Thoughts on Google’s new Inbox

Inbox, By Google

It started with this:

Looking at the timeline, it seems I’m not the only one who got an Inbox invite I’m the last hour


Summarising what I’ve been tweeting about my early impressions of Inbox.

First impression

Started off being surprised by the app speed, both on the laptop and Nexus 5. The Gmail app had become laggy on the N5 recently, and has been slow for a long while on the web. Inbox was pleasantly, surprisingly fast. (Aside: Gmail on N5 may be slow because of the amount of email that I’ve marked for offline storage. No such setting in Inbox).

Getting used to the new sorting concept takes a little effort. While I’ve been using, and loving, Gmail’s automatic labels, they were always hidden away from the view in the main Gmail apps. In Inbox, by default, they’re right there on the main screen, with older email from the primary inbox shoved further down. This can, and needs, to be fine tuned for each user’s taste, but I wonder how many regular users will know how to, or even bother?

Second impression

After more fiddling around with Inbox: I like it on the phone. It’s fast, it’s clean, and gets right to business. On the PC, I still prefer the good old Gmail. Mainly because I’m over dependent on keyboard shortcuts for everything – actions and traversal – which Inbox doesn’t support very well yet.

Another observation – people like me who delete unwanted emails, instead of archiving them, might have a few OCD issues with using Inbox. The default ‘mark-it-done’ action just archives the email. Doesn’t even mark it read before archiving. Very bad for my inbox hygiene OCD.


Inbox feels like a great tool for people who get large volumes of email. Those with fewer mails may find it an unnecessary complication of the simpler Gmail client.

Which makes me wonder, is the Google Inbox a product that answers the need of valley/tech users, or did Google actually research ALL its Gmail users’ behaviour?

Treatment of email inbox as a to-do list, and focus on quickly dealing with larger volumes of email, shows Google is trying to respond to the chatter around ’email overload’ and ‘disrupting email’, and building up on work that apps like Mailbox are already doing.

My worry is are the chatterati who this app responds to really that big a target market1, or could Google be ignoring the silent masses? The pickup of Inbox, and continuing development of default Gmail app might help answer these questions.


UI Hiccups

I abandoned the Inbox web app on laptop after the first night. It’s become my default app on the N5, though. The UI of the Android app still feels a bit broken, though.

The first big negative, for me, was discovering that we can’t share links (using Android’s share intents) in emails using the Inbox app. The default Gmail app allows this nicely. It’s sad that Inbox had to break this link sharing facility – can’t add articles directly from newsletters to Pocket anymore, and so can’t quickly mark them done! :(

Another UI fail that slows me down quite a bit: Can’t quickly run through emails by swiping right-left from an open email to next-previous email. This swipe-traversal made quickly running through the updates folder so easy in the Gmail app – start at first email, and quickly read through all before archiving/deleting them all. Doing the same in Inbox app, requires a lot more tap actions!

A final, small hiccup – In the Gmail app, users could save any attached photos directly to Google Drive. This too seems to have been broken in the Inbox app.


I like the direction Google has taken with the Inbox app. It may not suit all Gmail users, but for those like me who get a lot of email (and are willing to tune the app to their needs), it’s perfect. It also helps that it isn’t replacing the original Gmail app, which may still be a better option for a lot of users. There are still quite a few UI gaps, which I hope will get filled quickly since the app is still in its early roll out phase.

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