This post is part of a two-part series on Inbox by Gmail, and my experience using the product.
If you have not tried Inbox by Gmail, and you are a Gmail user, you should give it a shot. This service was released one year ago to the date of this post, and since then has gotten favorable reviews from the likes of DroidLife and Gizmag. I have been using this product for about two months now, and have had mixed impressions. In this post, I’ll focus on what I dislike about Gmail’s innovative new product.
There’s no option to mark as unread
Marking an email as unread is a standard feature in email software everywhere. From Microsoft Outlook to Yahoo! Mail, you can simply press a button on the screen if you’d rather pretend that you haven’t read the email. When I switched to Inbox, I rummaged around for a good five minutes trying to find that button.
It wasn’t there.
The closest you can come to un-reading an email is to snooze it for later. But if you use Gmail alongside Inbox, snoozing is non-existent, which runs you the risk of missing an important email. When using Inbox, I will completely avoid reading important emails, or read them and switch to Gmail just to mark said emails as unread. To this day, not being able to mark as unread is still — in my opinion — the most atrocious omission from the Inbox design.
Unread emails are all over the place
In Gmail, I can easily configure my view to show me unread emails first, followed by the rest of the pack. With Inbox, you have to do a search for “in:unread” (I literally found this out at the time of writing this post). How many users would know to search for this?
I find it especially dangerous to have unread email buried in the midst of my read emails, especially if it’s something high-priority. Luckily, this has only happened to me once, and since then, Inbox seems to have gotten better at pushing unread emails to the top of the screen.
Emails are not in chronological order
In my Gmail, I have all of my unread emails at top, sorted by date, followed by the rest of my emails, also sorted by date. Inbox bends time and tries to show you emails in a “smart” fashion, for some strange definition of smart. Unfortunately, the designers may have outsmarted themselves, because now there’s no guarantee that the next or previous email you read will be from two minutes ago or two days ago. While it’s true that Inbox groups together emails under headers like “Today” or “This week”, I still care about when I received the email. Unfortunately, this information is not readily apparent in Inbox.
Emails take up more space on the mobile application
On Gmail’s mobile application, the height of each email is the same. For Gmail running on the Google Nexus 5, I see almost six emails fit onto one screen. On Inbox, some emails are taller, and some are shorter. This is because Inbox tries to show you as much relevant information as possible, including attachments, images, links to purchases, and the like. As a result, it’s harder to digest a bunch of emails in one glance in Inbox as compared to Gmail.
Edit: One thing Inbox does well is that it hides the header bar, so you actually see about the same number of emails as you would on the Gmail app. I’ll let go of some of my dislike, because of that.
Mass archiving scares me
In Inbox, some of your emails are placed into categories such as “Purchases” or “Forums”. These appear on the home screen alongside your individual emails. Just as you can mark a single email as done by swiping to the right, you can do the same with these massive groups of emails. For me, the thought of marking 25+ emails as “Done” is unnerving. What if there was one critical email in those twenty-five or so emails that you I just archived? I’m sure that for other people, bulk email management by category is a nice feature to have, but for me, it’s unnecessary.
It’s not supported on Microsoft Edge
I’ve started using Microsoft’s new Edge browser since Windows 10 came out. So far, I like it so much that it has become my primary browser when I’m not doing web development work.
Every month or so I go to inbox.google.com to see if they have added support for Edge. As of January 2016, I am greeted with this screenshot:
And I cry a little on the inside.
So that is it, my list of the things I do not like about Inbox by Gmail. If you haven’t done so already, you should check out the companion to this post, Why Inbox by Gmail is Great.