How much time do you spend replying to email on the go? Of that time, how much would be saved if you could just toss back a quick canned reply? Probably enough to actually matter. That’s one of the reasons why Google has added Smart Reply to their Inbox app. With this tool (available only in the latest release of the mobile app) you will be given three suggestions for quick replies, based on the text in the original email. Google uses machine learning to analyze the email and then offers up the quick responses. To make this feature even more effective, Inbox learns how you reply, over time, so the Smart Replies are better suited to your style and needs.

Updating/installing Inbox

If you already have Inbox installed, let’s first make sure the app is updated to the latest release. Here’s how:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Swipe right from the left edge to reveal the sidebar
  3. Tap My Apps
  4. If you see Inbox listed under Updates, tap Update
  5. Allow the update to complete

At this point, Inbox should be at the latest release and Smart Replies should be included.

If you don’t have Inbox installed, here’s how:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Search for Inbox
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Google
  4. Tap Install
  5. Read the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Allow the installation to complete

Using Smart Replies

As you might expect, there’s very little for you to do to make use of Smart Replies. When you have an email open, you should automatically see three replies generated at the bottom (Figure A).

Figure A

Smart Replies in action on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.

All you have to do is tap one of the three suggestions and then tap the Send button. That’s it.

There are, of course, a couple of caveats to using Smart Replies. First and foremost, if the original email contains nothing but a link or an image, Inbox will generate no Smart Replies; there has to be actual text for Inbox to scan in order for it to generate an auto reply. Second, the Smart Replies can seem a bit curt. Over time, however, Smart Replies is supposed to learn from your verbiage, so hopefully after continued use of Inbox, those replies will grow a bit friendlier.

Google is clearly indicating Inbox is the way of the Android future for Google Mail. Personally, Inbox would be my default Android mail app (if it could work with multiple accounts). For now, however, I’ll use Inbox for Gmail and Gmail for email.

Make sense?

What about you? Will these new Inbox features pull Gmail out of your clutching fingers?