Google's new app promises the earth (and a manageable inbox)
Google has launched a new smartphone app "years in the making" that it claims will let people finally take control of their inboxes.
Logically enough they've called it Inbox, releasing it as a standalone app for Android and iOS devices with an invite-only sign-up system that's a fairly transparent ploy to create buzz (but that also mimics the initial unveiling of Gmail a decade ago).
On first glance the Inbox inbox (very clever Google) looks a little like the news feed from a social media app. Emails are "bundled" into groups that can be dismissed at a time and messages are scoured for the information that's actually important - so, the time of your flight booking or the date of an event invitation.
Like the popular Mailbox app, messages can also be "snoozed" - temporarily dismissed to reappear either hours or weeks later, or even when you arrive at a specific geographical location.
This sort of functionality is familiar to anyone who's used Google Now, the search giant's mobile assistant, and it seems with Inbox Google are trying to tie in a lot of that functionality. You can set reminders, to-do lists and schedule events - so it's somewhere between a productivity app and a calendar, two purposes that inboxes have always served.
The app looks incredibly professional (it's made by the Gmail team so of course it would) and requires minimal set-up, but unfortunately for Firefox or Safari users it's only available on Google's Chrome browser. More than ever it seems the tech giants want to lock you in to one system.
Announcing the new app in a blog post, Android head Sundar Pichai notes that email has been around for 30 years, starting life as a "way to send digital notes around the office" but now has become a bit of an ogre, monopolising our time.
"We get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks," writes Pichai. "For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do-rather than helping us get those things done."
All of this is true of course, but with as with any would-be revolutionary app the proof is in the pudding. Inbox certainly looks the part, but with its invite-only system only leaking slowing in the digital world it's not clear yet how it is to use on a daily basis.
Has Google really cracked email? We'll have to wait and see.
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