“It’s not Gmail,” the team behind Google’s new email app says. The Mountain View, California, company that took over webmail with its Gmail service in 2004 is trying to do the same again with Inbox, a new app for Android devices, iPhones and the Chrome desktop browser that aims to help sort out your email “to focus on what really matters.”
Unlike traditional webmail clients such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Outlook, Inbox attempts to turn email into something more akin to a Facebook or Google Now feed. Some of the features within Inbox are familiar to Gmail users, such as Bundles, which groups emails into various categories based on importance.
Others, such as Highlights, make it possible to look through the important parts of an email at a glance without actually opening it. If the email contains document or picture attachments, the pictures will be displayed under the email subject. If you receive an email for a travel reservation, the date and location will be displayed below as well.
Inbox also allows users to come back to an email later through its snooze feature, which can remind them about an email at a set time or even when entering a set location. It’s a feature that has been around in a number of third-party email apps and plug-ins such as MailBox and Boomerang. Inbox also serves as a to-do list with standard reminders.
Replacing starred and favorite emails is "pinning," which functions nearly the same. But unlike the starred feature from Gmail, users can then employ Inbox’s sweep feature, which clears out an email inbox while keeping the pinned items in place. For sending emails, Inbox tries to expedite the process through a “quick dial” button, which displays frequently emailed contacts.
Though Inbox is rolling out the service today, it’s only accessible to Gmail users that have received an invite. Users looking for an invite can wait for one or email inbox@Google.com to get on the waiting list. Inbox users can access the app through Android phones running Jellybean or later, iOS 7.1 or later, and on desktops through the Chrome browser.