Mobile Inbox Love from Google
Inbox from Google, you had me at “Sweep.” Seriously, this is the biggest thing in email since the attachment. And it’s been a long time coming.
Recently my wife and I flew SFO>SYD to extend summer on some of Australia’s incredible beaches and my invitation to try out Google Inbox arrived just in time.
First I noticed the slick and super helpful flight confirmations, with key details parsed for quick reference on mobile devices - even including an image for my arrival city, Sydney. It’s like the Gmail team crafted a personal response to my September Blog, yeah right, whatevs.
Mostly, I read email on my iPhone 6, so let’s keep the conversation there, but this should apply to Inbox on android devices and desktop apps as well.
I’ve been a happy Gmail user since inception, 2004-ish, but lately the clutter has gotten out of hand - for real! I was losing the fight against over communication; but now I just sweep it all away. It’s serene, I’ll explain.
The Google Now “brain” powering Inbox automagically finds low priority emails; which I review and quickly jettison away. Why does this solution work? it’s much easier to scan a presorted group of emails than hunt and peck through a mixed list of spam, important, and low priority emails. I mean, I’d like to think I’ll get to these; but in the meantime, just want them out of the way. Want to live on the edge? hit the sweep button without reviewing the emails; it’s a total rush!
Two thirds of my email is forgettable cruft that can be swept away. This leaves important emails which demand immediate attention and others which can be dealt with later. For the latter, Google Inbox offers a big snooze bar - a means to postpone review to a future time... and place. So let’s say you’re planning to stop at the grocery store on your way home from the office and wifie emails you a few things to pick up - snooze to “Whole Foods” - when you arrive the email will pop to the top, got it.
Tags and Folders were great for filing away emails, but if you have anything close to my 68 Gmail labels, what was once helpful is now an OCD relapse waiting to happen. Bundling takes similar logic behind Sweep and uses it to group emails, with pre-existing ones displayed for Travel, Finance, Purchases, and Low Priority and others bundles for Social, Promos, Updates and Forums available to be turned on from Settings (gear icon).
Similar emails are grouped and can be reviewed in kind.
Parsed Emails With Rich Media
Google Inbox earns style points with the treatment of flight, hotel, calendar invite confirmation emails, which are all parsed and presented so important details stand out - an enabling crutch for those of us whom skim most emails (don’t judge).
When traveling, I rely on my mobile phone for all travel confirmations and on my recent trip to Sydney easily found these emails and could access most important details from the Inbox, list view. Furthermore, videos and pics are displayed using a clean ribbon which can be flicked left and right to see more.
THE OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPROVEMENT.
While Google Inbox is an awesome start to rethinking email; there’s opportunity to build on this while addressing a few important misses; all of which I’m sure the team is grooming in their backlog.
Add Delete To Messages
What is the Gmail team’s deal with the Delete button?! seriously, it’s slightly awkward how obsessed they are about it. It’s like their personal crusade to save all of the unwanted email in the world. I’m not going to get into specifics, but sometimes you just need to delete an email - use your imagination. The “delete” trash can icon is present, but buried, and so should be added to the top - next to the “close” X and away from the priority icons on the right.
Add Confirmations To Google Calendar
While the calendar invites look great there’s an opportunity to take this further. If dates can be parsed from confirmations like Opentable reservations and flights they can be used to create Google Calendar events. For example my Sydney trip flight confirmations from United Airlines should have created Google Calendar events. A great opportunity for appless functionality, quietly working in the background without me getting in the way.
Other Nits and Gnats
Can’t Edit Replies/Forwards: In the mobile version, the original email content of Replies/Forwards can’t be edited. This functionality does exist in the desktop browser version; not exactly mobile first.
Message Time: It’s helpful to see the message time, before opening the email. Email delivery time is missing from the inbox list view, this should be added with thin, light grey font to the top right-hand side of the email message in list view - if you ask me.
For years the zero inbox policy was my unicorn with wings. I’m proud to say that after just a few weeks, I’ve attained that which had escaped me for years; and my Inbox count is currently a goose egg.
The Gmail and Google Now teams have done good work. Is it ready for primetime? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.
Google Inbox has set the new standard for all email applications. Aside from a few minor nits, the first version of Google Inbox is both ambitious and impressive. If you haven’t yet requested an invite, I suggest you do so. If you must, keep Gmail, Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook (I hope not) going while you get acquainted with Google Inbox, but if like me you’ll soon forget them as you cruise through your email and wonder what to do with all of your newfound free time.
Update 8DEC 2014
My Christmas wish came early. A week after starting this blog entry and a day after posting it I received a notice in Google Calendar that reservations for flights, restaurants, and other standard email confirmations will automatically be added to my calendar.
While Google Inbox and Gmail are separate, this is officially a Gmail announcement. However, this is a backend upgrade so it benefits both services.