Wait: doesn’t Gmail’s Priority Inbox do that? Well, yes. But the new inbox (which you can choose to use if you’re not using Priority Inbox) is a different take on the same general concept. Instead of attempting to figure out which messages matter most to you and then promoting them to the top of your inbox, the new one sticks tabs across the top — up to five of them, for “Primary” messages (basically, ones from real people, plus anything else you haven’t chosen to weed out), Social (stuff like Facebook and Twitter updates), Promotions (ads), Updates (bills, notifications, etc.) and Forums (mailing lists and the like). Each tab indicates how many unread messages you’ve got in that category, so you can monitor incoming messages even if they don’t pop up on your current tab.
Conceptually, this is simpler than Priority Inbox, since Gmail is only trying to sort messages into general categories rather than figure out which people are more important to you than others. (I’ve been using the new version for a few days, and the sorting seems to work really well). And you need to proactively click around to other tabs to see less-important messages, so the Primary tab feels more streamlined than Priority Inbox’s stacked-inboxes approach (the latter feels a tad cluttered, at least to me).
Bottom line: the new inbox is an interesting option for folks who haven’t warmed to Priority Inbox. Like, for instance, me — I admire Priority, but tend to use it for a bit, then turn it off, then try it again.
The new inbox is rolling out to users over the coming weeks; it’ll also be available in Gmail’s Android and iOS apps. It’s good to see a major new Gmail feature debut in both old-school and mobile Gmail at the same time — and for a while, at least, this is going to be the Gmail inbox I’ll use.
Here’s a video demo: