Remember that time before smartphones, when people sent messages as individual texts, and had inboxes filled with little envelope icons? Then messaging transformed with iPhones and Androids into a seamless conversation, with video, voice recording and picture capabilities. This shift in communication is exactly what the new app Ping is trying to do to email, by grouping messages by contacts into real-time conversations.
It’s a different approach from popular apps like Mailbox or Boxer (formerly known as Taskbox), which streamline the process of organizing emails into categories. Instead, Ping automatically groups all emails from a contact into one thread, so they are displayed like IMs or text messages. All your emails on daily news, sales and the like are grouped together too on the incoming page, just one swipe over.
“Email up to today is a bunch of letters and a bunch of folders,” co-founder Erez Pilosof tells me. “For example, all the recent to-do email applications basically are … kind of tedious, you have to decide which folder you want to put it in. For us, it just added to the complexity of things.”
Ping is compatible with Gmail, AOL, Yahoo! and iCloud accounts. When two users are both on Ping, the thread turns to real-time, with quicker responses and an indicator if the recipient is currently typing. Ping users can add attachments in email from mobile, which show up in the messages or in a separate browsing album for the thread.
Some other cool Ping features include the ability to tailor notification sounds and alerts to specific contacts. This way, you know exactly who emailed you without having to open your email. The contacts list organizes itself based on who it thinks you are most likely to email, and can send calls through the app.
The app is designed specifically for mobile communication and quick email responses on the go. However, this approach leaves little room for longer, detailed messages, a distinguishing factor between email and texts. Another downside to Ping is that for email, individual messages work better when contacts are being switched around bcc, cc or reply all lines. This is harder in the app, which has moved those functions to fall under an option button. “It’s there if you really need it,” explains Pilosof.
Everything that goes through Ping is also sent to your traditional email account. But it gets a little complicated shifting back and forth between two very different methods of communication. Pilosof says Ping is working on smoothing this out by developing a desktop version of Ping, and an Android version after that.
The emails in Ping are definitely much easier to read in a conversational sense, and you can still archive or save emails for later. Pilosof tells me he is concentrated on building out Ping’s user base before integrating a monetization plan.
Ping will be available for free in the App Store September 18th. Until then, you can sign up for the iOS app at the Ping website.