Trying out the new Inbox by Gmail
A flurry of reports over the weekend suggest that Google is beginning to slowly move Gmail users over to a new mail platform called Inbox. The clear implication being that Inbox is intended to replace the 11-year-old Gmail — Forbes even titled their piece on the migration: “Google ending?”
So what is Inbox?
- The next generation Gmail.
- A higher tier Gmail service just for mobile users.
- A new UI/feature refresh for Gmail designed for mobile Android 5.0 devices.
- Google’s careful way of floating a radical redesign of Gmail.
Today “Inbox by Gmail” is definitely still what it was first described as a year ago — not an alternative service, but an alternative and augmented interface to Gmail.
But clearly Google would like Inbox to become the new face of not just Gmail on mobile devices but email period.
In addition to some fresh new organizational features and a very fresh Android 5.o look, Inbox can significantly manage other email accounts besides Gmail.
A clean web design that acts like an app, not a web page
When I first read up on Inbox, I was left with the certain impression — largely due to Google’s own contradictory mobile-centric descriptions — that it was an upper-tier service of Gmail aimed only at mobile users.
For example,Google’s How to get Inbox begins by stating that “Inbox by Gmail is open to everyone with a Gmail address” but under Supported devices and browsers, Google provides the following instructions for using the web version of Inbox on a desktop computer:
- Go to inbox.google.com.
- If you don’t see your messages, make sure you downloaded the mobile app. Before you can use Inbox on a computer, you need to activate your account in the mobile app.
Inbox certaiinly is first and foremost an app for mobile phones and tablets (and smartwatches). It is a re-imagining of Gmail which visually follows the minimalist Material design of Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and uses machine learning, in order to “pre-chew” the incoming stream of a person’s email into a more manageable arrangement.
But Inbox is accessible on the web to anyone with a Gmail account and its clean, yncluttered design looked and functioned very enticingly on my laptop screen.
My initial difficulty connecting to the web version was due to the fact that Google saw my up-to-date Firefox-based Pale Moon web browser (version 25.7.3) as an obsolete, and therefore, unsupported version of Firefox.
I didn’t take the time to play with the features but in addition to automatically creating bite-sized summaries of email (suitable for smartwatch screens), Inbox adds on-the-fly “bundling” of incoming emails into default categories, such as, “promotions”, “purchases” and “trips”, as well as user-defined categories. It also allows users to create to-do lists and to put their email off the hook, as it were, by hitting “snooze” on specific messages and notifications for minutes or hours.
One of the least-discussed (but most compelling to me) features of the Inbox mobile app, which is missing from the web version, is called “All Inboxes” which allows users to manage Yahoo and Outlook email accounts through Inbox.