taking the problem with e-mail seriously and it does reflect in their new (maybe future of email) app “Inbox”.

Invite systems have always worked no matter what the product is. Google is careful enough to take something this revolutionary slow. You can request access to this intelligent mail client by sending a request to “inbox@google.com” or get an invite from a friend who already is using it.

Inbox is an attempt to repair e-mail’s biggest problem, which is clutter and inability to keep and convey the information in a concise form. Google tried to address the above issues with the help of its intelligent algorithms. Inbox rethinks emails as a to-do list.

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What does it have?

The moment you log into to inbox with your Gmail account, Google crawls through your thousands of mails and tries to tidy it up by grouping them into various sections called “Bundles”. These are more like Primary, Updates, Social and Promotions in Gmail. Now, there are more sections like Travel, finance etc., and custom bundles. These are nothing but labels and filters with a greater IQ.The more I use, Inbox gets better and better at filtering and bundling mail. Thanks to Google’s cutting edge algorithms.

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As already mentioned, Google wants to make the email more useful. They chose to make the mail a to-do list. You can swipe(archiving, named “done”) away mails after attending them or snooze them to attend later. They can also be pinned to attend later, this is Google’s way of saying that it is important. This swipe away and snooze has been around for a while and proved to be useful in mail clients like Mailbox and Mail app on iOS 8. Also, no matter what the bundle is, as soon as a new mail is pushed to the bundle, it moves to the top of the Inbox. This is actually great, unlike in Gmail, where you need to go to the Promotions or Social or any relevant label.

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Reminders, an important feature that was introduced with Google now. Add reminders alongside with mail. This helps a section of people who get a lot of mails that carry tasks to be done.

As a designer, it feels great to see where Google’s design is headed to with the introduction of Material design. Transitions look great and better than ever on Inbox. It reflects their philosophy to make design delightful across platforms and devices.

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What does it miss?

Bundles do a great job when grouping the mails, but looks like even they fail to address the problem of clutter. It looks more spacious than a Gmail inbox but again, they are the same filters and this time more in number. Also, another annoying feature is the placement of all the attachments in the bundle. It feels really annoying, when you don’t know where that attachment is from and it only pushes you to dig deeper into the bundle rather than making it simpler.

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The idea of rethinking of mail as a to-do list is refreshing and makes mail slightly more useful than before. But may be this is not the revamp of email we are looking for. It probably needs to address the gap between email and IM to make it more usable.

I have used Inbox and only Inbox for a full week to ensure that I use it to the maximum. It felt great, but at the end of the week, I felt more than happy to get back to the Gmail app. It is not really right to judge Inbox and its future, certainly not at this point. With Google taking up the job, the future looks really promising. It is safe to say that email is in good hands for its long overdue makeover.

You can download Inbox right away here and find an invite from someone who already has it. With Android Lollipop release scheduled for November 3rd, you should expect Google to open this Inbox up for everyone.

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