Email has come a long way from how some of us might remember it when we first started using it. Even if you had Internet access in early 2000's, you certainly were not checking email every day. Come 2014 and life revolves around email; it's omnipresent.
Given that emails are exchanged for the smallest of requests at work places now, the question then becomes: Why is there so much rubbish in my inbox? Emails from Uber to Yatra to social media updates from every page you follow to Twitter fights; new email is constantly flooding your inbox.
For someone like myself, this is the way of communication as work, friendships, shopping, travel all depend on it. So it keeps piling up and I can never sit down to clear it all in one go. Sure, Google tried to sort this out with various tabs, so now while my primary inbox might be less cluttered, the rest of them are another story. Then, of course there was Mailbox, which promised "zero mail". Even though I eagerly lined up for the app, I wasn’t impressed given how slow the app was. Very soon, I stopped using it.
Now there’s Inbox from Google, which I've been using for the past couple of days and I have to admit that it’s quite a different experience, and in a good way.
So how does Inbox work? Well, for now, it’s invite only from Google, though users have now Google has given the option for Inbox users to invite their friends to try out the app. Sadly you get only three invites.
Bundles and Highlights: Bundles is where Inbox takes the Tabs concept to its logical conclusion. Simply put, certain kinds of emails are bundled together. The Bundles that Google is already offering in Inbox are Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Promos, Updates.
You can of course choose to create new bundles and simply name them after close friends so that all emails from them can go into that bundle. It’s like creating filters, labels in the old Gmail, except that there’s a lot more that I can do with the Bundle in one go.
The best part: Delete everything you don’t need in one go. In my case, the Social and Promotions Tab are a nightmare, thanks to constant notifications from Google Plus, or LinkedIn or discount schemes. On Inbox, I don’t have to deal with this as it lets me either simple moving all the emails in a bundle to trash or just swipe them as done. No hassle of individually clicking on each email or even clicking 'Select all.'
Just click on the 'Dotted Line' on top and the drop down menu comes with a variety of options as to what you want to with all that email. You can even chose to remove a particular set of emails from one Bundle and add them other another.
Bundles also have what Google calls as 'Highlights'. In case, there are emails with pictures or PDF attachments, you get to see that upfront, without being forced to open the email. Just click on the file and it will open. Faster and more convenient and definitely a plus point in my opinion.
Pinning things and Reminders: Is email supposed to be just a bunch of conversations that go back and forth or can you actually turn it into a to-do list? I’m still not entirely convinced about this though this is what the Pin feature tries to achieve.
The Pin option in Inbox, let’s users choose certain emails that they want to pin right on top. On Desktop and Mobile app, you have a ‘Pin Mode view’ where you will only see the important emails, the ones that you have chosen to pin. From upcoming flights to shopping orders to work emails, it’s a suitable way to highlighting the emails that really matter.
Inbox will also let you create Reminders like Call this shop or save the date for an upcoming event. In case you are saving Call this… as a reminder, Google will also save the number of that particular store in the reminder as well. I’ve tried this and it works quite accurately if the store you are mentioning is well-listed online.
Gmail currently offers something called Tasks, which is more rudimentary version of Reminders, and it allows users to come up with a daily list of things to do as well. Except that I’ve not felt the need to use this since 2011 (just checked the last task list I last made). Once I closed the Task tab, I forgot it even existed. Since Reminders, appears in the Pinned Mode, they get a lot more visibility in this version and thus, are likely to be more useful.
There’s also the Snooze option on emails and you can ask Google to remind you to deal with an email at a later date or specific time slot as well.
With Inbox, email feels a bit like a list as well and seriously if you don't want use a separate app for list and email, this makes for quite an intelligent offering. The chances are you will be checking your Inbox more than once, and if the reminders are all there, then that makes things even more simpler.
Usefulness and ability to learn: So how easy is to adopt to Inbox? I’ll admit I was a bit worried about swiping all the emails in a Bundle in on go. “What if I missed something important?” But if you are confident about what emails are going where, you should be okay doing this quick swiping business. Don’t worry none of the email goes to Trash automatically. I suspect some people might actually end up archiving some important email given that a left-to-right swipe over a message does that, but the app shouldn’t take much time to learn, if you’re an active mobile user.
As far as usefulness goes, once I got the hang of the Inbox app, I stopped using the Gmail app on iOS. Personally I had found Gmail on iOS to be buggy since it was slow, and would often constant crash. With Inbox, I've gotten fairly smooth functioning till now.
Conclusion: To sum it up, Inbox as it exists right now is a drastic re-think of how we interact with email. Personally I found the app, fast and easy to use. It also made me realise just how much email I still had that should have been deleted long back. Perhaps it will do the same for a lot of other users as well.