A look at Google Inbox

Published on November 18, 2014 under Technology, Google / Android

Google Inbox

The invention of email has changed the way many of us communicate. It’s been the joy of a paper note with the convenience of the phone. However, it’s also been a scourge to millions as they stare at inboxes loaded with spam, work, and much more than a mere brain can handle.

Problems push those with the means to seek solutions, and Google is taking a crack at the issue with their new Inbox app. As an avid Gmail user, I definitely wanted to give it a try.

A look at Inbox

Google Inbox Layout
Click to enlarge

When I first opened up Inbox, I honestly liked the user interface.  Instead of the usual long list of messages, you instead get emails broken down into a few categorized bundles.  Bundles for social media notifications, purchases from ecommerce sites, and of course promotional spam. Going past the initial bundles, Inbox organizes the rest of your emails by month, so rather than one long list to sift through, you can jump through smaller groupings.

You’re also able to create as many bundle categories as you desire.  For instance I made bundles for emails pertaining to my condo building, and another one solely for travel-related items.

The actual emails themselves are more built in a means to give you a quick access, with a pageless web interface for reading...especially in mobile environments. Emails with attachments, receipts, and even tracking numbers for shipping will see added thumbnails so a user can quickly click and open those extras without diving deeper into email content.

In terms of actually reading emails, a click on one will expand and open the email up as its own bundle, so responses get all packed into one spot for easy reading and surfing. When you’re finished with one or many emails, you can either pin them and keep them on the initial screen, or press a “sweep” button to say you’re done with said emails, and they are pushed into an archive. If you can’t decide, you can also “snooze” on emails and get to them later.

What I liked

Google Inbox on mobile devcesI have to admit, the new ease of reading email in Inbox is a blessing.  The bundles are a huge strength in that you’re now organizing by topic as opposed to date.  Granted Gmail has labels, but Inbox just makes it visually more appealing and easier to navigate.

I also love how they made the business of looking through and reading emails a simpler gesture. On a smartphone it can be all one-handed, which I can imagine as ideal for those on the go.  I especially liked the quick access to attachments and the tracking links for items being shipped to me.  It’s just less clicks and less digging.

What I didn’t like

Despite all of Inbox’s strengths, the one factor that pushed me away was how the app handles the sweep function.  I know many out there never delete emails, but I do. I’m not one to archive emails, but simply delete them.  You can delete emails in Inbox, but it’s a matter of click on one or many, then find the “Delete” choice in the menu.

I honestly wish you could decide what the sweep button does in the settings.  I’d love to be able to just press it and and have said emails delete, rather than archiving.  I could see why some would love to archive emails, but I can’t imagine archiving all the promotional emails I receive.  Plus then you still have to go clean things out later no matter how much you archive.

I’ve read many complaints also on how this app is limited only to gmail accounts, but I personally think that’s Google’s right. POP3 email accounts I’ve set up in Gmail do work in Inbox.  I can send and receive from these attached accounts, so one could attack their non-Gmail account to Inbox.

Beyond this, I also did not like that you could not use Inbox on any browser other than Google Chrome.  I’m mainly a Firefox user.  We can chalk this up to Chrome’s set of allowed CSS/Javascript features, but I’m more inclined to believe it’s also about pushing people to use Chrome over the competition.

The Verdict

I think Inbox is the start of something big, and with a little tweaking and evolution, it could redefine how we use email. As of right now though, I’m going to stick with the normal Gmail system, as it better fits how I use email.  Google themselves calls Inbox an experiment, and claims it’s not for everyone.  Some even say Inbox is more an assistant than a new email browser.  In any case, it’s going to shake up the landscape.

Have you tried Inbox?  What did you think?

Tags: Google, Inbox, email, technology

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