Google announced a new app Wednesday designed to help organize your email for you. The new Inbox app works with Gmail to automatically wade through the mountains of messages you get each day, pull out the most pressing details and sort them for you -- receipts and bank statements grouped together, flight details highlighted, reminders stacked at the top, always in view.
Inbox doesn't replace the Gmail app on your phone, rather, it works with that app to let users see, read and deal with emails in a different way than they're used to -- that is, not simply chronologically. Google calls it "a completely different type of inbox, designed to focus on what really matters."
The three main features of Inbox are bundles, highlights and reminders.
Bundles leverage the technology already familiar to most Gmail users that recognizes a type of message and gathers similar ones together. Expanding beyond the current system on Gmail that creates tabs to separate social emails, promotions, updates and forums, Inbox finds receipts and puts them into a purchases bundle, and pulls flight and hotel confirmations into a travel bundle. It also allows users to create their own automatic files.
The highlights feature combs through the content of emails and pulls out salient details, such as the location of an event, the time of a dinner reservation and documents and photos you've sent or received. Google said on its blog that the app will also display relevant information that wasn't in the original email, for instance updating you on real-time flight status or letting you know that a package was delivered to your home.
This Google-as-personal-assistant theme spreads into other areas of the app, as well. If you set a reminder (which Inbox will place in a visible spot so you don't lose sight of it) to, say, go to a particular store, Inbox will automatically search for the address, phone number and hours and add that to your reminder.
And to handle emails and reminders that come at the wrong time, the app offers the ability to snooze them to come back later, or when you get back to your home or office.
Appearing on "CBS This Morning" Thursday, NewYorker.com editor Nicholas Thompson, who was among the first to test the new app, addressed the obvious concerns raised by the fact that Google is reading the content of emails in order to accomplish these feats of organization. "Google basically knows everything about you," he said. "The violations in privacy when we use Google services are immense. And the efficiencies we get from them in return are immense. So it's a tradeoff you have to make."
Much like Gmail when it was first introduced, Inbox is invite-only for now, and invitees can bring in their friends to join. The as-yet-un-inducted can request an invitation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.