Oct 22nd, 2014

inbox by gmail

The Google team is seemingly never satisfied with what they’ve been able to create with Gmail, and they’re always looking to improve on their class-leading email service with new features and ideas. The company has introduced their biggest evolution since bringing priority inboxes and smart categories.

It’s an app by the name of Inbox, and it aims to not only group your emails in a meaningful way, but allow you to act on them in appropriate fashion. Inbox is an extension of your Gmail inbox so it uses the same email you already receive to your typical inbox. The difference is Inbox will do a few different things to help you organize that email a few different ways.

One of those ways is Bundles — Inbox can group similar emails into the same thread to give you a quick look at all of them without an issue. Say, for instance, you’re going on vacation and need to see information about your flight, itinerary, car rentals and what have you. Inbox would know to show you all of those things in a “bundle” instead of you having to peck down each individual email. Not all of it is left up to Google’s algorithms as you can teach Inbox what you would like to see grouped together over time.

So you’ve organized it, now how does Inbox help you act on it? It might automatically add relevant bits of info to your email. A flight check-in confirmation might provide a link to your boarding pass, or a reservation for a restaurant could embed a map to its location within the email to make sure you know how to get there.

More vanilla features include things like snooze and reminders to make sure you come back to an email that you couldn’t tend to the moment it came in. This prevents them from slipping their way into the low pits of inbox hell and makes it much more likely that you’ll remember to check on those lost emails later on. The reason I refer to them as vanilla is because you can get access to some of these features on the desktop version of Gmail today through the use of handy plugins and extensions.

So why not bring any of this into the current Gmail app? It’s tough to say. Google boasts this as an efficient way to tackle one of the biggest communication problems folks deal with on a daily basis, but why do we need a separate to do any of it? My guess is Google doesn’t want to drastically change the way email works without first giving it proper trial and error in its own little sandbox.

This route will allow them to iterate and bring new features, update and changes to make the experience more pleasant and natural. Humans are notoriously afraid of change so it’s likely Google didn’t want to bring any sweeping changes to the core Gmail experience and scare folks away.

And that’s probably why it’s in invite-only status right now — yes, you’ll need an invite to even use the new app. You can easily request one from Google by sending an email to inbox@google.com, and if past invite-only Google services and programs are anything to by it shouldn’t be all that difficult to find your way in. Let us know if you’ll be looking to take part, and if you’re already part of the invite-only affair be sure to let us know how Inbox is treating you in the comments below.

[via Gmail]

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