Google launched a new app last week that augments Gmail on mobile devices with reminders, assist, tasks, flight information, attached photos and more. Inbox is not a replacement for Gmail -- not yet, anyway. It only works with Gmail accounts and is intended as an add-on feature to highlight the incoming mail that each user deems important. Google assumes what's important, and each user can tell the platform what they want to see and how often they want to see it.
I managed to download the app for my iOS device Friday and I have been taking it for a spin during the weekend. No, I don't have invites, but I heard that at this time only Google can invite users to join, similar to when they launched Google+. Here are a few benefits and challenges.
1) Incoming mail notifications serve up on users' locked smartphone screen. From the screen they can choose to read, delete or save it to read later. Users swipe the notification to read and can tap the pin to move an item back to the inbox.
2) You can tap the clock icon in the app to save it for later, tomorrow, next week, or someday.
3) Users can bundle specific types of email, such as promotions, financial reports, updates, travel, and purchases. This is where marketers will need to get creative. Building relationships becomes more important to stay off the "Low Priority" list. Bundling means all the Promo emails users get from Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Williams Sonoma, and Restoration Hardware will be lumped into the same folder. At least it provides an opportunity to see them one after another, making it easier to delete the obsolete ones and keep the gems. Inbox also makes it possible to create and name your own bundle.
4) Reminders are a great feature. I also thought Gmail should have an option to remind people about things other than entering a calendar notation. You can swipe to the right to dismiss them, and to the left to put them on snooze, so they pop up again at a time of your choice. Unfortunately, reminders do not show up on the desktop, because the app focuses solely on mobile.
5) The Assist function in Reminders allows users to turn an email into a reminder. When making a reservation at a restaurant, Assist will find the phone number and add it to the reminder.
6) Pin allows the user to pin important messages by tapping the pin toggle at the top of the app.
7) Speed dial, a red "+" button at the bottom of the screen, lists the user's most frequently emailed contacts. It enables the user to quickly compose an email and, finally, attach a photo from your saved collection on the phone.
8) Notes now serve up in the Inbox menu. Write a note in the phone app and it syncs with the Inbox app.
9) Bold colors and icons make it easy to read and scroll through the list to find messages. It follows the rules or specifications of Google's mobile material design.
10) Here's the one thing I dislike about Inbox. It's very different. I have little patience to learn new apps. I want them to be intuitive. Inbox takes a bit of time to fully understand all the functions because it is so different. Also, I get many, many emails during week days. I live in California, so emails start arriving around 4 a.m. pacific. The locked screen continually lights up like a flashlight if you don't turn your phone off at night.