Today Google kicked off its I/O event with a keynote that covered a wide array of announcements, several of which were particularly relevant for Apple users.
Google Assistant Coming to iOS: Google Assistant is coming to the iPhone in the form of a dedicated app, launching today. Assistant is the company's Siri competitor, and until now it has been largely restricted to Android and Google-made devices like Google Home. The messaging app, Allo, has had some form of Assistant since its launch last September, but the full Assistant has not been available on iOS until now. Like every other third-party digital assistant on iOS, Google Assistant will be more restricted in its system access than Apple's own Siri, and less convenient to activate as well. To engage the Assistant, you'll have to open the app or interact with the app's widget. (Source)
Sharing Features and Photo Books with Google Photos: In the coming weeks, Google will be adding new sharing features to its Photos iOS app. Similar to the smart sharing features in Apple's Clips app, Google Photos will identify the subjects in your photos and suggest sharing the images with those people. Separately, a new Shared Libraries feature allows easy sharing of all images that fit the parameters you set. One option that's especially interesting is the ability to automatically share only the photos that contain a certain person in them. The last of the Photos announcements was that starting next week, U.S. users will be able to order Photo Books consisting of selections from their libraries. (Source)
Smart Reply Comes to the Gmail App: Google previously added a Smart Reply feature to its Inbox and Allo apps, but today it is expanding the feature to Gmail for iOS and Android. The feature offers three suggested responses that you can quickly tap on to send. Google says the feature has already driven 12 percent of replies in the Inbox app, so it is likely to receive a lot more use as it expands to more users. (Source)
Today's Apple-related announcements are on the lighter side when compared to some past I/O keynotes, but they're still nice to have for iPhone users who rely on Google services.
Until today, Gmail hadn’t been updated since January 2016. That’s a long time between updates for a major Google service. Meanwhile, Inbox, Google’s other email client, has been repeatedly updated throughout 2016. That led me and others to wonder whether Google was abandoning its more traditional email client for Inbox’s cutting-edge features. Although Gmail appears to be on a slower update cycle than Inbox, today Gmail received a handful of solid new features and a design update that breathes fresh life into the app.
Gmail’s new design brings it much closer to the UI of its Android cousin and other Google apps available on iOS. The design is colorful, uncluttered, and easy to read with a compose button right where you expect it in a Google app.
Google also added the ability to quickly archive or delete messages with left or right swipe gesture from your inbox. By default, Gmail is set to archive when you swipe on a message, but you can switch it to delete messages in settings on a per-account basis.
Gmail’s new ‘Undo Send’ feature gives you about five seconds to tap an Undo button in the lower right hand corner of the screen to retrieve a message that you didn’t mean to send. It would be nice to be able to adjust the length of the delay before a message is sent, but I suspect five seconds is enough in most circumstances.
In addition, Google says it has made email search even faster. The speed and accuracy of Gmail’s search is the primary reason I keep Gmail installed. I don’t use Gmail regularly enough to comment whether the new search is faster, but in my limited testing search results appeared almost instantly on a good WiFi connection, even when retrieving months-old email.
I’m glad to see Google pushing Gmail forward. With this update, it fits better aesthetically with the rest of Google’s iOS apps and adds features that keep Gmail on par with other iOS email clients. I only wish that Gmail also included a unified inbox option instead of requiring me to switch among multiple accounts.
Gmail is available on the App Store as a free download.
Inbox by Gmail is about to get a whole lot smarter this week with a new feature called Smart Reply. Bálint Miklós on the Official Gmail Blog explains:
Smart Reply suggests up to three responses based on the emails you get. For those emails that only need a quick response, it can take care of the thinking and save precious time spent typing. And for those emails that require a bit more thought, it gives you a jump start so you can respond right away.
The feature will be rolling out to the Inbox by Gmail app on iOS and Android later this week, but will only work in English for now. Smart Reply uses machine learning to recognize which emails need responses and then generate three appropriate responses for the user to pick from. The Google Research Blog also has some more details on how the researchers got the feature to work.
And much like how Inbox gets better when you report spam, the responses you choose (or don't choose!) help improve future suggestions. For example, when Smart Reply was tested at Google, a common suggestion in the workplace was "I love you." Thanks to Googler feedback, Smart Reply is now SFW :)
In my review of Readdle's Spark email app earlier today, I mentioned how I've been using Inbox for the past few months.
Since moving back to Gmail late last year, I've been using Inbox, Google's alternative take on Gmail that wants to make email smarter and less intrusive. Inbox is fast, has push notifications, supports filters, and is trying interesting things with location snooze and inline previews of attachments and YouTube links. These features are exclusive to Inbox and the Google ecosystem, but at least they work everywhere because Inbox is available on iOS and the web.
