Inbox for Gmail continues to stack on new features and refine its existing capabilities. While it may never fit the needs of many Gmail users, it has earned a strong following of fans that couldn't live without it. The latest release doesn't appear to add anything to the user experience, but a teardown shows a few of the changes that may be on the horizon.

Teardown

Disclaimer: Teardowns are necessarily speculative and usually based on incomplete evidence. It's possible that the guesses made here are totally and completely wrong. There is always a chance that details may change or plans may be cancelled prior to the launch of a new feature discovered in a teardown. Much like rumors, nothing is certain until it's officially announced.

Dedicated Android Wear App

The team behind Android Wear was clever about making integration easy for app developers. Instead of building a separate app to handle basic notifications on a watch, they extended the Notification API to support multiple pages, which Wear could then use to display additional information and actions. Inbox made good use of this feature.

It seems like rich notifications are no longer enough for the Inbox team, because there are signs that an Android Wear app is under development. A new service and descriptor file have turned up that are used to install and communicate with micro-apks on Wear.

Service & Boilerplate

AndroidManifest.xml

<service android:name="com.google.android.apps.bigtop.wearable.BigTopWearService">
<intent-filter>
<action android:name="com.google.android.gms.wearable.BIND_LISTENER"/>
</intent-filter>
</service>

<meta-data android:name="com.google.android.wearable.beta.app" android:resource="@xml/wear_app_desc"/>

wear_app_desc.xml

<wearableApp package="com.google.android.apps.bigtop">
<versionCode>1000000</versionCode>
<versionName>1.0.0</versionName>
<rawPathResId>bigtop_wear</rawPathResId>
</wearableApp>

The micro-apk itself is missing, so we'll definitely have to wait for a future update to see the dedicated Wear app. This also means that there's really no way to be sure of what functions it will provide. It's likely to overtake all of the functions of the existing notifications, and will probably add actions for composing a new message with the use of speech-to-text. There may also be a sync'd view of messages and basic management actions, but it's hard to be sure how far the UI will go. Who knows, we might even see a custom watch face, but let's not get too optimistic.

New "Smart Mail Contact" tags

I must confess, I'm not a regular Inbox user, so I'm not entirely sure what some of these lines mean. I'll put the question out to our readers and maybe somebody will have a good answer. Some strings grouped by the name smart_mail_contact have been around for a while with the words: 'Call', 'Email', 'SMS', and 'Other'. It's worth noting that 'Other' also has the word 'tag' tacked on to the end of its identifier. The latest update added three additional strings: 'Home', 'Work', and 'Mobile'. Each of these new strings also have 'tag' on the string name.

Here are the full set of strings. I've bolded the full line for the ones that were only just added.

<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_call">Call</string>
<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_email">Email</string>
<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_home_tag">Home</string>
<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_mobile_tag">Mobile</string>

<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_other_tag">Other</string>
<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_sms">SMS</string>
<string name="bt_smart_mail_contact_work_tag">Work</string>

They seem pretty obviously related to categorizing or identifying the different ways to send mail to a contact, but it's not really clear where they are supposed to show up. If anybody has any good insights, feel free to mention them in the comments below.

New Snooze Options

The Inbox team is still optimizing its Snooze feature, looking for new timeframes and better ways to present the most efficient options. A new list of options just appeared in the app, but they don't appear to be live yet.

<string name="bt_snooze_option_later_this_month">Later this month</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_later_this_week">Later this week</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_later_today_in_flexible_mode">Later today</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_next_month">Next month</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_next_weekend">Next weekend</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_this_week">This week</string>
<string name="bt_snooze_option_this_weekend">This weekend</string>

The theme of these new snooze periods fits right in with existing options like: This evening, Tomorrow, Next week, and Someday. There's certainly an advantage to expanding on the current list, but it raises the question about how they will be shown. A screen full of these phrases will be overwhelming, and breaking them down into dropdown boxes or other multi-tap solutions won't work either.

I'm just speculating, but I suspect Inbox is going to shift away from the current static snooze list and shoot for intelligently chosen options. This lines up well with the automatic suggestions Google announced in July, so it's not too far fetched. Again, these strings don't appear to be live, so we'll have to wait a little longer to see what's in store.

Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.

File Name: com.google.android.apps.inbox-1.12_(101811474)-5630928-minAPI16.apk

Version: 1.12 (101811474) (5630928)