Every so often Google flubs one: Google Wave, Orkut, and Google Coupons, to name just a few. I’d include Google Inbox in that list, too. But if you disagree, or just want to check it out for yourself, there’s good news.
From now until 9 AM PST Friday, if you want to try out Inbox, you can. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from an @gmail.com address and you’ll get an invite shortly, Google said Thursday.
Google Inbox aims to streamline your inbox, making it easy to filter and delete unnecessary mail like social notifications, promotions, and general updates. On Android, it doesn’t replace the Gmail app, but sits alongside it. And that’s where the problems start, for me. Essentially, Inbox duplicates Gmail, complete with notifications—so if there are four new emails in Gmail, chances are you’ll see the same number of emails in Inbox, as well.
But wait, doesn’t Inbox clean up your inbox? No, not at all. In fact, the Gmail app separates social, updates, promotions, and forum announcements and tucks them away at the top of your screen. Inbox also tucks them away inside its own folder-like email bundle, but vomits them up randomly across your display. It also calls out email with random YouTube videos inside them, and implicitly asks you to tap on them. You can compare the two interfaces, below: Gmail is on the left, with Inbox on the right.
What Inbox does offer that Gmail does not, however, is the ability to “snooze” email, so that if you want an email to pop up later (or when you move to a certain location) it will, tacitly reminding you to do something with it. You can also move a piece of email to another folder for convenience’s sake.
For those reasons alone, Inbox is worth keeping around, just in the off chance that you’ll use those features. But I find the interface is simply ugly compared to the Gmail app.
Outlook provides another option
There’s also another option: the new Outlook preview app that Microsoft released on Thursday allows you to manage Outlook email, naturally, but also Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo Mail, as well as Exchange. Unlike Gmail, the Outlook app places your calendar and contacts in the same app, and allows you to go back and forth. It also offers some smart filtering (with a “Focused” view that doesn’t appear quite as sophisticated as what Gmail offers) as well as the ability to snooze email.
I haven’t played around with it enough to really decide whether or not I’d make Outlook.com my preferred Android email client, but it’s worth checking out. As for Inbox—sure, try it out. But I think Gmail’s still better.