“Email is broken” is both a cliché and a truism. Our inboxes continue to pile up with more messages than many of us can handle, and while plenty of people have tried to stick a Band Aid over the problem through processes like ‘Inbox Zero’ or ‘Boomeranging’ emails back at a later time, the core problem of email not being fit for purpose hasn’t been fixed yet.
Ping is a new iOS app that may not solve the problem but it certainly has a good go at reducing the stress that dealing with email can induce.
The idea here is that rather than thinking of your inbox as a to-do list of things to reply to and act on, think of it as a stream of messages that you can dip in and out of, IM-style.
Ping currently works with Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and iCloud accounts, processing your emails as they come in and moving them into one of two feeds; one for messages directly addressed to you and one for notification emails, marketing mailshots and the like – the things you probably don’t need to pay much attention to.
The filtering is actually really good. Ping correctly identified the true conversations I was having, meaning that I could prioritize them, although the results weren’t too different to the recently-introduced tabbed view in Gmail.
Open up an email thread and you’ll see how Ping is really different from a standard email app. It looks closer to an IM app, with iMessage-style speech bubbles encouraging quick, brief replies instead of long, thoughtful responses. Beyond text, you can easily attach images, drawings (which you create with an in-app doodling widget) and even a voice message.
These act like standard email attachments when you’re conversing with someone who isn’t using Ping. The real fun comes when you interact with another Ping user. Your email thread turns into a real-time chat, and you can start a voice or video call right from the thread, which is then conducted within the app.
It’s a fresh take on email, for sure, but is it for you? The way I use email, trying to get to ‘inbox zero’ at least once per day, is stymied by the archived state of emails not always being synced between Gmail and Ping. You can archive messages in Ping but the state of mind that the team behind the app wants you to get into is to relax, and stop thinking of email as a job, and more of a stream that you can dip in and out of.
If your work life revolves around email, this is probably not the app for you, although I hear that one well-known investor, who has famously bemoaned email in the past, loves to use Ping. For light email users or those who simply want an inbox detox, Ping is well worth a try.