Gmail: Priority Inbox and Phone Calls

posted on 2nd Sep 2010

Google are always tweaking their products to make them that bit better. In the last week they announced two changes to their GMail service. The first was the ability to make calls from within GMail to mobile and landline phones using Google Voice, the second is Priority Inbox, which classifies your most important mail to be read first.

Google Voice in Gmail

Its been possible to talk through Gmail in the past to other Gmail users using a webcam and microphone. But the integration of Google Voice into Gmail means that now calls to phones, and not just other Gmail users, is possible. It’s only available in the USA for now, with calls free to the US and Canada until the end of the year, at least, and very low international call rates. For example a call to an Irish landline costs just .02 cents and .19 cents to a mobile.

Yesterday Google announced over 10 million calls had been made in the first week alone. It moves the Google brand into new territory and bolsters its vast suite of over 200 products and services. I can’t help but wonder if a Google Voice application will be made available for their upcoming Google Me social network. Allowing calls to be made without leaving a social network, to friends who are logged in (or not logged in) is an interesting move. Add to this Google’s moves in the mobile area with its Andorid operating system and you have to wonder where they might be going with all of this.

As with all Google product launches and updates, it’s accompanied by an engaging video explaining what the service is about.

Gmail Priority Inbox

Priority Inbox was announced earlier this week as a response to the increasing number of emails we receive. Naturally some emails will be much more important than others, requiring immediate attention and the rest can be dealt with in due course. Now Gmail will act as a ‘personal assistant’, dividing the emails into three folders Spam, Bologna (or Bacn) and Priority Inbox.

Decreasing the value of Email Marketing?

An interesting point I found was with the Bologna or Bacn folder as the in-between box will be called. Wikipedia defines this type of email as;

Bacn differs from spam in that the emails are not unsolicited: the recipient has somehow signed up to receive it. Bacn is also not necessarily sent in bulk. Common examples of bacn messages include news alerts, periodic messages from e-merchants one has made previous purchases with, messages from social networking sites, and wiki watch lists.

I wonder will cluttering a lot of this type of email together have an overall effect on its value. I mean if you have 50 new emails in the Bologna or Bacn box, most of little or no relevance will you wade through the lot to find the bits that are relevant? This could see the likes of e-newsletters and alerts be discarded more easily – something those sending out such communications should watch. The need to be relevant and provide value to the reader in the subject heading, is now more important than ever.

My other concern is priority email being sent to the wrong box and not being addressed for days, or worse yet accidentally getting mixed up with my newsletter subscriptions and Facebook notifications. When faced with a page of unread emails, missing one is a very easy thing to do. Emails can be reclassified up to Priority and down to Bologna, but that’s not much use if one is accidentally deleted. However, Gmail’s spam filter is great and rarely lets anything through, so I do hope this isn’t an issue. Here’s the official Google video for the service;