Is email a dated relic from the early days of computing? Or is it something that’s so simple that it never really needed to evolve? Google seems to be moving towards the former, while leaving a foot firmly planted in the latter. Meet Google’s Inbox: akin to a next-gen version of Gmail, but without necessarily replacing it.
Inbox isn’t exactly email, and it isn’t going to replace Gmail (at least not yet). It’s more like a marriage of Dropbox’s Mailbox app and Google Now. Like Mailbox, it treats incoming messages more like tasks, but like Google Now, it adds reminders and context-sensitive info to the mix.
If you’ve ever used Google Now, you may have noticed that it scans your inbox for things like package tracking numbers and flight itineraries – and later notifies you of the package’s progress and your flight status. These features all make their way to Inbox as well, in the form of “Highlights,” the app’s means of organizing what’s most important.
Inbox also riffs off of the categories that Google recently introduced to Gmail. Like modern Gmail, Inbox spots things like purchase receipts and bank receipts, and automatically organizes them into groups (Bundles, as Google calls them) to keep them from cluttering your Inbox.
Other core elements of Inbox include Reminders (exactly what you’d expect), as well as Assists and Snooze. If you set a reminder to, say, call the hardware store, Assists will automatically add the phone number and tell you if the store is open. And Snooze is where Mailbox’s influence comes in: if a message or reminder comes in at a bad time, just snooze it for later on.
Why Inbox? I suspect Google sees Gmail and Google Now as two services that are better off as one. I can see the point, but old-schoolers like me might have trouble letting go of traditional email inboxes. I know I wouldn’t easily trust Google’s algorithms to replace the simple and well-established chronological list that is email.
Inbox is launching as an invite-only service. If you want to request a spot, you can send an email to email@example.com. It will be available on Android, iOS and the web (via Chrome).
You can learn more in the video below.