Google unveils app for managing Gmail inboxes

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Google is introducing an application designed to make it easier for its Gmail users to find and manage important information that can often get buried in their inboxes.

The service, called Inbox, can sort electronic receipts and bank statements into bundles so they can be quickly fetched. This method is similar to the way that Gmail currently separates promotional emails from other communications sent to its users.

Inbox can also figure out the key points of an email, such as travel itineraries, event times and photos, and highlight the information, according to Google. In some instances, the app will automatically retrieve other helpful content, such as updated flight times, from the Web. Inbox can also create to-do lists.

Gmail has become a virtual filing cabinet for millions of people who can store up to 15 gigabytes in their inboxes for free. Even with a Google search engine built into Gmail, it can still be time consuming to find a particular piece of information, especially for people who have been using the service since it began more than a decade ago.

Sifting through mail can be even more exasperating on smartphones, which could turn the Inbox into a popular mobile app.

“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,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s executive in charge of apps, wrote in a Wednesday blog post.

Invitations to test Inbox will begin to be sent out Wednesday. Recipients can then invite their friends and families to check out Inbox. The gradual rollout of Inbox is similar to how Google introduced Gmail, which originally was an invitation-only service.

Google makes money on Gmail by showing digital ads tied to the content in the message. The Mountain View, California, company scans emails to determine what topics are being discussed. Inbox’s technology also requires automated scanning of content.

The practice has prompted some privacy watchdogs and Google rivals to attack Gmail as an intrusive service that vacuums up too much personal information about its users. Gmail has steadily grown despite the criticism.

BY MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer

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