Often, third-party apps exist to fill in gaps left by developers. After all, Apple and Google make a lot of apps, and need to balance both the feature sets of those apps with their ability to be used by the general public. So you end up with good apps that are easy to pick up, but might lack the options that dedicated users are looking for.
Third-party developers, however, can focus all their energies on making one app that works really well. Gmail might work well for most, but for those who want maximum customization and efficiency, a non-Google version of the app might make the most sense.
That’s why it was honestly kind of weird when Google dropped “Inbox” back in 2014. It felt like a third-party iteration of the Gmail app: “Bundles” grouped specific types of emails together, making it easy to quickly swipe large collections of junk mail away at once; “Highlights” showed important information from specific emails, and intelligently added data that wasn’t there, like flight info; plus, the app added productivity features like reminders and snooze before the Gmail app had them.
And that was just when it was introduced. As time went on, Google continued to add useful new features we take for granted today, like undo send, unsubscribe cards, and smart replies to respond to emails faster. The majority of Gmail users had a barebones experiences using the main app, while those in the know were essentially emailing from the future.
It wouldn’t last forever, though. Google killed Inbox back in 2019, promising to send its best features to Gmail proper. While some features obviously made their way over, others, like “Bundles,” never did. To this day, using Gmail is a frustrating experience, one that includes some modern and helpful features, while still displaying all of your newsletters and junk in chronological order with the few important emails in between.
Shortwave is the Inbox successor we’ve been waiting for
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Enter: Shortwave, a relatively new email app from ex-Google designers. As reviewed by The Verge, Shortwave instantly evokes the experience of using Inbox, down to the UI. The biggest similarity, and the one feature former Inbox users are likely to be excited by, is its use of bundles to group similar emails together. You’ll see a Promotions bundle, for example, of emails trying to sell you something or inform you of a deal. On Gmail, you’d have to deal with these messages one by one, and hope you didn’t lose anything important along the way. But Shortwave makes it easy to dismiss these all at once.
You can also customize these bundles with specific emails you want to see grouped together. If Shortwave ever gets it wrong, you can correct it, too, with smart labels. In addition, you can choose to schedule when certain types of emails reach your inbox: If you only want to see newsletter-type emails at 5 p.m. once work’s over, that’s your prerogative.
The app also leverages AI to help you work through your inbox, including email summaries and translations, and has a system for pinning important emails while snoozing others you don’t need to get to right away. You can add multiple Gmail accounts (but not other email account types, sadly), customize your notifications (including when to schedule notifications for bundles), link your emails to other apps, block tracking pixels, among a host of other useful features. (Yes, there’s a dark mode.)
Shortwave is totally free to use, so you don’t need to pay to try this Inbox successor. However, the free version does limit you to 90 days of email history. If you’re someone who doesn’t need to dig too deep into their inbox on a daily basis, that might suffice. However, if you frequently pull up emails from years ago, you might want to try Shortwave’s $9 per month subscription.
Where to download Shortwave
Shortwave is available on iPhone, desktop, and, finally, Android, after a long period of testing. Android Police reports the Android version is more of a web app than a dedicated app, but it appears to work well. In fact, the developers placed all important shortcuts on the bottom of the app, making it easier to use with one hand. That’s not how it is on iOS at the moment, so Android users appear to have the productivity advantage.