Thanks to a resurged interest in mobile email applications following the sale of popular “email triage” utility Mailbox to Dropbox last year, a number of new email applications have been making their way to mobile devices. The latest is Inky, the mobile counterpart to a sleek, Mac desktop-based email client launched in 2012. Like the earlier version of Inky’s software, the company’s goal isn’t just to build a nice-looking alternative to the default Mail app, but to deliver a series of features that make your email inbox smarter, more efficient and more organized.
As Inky’s co-founder Dave Baggett previously admitted, fixing email is “a really challenging problem for a startup” because there’s so much basic stuff to get right before you can layer on new innovations. But Inky’s desktop software has been working to do just that with “smart views” that are somewhat similar in functionality to Gmail’s “Tabs.” These automatically sort emails into sections for social notifications, daily deals, and newsletters, for instance, keeping your main inbox less cluttered.
On mobile, this feature remains, with sections on the left-side of the screen where these filtered emails can be found, alongside a package-tracking section, notes, blocked emails, maps and more. The app also lets you one-click unsubscribe to emails, offers built-in quick replies, and most notably, it learns what email is most important to you then offers you the option to sort your inbox by relevance, instead of time.
Understanding And Organizing Your Inbox
This is Inky’s biggest selling point.
Bagget’s background is in computational linguistics, which he makes use of with Inky – the app understands your messages using NLP (natural language processing), which is what allows it to triage your inbox for you, sort and filter your mail, and it even lets you search by tags like #package, #deal or #social.
“It runs entirely on the user’s device, downloading, analyzing and indexing the mail, even on an iPhone 4,” explains Bagget. “We never see users’ mail and we never will. This is in contrast to pretty much every other mail company, which does this analysis in the cloud, where employees, random hackers, and governments can get to it. Once we host mail for people, which we’ll do eventually, we’ll store it encrypted so we still won’t be able to read people’s mail.”
The company’s so-called “Zero Setup” process, designed to make it easy for consumers to use, was initially the subject of debate when the Mac app started receiving buzz shortly after its launch. Commenters on Hacker News, where the app was being discussed heavily, balked at inputting their own email passwords into Inky. But the company explained (in technical detail here) its methods.
The app works with Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo Mail, Outlook.com, IMAP and POP mail servers, and simply put, it stores your email passwords encrypted on Inky’s servers, while the decryption key is your Inky password. However, that methodology also means that a hacker would only have to crack your Inky password – or learn it through social engineering techniques, phishing, or because it was the same password you used on another service which was hacked – in order to gain access to all your email. That still seems like a risk, and the app doesn’t clarify enough how important it is that you use a unique and very strong master password for your Inky account.
However, if you’re using Inky for personal email management, and not, say, sensitive corporate data, and you take the necessary precautions, the app can be a viable alternative to Apple’s Mail app. Plus, it’s worth pointing out again that many of Inky’s competitors actually archive your email on their own mail servers, which is another kind of risk in and of itself.
Inky hasn’t gone after revenue yet, Bagget notes, saying that he hasn’t raised money either because he wants to get the product right first. Eventually, however, the company will charge for the mobile versions which will make them self-sufficient.
Inky for now is a free download on iTunes.
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