Testing Inbox for Gmail for two weeks has been a bit of an extraneous experience. Every other Google service has a clear purpose – an identity in a collection of applications that, together, can take care of all your needs. Where does Inbox fit in?
We talked a bit about it last week, when our very own Stewart Haston gave you his opinion on it. I thought I would give you my own opinion on it after using it for some time, though. Here we go!
The main issue here is that I’ve been having a hard time trying to determine the answer to that question. At first, Inbox seems to be a cluttered recollection of features and capabilities that already exist in the Google Apps spectrum. An app that can do it all. And therefore, nothing at the same time.
How Inbox features overlap with other Google services
This is why it’s hard to find an identity for Inbox. It’s like Gmail, but it isn’t. It’s like Google Now, but it isn’t. It’s kinda like Google+, Calendar and Keep… but it isn’t.
Let’s go through each feature. First, I would like to point out there is one feature I do love about Inbox, which would be the previews. If someone sends you images, videos or attachments, you get a small preview and quick access straight to the file. No need to even open the thread. Now, this is awesome, but I do feel like it could have been better as a feature added to Gmail, itself.
The app can also take information from the email and give you relevant data. Meaning, you will get train schedules, flight information and other similar details when you get an email regarding the matter. This is very similar to what Google Now does when it takes email details and offers notifies you of details via cards.
You can also pin emails, which is equivalent to “starring”, really. You can set reminders, which is also similar to what you can do with Google Calendar and Keep. What I am trying to say is: every feature in Inbox is replaceable by another Google app, except for the cool attachment previews.
Who Inbox is really for
After some time, though, I did realize Inbox has a function. In order to see it, you must change the way you look at the app. This is not a service, it’s a tool. A tool that not many of us will necessarily need, but still a tool.
Inbox is meant to keep you busy, something I realized when I started seeing Inbox in action in a work environment, as opposed to a consumer experience. As a consumer, I realized most users would actually be really confused with this.
Should you answer through Inbox or Gmail? What will happen to the Gmail content? When I set an email as “Done” in Inbox, it seems to disappear into oblivion on the Gmail app. Where did it go?
It’s a bit of a mess, unless you are dealing with work. Which is a bit inconvenient because currently Inbox doesn’t support Google Apps accounts (business accounts). That should change in the near future, though.
When dealing with work mail, you usually get messages that you have to do something with. You have to either respond, do something or take a look at information. Those are all things you can do with Inbox very easily, allowing you to use it as some type of digital assistant. It can keep your workflow going once you get used to it.
In short, Inbox has a purpose, but only for specific users. For everyone else it will be a mess that does too much and too little at the same time.