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Inbox by Gmail: Easy Peasy Review

Ever since I decided to roll with the "phablet" idea late last year and picked up my very own Nexus 6, I have been using my phone for more of my daily activities. It turns out I'm not alone. It turns out if you have plenty of real estate and a long battery life, your "phablet" is going to get more usage... I mean, a lot more.

The personal golden rule for adding technology into my life is that it must make my day to day easier than it was before. 

For example, I like to have a toaster oven in my kitchen because it makes cooking a piece of garlic bread a lot easier than prepping my full-sized oven. In many cases, something that might take ten or fifteen minutes in my oven is reduced to less than five in the toaster oven.

Technology is meant to simplify things, not complicate them. If I use a piece of technology that is overly-complicated I am very likely to soon abandon it and go back to the easier path.

So, when I started using Inbox a few months ago, I wasn't sure that I would enjoy the experience at all. After all, Gmail is an amazing tool and I've used it since 2008 (I was a late to the party), so why should I consider changing to something else now?

The answer is, fundamentally, because the Gmail GUI isn't meant for mobile.

Now, many might disagree with me on that one, but we can all agree that Gmail was originally beta-invite released in 2004. The age of smart phones, tablets, and all of our wearable devices had not come to fruition. People were accessing their email on laptops, desktops, and dare I say... netbooks.

I think that Gmail has remained a capable interface, even on mobile, and that is why I had such a hard time thinking that Inbox was really going to change my opinion. Now that I've used the interface for a few months, I'm ready to say that I love everything that Inbox has to offer.

The Review

Inbox is designed around the concept that I will be checking my e-mail on my mobile device. It reduces a lot of the menus and selections that Gmail utilizes so that my message are front and foremost when I open the application. 

That's not all that special though, right? After all, Gmail can do that to an extent in it's mobile version... but here's what I mean when I say that Inbox makes it look cleaner:


What's important to note here, is that the e-mail message becomes a single line item in Inbox. In the example above, I don't have to open the e-mail at all to get the information I want. It works this way with attachments too, giving me quick and easy access to family photos or work documents with a single tap of my screen or click of my mouse. 

Package Tracking

I order from Amazon a lot so this one is of particular use to me, but it is important to note that this isn't just Amazon. We're talking all purchases including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, Ebay, etc.

Now when I'm contacted by the seller, instead of opening the message that contains the normal "We've shipped your item yadda yadda yadda... here's the tracking number that you care about," I can simply click Track Delivery right there in my Inbox interface.

This is WAY more important than the old Gmail interface of clicking the message, scrolling down to find the tracking number and desperately hoping that there was a link so you didn't have to find the number, copy it, paste it into your search bar, etc.

The design is centered around mobile, but after a while I found myself going to Inbox even when I was on my work computer, or my home desktop. After all, if the interface is so clean, why not use it everywhere?

Task Tracking

How many e-mail messages do you have in your Gmail inbox? 10? 100? 1000?

What about your tabs? Some in social? Others in Promotions?

Inbox has provided users with what new way to say "I'm done with this" and that interface has become a big part of how I manage my day to day affairs.

For example, Inbox sends me the above example e-mail from Amazon. No matter how many times I click on it, that message will stay up there for me to see. When I get my package and tear it open, there is little reason for me to keep that message around, so I am able to simply swipe it off my screen and away it goes. 

Don't worry though, it isn't deleted, simply removed from sight. So, if you decide you want to return the item you can always search Inbox for the message and pull it right back up.

Likewise, if you get a message and you know it's important, but not important right now, you can snooze it and it'll vanish from your GUI so you can concentrate on tasks at hand. Don't worry, though, it'll be back up when you specify so you won't simply forget about it.

Overall

I've used Inbox since it opened for Beta Invite and I'll admit that the first few weeks left me feeling a little quirky. It's a big departure from e-mail as I had known it in the past. It's also worth noting that, while I love Inbox for my personal world, I have only started to adopt it for work, but the same reasons I already enjoyed it at home are quickly becoming reasons I enjoy it at the office too.

Inbox is currently still invite-only, but I think it's a worthwhile transition and I hope that we're just seeing the beginning of a beautiful e-mail message system.

Obviously, time (and data on usage) will tell!





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