23 October 2014

Android Power: “Hands on with Inbox, Google’s new way to experience Gmail”

(Your traditional Gmail labels are still present and available, by the way; in fact, if you open up the Inbox settings, they’re listed along with all the Bundles in a tab called “Labels”. But there’s no way to assign a message to multiple labels in this setup; a message is either in the inbox or in a single Bundle/label -- and that’s it. Confused yet?)

JR Raphael

For all the hype and excitement in the press, to me it sounds more like a regression than an improvement. The ability to add multiple labels to a message has been one of the main advantages of Gmail from day one; removing it doesn’t strike me as a step in the right direction. Nor does the fact that on desktop Inbox actively locks out browsers other than . I get a sense that one of the reasons behind its existence is to nudge people away from email as open standard and towards ’s proprietary API’s.

It’s hard to get an idea of the interaction based on screenshots and reading other people’s opinions, but my first impression is that the app is too complex, stuffed with many features regular people will rarely use – if ever. The current trend in the mobile app landscape is ‘unbundling’, trying to create a simple, one-feature-per-app experience. Inbox is going in the opposite direction, bundling as much as possible in a single place. It remains to be seen if this approach will be successful, or fail miserably like other attempts at extending or replacing email – Google Wave naturally comes to mind… I didn’t see any point in using last year’s Categories – which are in a sense a rough, early version of Inbox – and still I don’t see any immediate benefits to using Inbox.

Like most people, I have a love-hate relationship with my inbox. I want my email to be simplified. But when I look at Inbox right now, I don’t see simplification; I see complication. And if I’m overwhelmed by it, I can only imagine what a typical person who doesn’t deal with technology all day will think.

JR Raphael
Meet your new Inbox

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