The idea of automatic email sorting is a solid one: we are inundated with a constant stream of messages on a daily basis, and yet most email clients tend to treat all messages equally, with the same notification settings and without any distinction for different kinds of email content they should be able to understand. Inbox is reimagining the entire system by applying Google's smarts and user controls to messages and bundles, with laudable results. In the months I've spent using Inbox, I've come to depend on the automatic sorting in Updates and Low-Priority, which separates the wheat from the chaff and lets me see important messages at a glance. I can even set separate notification options for each bundle, which is a nifty way of dealing with incoming messages.
Inbox is Google's alternative take on Gmail, and it does several interesting things. Besides automatic grouping in bundles, for instance, it allows you to create your own custom bundles that work like filters: they can be assigned a ton of different parameters (multiple from addresses, subject matches, keyword exclusion, etc.) and you can define whether messages that match a bundle should skip the inbox, be bundled in the inbox and with which frequency, and if you want notifications for those as well. Inbox also has location reminders, the ability to preview attachments without opening a message (great for taking a look at YouTube videos and images right away), and integration with Google Now. Inbox works on iPhone, iPad, and the web, but unfortunately doesn't have a unified inbox, only works with Gmail, and doesn't support iOS extensions at all.
Inbox was opened up to all users yesterday, including Google Apps customers (which I tried during the initial rollout). If you use Gmail and don't have too many accounts, I recommend you check it out. Google's algorithms can be amazing if you're willing to let them scan your inbox all the time (the new Trips bundle is impressive), and, overall Inbox is simply refreshing when compared to the traditional Gmail app.
My friend Amy is having her first experience with using Gmail, and, it, um, isn’t going as well as she’d like. The good news is that although Apple's Mail.app and Gmail have had a rocky relationship in the past, Mail.app in Yosemite works pretty well with Gmail, but there are some things that you should understand before you proceed.
Google yesterday unveiled Inbox, a new email client for Gmail that takes a different approach to email. Google frames Inbox as a product that recognises we now use email in very different ways today, but email (and email clients) have barely changed.
Email started simply as a way to send digital notes around the office. But fast-forward 30 years and with just the phone in your pocket, you can use email to contact virtually anyone in the world…from your best friend to the owner of that bagel shop you discovered last week.
With this evolution comes new challenges: we get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done.
Google Inbox is different in a few fundamental ways, with a strong focus on some interesting features:
- Bundles: Inbox will group together similar emails into bundles such as Travel, Purchases, Promotions.
- Highlights: Inbox will try to intelligently highlight key information from your emails (event details, flight itineraries) and even pull in information from outside your emails (such as real-time status of a delivery or flight)
- Reminders, Assists, and Snooze: Inbox also becomes a kind-of to-do app, able to remind you about emails or tasks to accomplish at a later date. This includes letting you snooze on messages until a later date.
Announced back in April, Mailbox for Mac is out today as a public beta for those who signed up to receive access. Ellis Hamburger has a preview for The Verge:
Mailbox still has plenty of work to do, even on the homefront. There are lots of bugs in the Mailbox for Mac beta, and there are still more email services to add like Exchange and Yahoo, which Underwood says his team is thinking about. But, much as Sparrow did before it, Mailbox is paving the way towards a future where email works faster, syncs instantly between all your devices, and just acts more like the other modern communication apps we use today.
From the preview, Mailbox for Mac already looks pretty great. The “snooze to device” feature sounds genius, and I like the fact that everything (including drafts) sync fast across devices.
Unfortunately, Mailbox is another app I can't use on a daily basis. The app is still limited to iCloud and Gmail, whereas our email runs on IMAP and Exchange. It's not clear whether Mailbox will support IMAP in the future, and I don't think I'll ever go back to Gmail.
Mailbox is also using a “betacoin” system to handle access to the beta: users who got an invitation today received three images of golden coins, which they can share with other users to let them use the beta.
Mail Update for Mavericks includes improvements to general stability and compatibility with Gmail, including the following:
Fixes an issue that prevents deleting, moving, and archiving messages for users with custom Gmail settings
Addresses an issue that may cause unread counts to be inaccurate
Includes additional fixes that improve the compatibility and stability of Mail
I don't use Gmail as my primary email anymore, so I'm looking forward to reading reports about the stability of this update (will Joe Kissell tell us?). You can download it here or through the Mac App Store.
Apple Mail in Mavericks treats Gmail accounts differently than any previous version of Mail did. Although some of the changes are quite clever, the implementation has flaws. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve seen a number of folks on Twitter complaining about some of the same things I’ve found. Here’s what I’ve observed and what you can (and can’t) do about it.
I mentioned "strangeness" with Mail in my review of Mavericks. Joe does an excellent job at documenting what's going on and why.
I'll let you guess what other old feature Mavericks broke in Mail (keep reading Joe's article until the end).