10 reasons to ditch the Gmail app for Inbox

Inbox will change your life, or at least the way you manage email. Here's what it does best and why you should switch over from the Gmail app.

inbox by gmail android
Derek Walter

Inbox wants to solve your email problem

We’ve known for a while that email was broken - we just didn’t know that Google knew it too

Its new Inbox app goes a long way toward fixing the problem of an excessive deluge of updates, soliciations, and downright junk. Like Mailbox, you can swipe and snooze your way to a clean inbox, triaging email far more quickly than with the Gmail app.

Yet there's a learning curve for some features and some growing pains for power Gmail users. But give it time, and you’ll find yourslf going all-in. 

We’ve compiled the ten best features, highlighting along the way a few areas Inbox could get better. Check out our slideshow and let us know your thoughts about Inbox and if it’s changed anything about how you manage your Gmail.

For now, Inbox is invite-only. The best way to get on the list is to mail inbox@gmail.com asking to test it out—Google sends out invites in waves.

mailboxes together

Inbox is easy on the eyes

When comparing Gmail and Inbox side by side, Google’s new app is much nicer to look at.

But the revamp is also better for productivity, as you can more quickly spot the mail you need to address first. They’re also grouped by date, so it’s easy to decide that you should go back and get rid of all the emails from August in one fell swoop.  

The downside here is that if you still like to just scroll through the inbox in a linear fashion and pick out what’s important, then you’re better off with Gmail. Also, Gmail 5.0 is scheduled to get a Material Design makeover, so it will be pretty close to what Inbox offers in the beauty department.

inbox snooze

Snooze is the killer feature

OK, this one is straight up borrowed from Mailbox and other popular email apps, but that’s okay. It’s the best feature in Inbox because it really changes your workflow with email. There are usually plenty of messages you want to follow up with later, but that means they sit forever in your inbox until you actually take action. Or you archive them and promise you’ll remember to come back to them (which you never do).

Snoozing by location is realy cool—those two mails you archived at work can come back up when you arrive at home. Unfortuantely it’s been a little qurky for me in practice, not always pulling the email when I’m at the location I entered. 

Snoozing emails puts them out of my mind so I’m not constantly going back and fretting about the details, much as Dumbledore could store away thoughts for later in his Pensieve. It gets it out of your inbox, but you’ve set for it to come back later when you need to deal with the content.

inbox home

Bundles do the organizing for you

Inbox is excellent if you get a ton of email, as it bundles messages them into manaegable groups. The color coordination helps, as I have learned to quickly navigate to the bundles by recognizing the icons and colors. 

The categories are definitely geared toward consumer accounts (Inbox doesn’t work with Google Apps for Work accounts yet) as the bundles include Promos, Travel, Social, and Finance. You can customize your own, but they’re not as pretty and colorful as the default choices.

It’s also great to take a batch of promotional messages and just swipe to the right to mark them as “done,” which is the equivalent of archiving. The only downside here is it takes an extra step to permanently delete a message, as you have to touch on the message or group and then go to the menu (the three vertical dots at the top right) and select the trash. Sure, an extra step is very much a first-world problem, but de-cluttering your inbox should not mean cluttering up your archive with unnecessary emails.

labels comparison

Cleaner, easier-to-find labels

You can still use your original Gmail labels and add new ones with Inbox, so you don’t have to kiss away everything you’re used to. They’re just easier to find and navigate.

I have also come to really rely on the system of setting notifications for specific bundles. This way I don’t miss emails from those who will hassle you if you don’t respond - like family members or editors. This functionality is also there in Gmail, but it’s front and center with Inbox.

I would like to see the ability to add custom colors or even icons to the bundles I make so they’re not all drab-looking like they are now. It’s much easier to spot the default Inbox ones with their bright colors and recognizable images. 

inbox quick dial

Quick access to contacts or setting a reminder

Gmail has one action: start a new message. Inbox soups this up with a nifty speed dial. Just press the floating red button and then compose a new message or touch one of your other contacts. 

You can also quickly set a reminder. There are always voice actions, it may be faster if you’re already working in Inbox to do it this way. 

You can also begin new messages or reply from other non-Gmail accounts you’re using. However, that feature didn't appear for me at first but then just showed up one day. So if you’re using Gmail to send or receive from a POP or IMAP address, you're in luck. This functionality does work with multiple Google accounts as well.

pins inbox

Pin it to the top

So what about that message you don’t want to snooze or hide away because you want to keep looking back at it? Just pin it. 

No, don’t send it to Pinterest. When you pin an email it’s accessile by tapping the pin toggle on the top right. All your pinned messages instantly appear, making it easy to find that ice cream coupon or sports game ticket. It's similar to Gmail’s old starring system, but better, as it’s one action to get to this group instead of sliding out the navigation bar and then finding the Starred list. Also, it’s easier to move emails out of the pinned list, whereas starred messages tend to hang around forever unless you’re good about “unstarring” them, which in itself is usually not a top productivity task.

inbox reminders

Find all your reminders

This is a great way for Android users to find all their reminders at once. You can do a voice command or sift through the Google Now menu also, but if you’re in your Inbox constantly like me then it’s nice to find them in the slide-out menu. 

It shows you everything you’ve already created through Google Now, so it’s a good way to get visual confirmation about your accomplishments or what’s coming up. Also, jump in to one of the reminders to change the details or further customize it.

inbox done gmail

You don't have to be 'done'

When you mark a message as ‘done’ it moves to a category by that same name (it also archives it). It’s located at the top-right of the slide-out navigation bar so you can go back into that section and snooze or pull out an email if you want it later. 

This is much faster than Gmail, which buried everything, archived or not, under the “All mail” label. I have also used this as a method for deleting emails that I don’t want forever. After doing some swiping to get them out of the inbox, I can really go to town and clean house from the Done category. It takes some getting used to this procedure, but for me it works much better for mail management.

inbox gmail group

Visually-friendly categories

Yes, Gmail puts more emails on your screen when sifting through a label than Inbox. But don’t be a curmedgeon and lament this as another tradeoff between utility and appearance. 

Not only does Inbox look better when you’re searching through a label, it’s actually easier to find stuff as the title of the email is bolded and any relevant images, attachments, or contextual information (like flight info or directions to a restaurant) pop out.

I’m still not wild about the big letter or picture icon on the left of each message, but it serves a purpose and gives you a good target to tap on when moving a batch of messages.

inbox images

Itineraries, pictures, and maps

If you’re a frequent traveler like me you will really like this feature. Inbox puts reservation details, itineraries, maps, and other photos from your emails front and center when you’re staring at your list of messages.

It makes it super easy to spot those travel details or to see that picture you were waiting for of your niece. Multiple images or itineraries in the same message are put into a carousel that you can swipe your way through. It does make images a bit of a distrction if you don’t move it out of the inbox, so best to swipe or snooze it away.

This dramatically reduces the amount of time to spend diving into individual emails just to get one key bit of information.