Google announced that it will be shutting down Inbox by March 2019.
As someone who’s been using Inbox on and off since its early beta days, this news makes me very sad. The recent refresh of Gmail that’s meant to replace it is a great email system, but it’s more of the same. Inbox represented a new way of thinking about email, one that really resonated with me and a small contingent of others.
What Makes Inbox Unique
Inbox had a few key advantages that I’m really going to miss, especially since only some will be integrated into the existing Gmail experience:
By packaging emails into groups, parsing a full inbox becomes much easier, and operating on email in bulk is effortless. Not only that, but per-bundle notification settings allow me to set Inbox up as a “peaceful” email client for travel, where only important emails are surfaced immediately, while others appear once per day or once per week, with or without a notification.
While I don’t personally use this much, the ability to have tasks integrated into the inbox is brilliant. For those of us using an inbox zero philosophy, this means that we don’t have to access two apps to see what’s on our plate for the day.
Possibly my favourite aspect of Inbox is how it handles trip information. Trips are automatically detected from itinerary emails, and gathered into trip-specific bundles that summarize all the key info. Flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. can be seen at a glance, and all related emails are available. The trip summaries can also be sent to others, which I use often to let loved ones know about the broad strokes of where I’ll be.
This seems like a small thing, but Inbox allows you to snooze emails to a later date in a way that’s less messy than most other email clients. Because it’s Google’s own product, they don’t have to fool around with creating a bunch of extra IMAP folders and using those to store snoozed emails. It keeps the folder structure of my accounts tidy.
Lastly, Inbox has a system for quickly saving links for later. It’s like having a built-in Pocket or Instapaper that you can use to gather anything you want to check out later.
Why Gmail Isn’t a Substitute
A lot of the interesting AI-focused features like Smart Reply and follow-up reminders are coming to Gmail or already there, but Gmail remains a decidedly old-school approach to email. And features that do have an equivalent in Gmail, like Reminders, exist in a way that isn’t nearly as elegant—they’re relegated to a clunky sidebar.
As another Inbox fan recently put it:
If you’re a Gmail user who has never embraced Inbox, you’re probably saying: Big Deal. Gmail can do that. Its analog to the checkmark button is the archive button; its version of the pin is the star. It has snooze now and Smart Reply buttons. All of that’s true. But Gmail’s interface is not built around these affordances the way that Inbox’s UI is, and that makes a difference.
Can anything be done at this point? I doubt it, there probably aren’t enough Inbox users to sway their decision, even if all of them sign this petition. But you know what? I signed it anyway.
Inbox is terrific, and I will really miss it once it’s gone.