Google announced today that it is adding a new feature to Gmail to help users separate the most important messages in their inboxes from everything else. It’s called “Priority Inbox.” In a nutshell, Google will implement a layer to your inbox that will learn to predict the most important messages to a user by evaluating how often you send email to, or receive from, certain individuals. Additionally, the inbox will now feature the symbols below, which lets you mark emails more or less important.
You can also mark emails with a star, which will keep them in a holding area, if you will, until you reclassify them. This illustration provides a glimpse of the Priority Inbox.
Check out this video overview of Priority Inbox.
The Priority Inbox feature will be available for both Gmail and Google Apps email users very soon. (Finally an additional feature made available for Google Apps users.) Keep an eye out for a new Priority Inbox tab in your sidebar. I am interested to see how well the predictive filter works.
If you use Gmail, or run your domain’s email through Google Apps, please let me know what you think of this feature, once available.
Picture above is the Dell Aero, which will be sold through AT&T for $100. The spec sheet for the Aero was looking decent, for a mid-level Android device.
Then you get to the operating system. It’s running Android 1.5 (Cupcake).
Given that we are closing in on Android 3.0 (Gingerbread), and a number of devices, which were released in the last 12 months, are struggling to get up to 2.1 or 2.2; why in the world would Dell releases a device that is running on an operating system five generations behind the most-current release (Froyo)? There has already been a lot of chatter about Google release Android operating system updates that outpacing the capabilities or specs of available phones. People are, justifiably, frustrated when they are locked into costly 1– and 2-year contracts with devices that are behind the curve when released, and manufacturers and carriers are issuing end-of-life dates and dropping support of the device within a year of release. Dell’s release of the Aero is not helping.
I think that I understand the intent. It must be that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are looking to capitalize on the crush for smartphones, and believe the best path to meeting this demand is making affordable models. Look, I’m all for affordability, but if you’re going to sacrifice performance (ultimately at the user’s expense), why bother? Devices cease to be smart if they are not capable of running current generation programs and apps. It’s as if a brand-name company decided to offer a knock off or generic version of a genuine product because people will buy it. Nevermind that a cheap product may damage your brand’s reputation for producing quality products. As long as units are moving…who cares! Right? Ugh!
Honestly, this message should be heeded by wireless carriers, too. AT&T is not helping the case by accepting and promoting devices that are behind the curve. At least the Xperia X10 and the Dell Streak come with a promise to upgrade the operating system. The Dell Aero comes packaged with two flat tires and no spare. Come on Dell and AT&T, and others. You can do better!
In what appears to be a clear challenge to Skype, today Google announced its latest enhancement to Gmail — the ability to make phone calls.
Unlike GoogleTalk, which limits calls from one computer to another, the new feature allows Gmail users to make phone calls to landlines and mobile numbers.
For the time being, calls to numbers in the U.S. and Canada are free. Google is offering low rates for international calls that appear to compete with major telephony firms. For instance, for just two cents a minute, you can make calls to landlines in Mexico, U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan. Mobile rates to these countries are about 10 cents higher. Click here to see a full list of Google’s international calling rates. For comparison, click here to see Skype’s international calling rates.
The feature should be rolling out to Gmail users in the coming days. You’ll know when it’s available when you see “Call Phones” in the sidebar chat box in Gmail. If you don’t currently use Google’s chat and video feature, you will need to install the plugin software. Click here to install.
Google has added a nice touch for those of you with Google Voice numbers. Outgoing calls made from Gmail will display your Google Voice number in the receiver’s caller ID window. You can even have your Google Voice ring into your Gmail window.
Are you a Google Apps user? Womp! Womp! Unfortunately, this is yet another new feature not available for Google apps users. Google claims it is working to make this service available to Google Apps users. I wouldn’t hold your breath, though. A number of upgrades and features found in Gmail and other applications have not found their way into Google Apps versions of the same products. You would think Google would take care of people who actually pay for the Apps service (yours truly, included), but I’ll save that rant for another day.
Tablet-style computers have been around for some time, but, as they did with mobile phones, Apple took the tablet category to a completely different level with this beautiful piece of hardware.
Subsequent to the release of the iPad, other companies industry has been, rather transparently, scrambling to produce a competitive, compelling product. HP appeared to be closest to releasing a Windows-based tablet, dubbed the “Slate,” but that project has been shut down. Rumors are flying about Verizon Wireless launching an Android tablet on “Black Friday.” There’s debate about whether it will be a tablet produced by Motorola or HTC. Odds are in favor of Motorola at this point. There have also been whispers about Samsung expanding its Galaxy line from the recently released “S” line of Android devices to a tablet. Pictures and over-the-shoulder video of the Samsung tablet have been leaking lately. Then, today, this popped up on Samsung’s website.
The model obscurely shown is a 7″ tablet. As seen above, it will be running Android 2.2. Apparently, it will also feature a front-facing camera for video chat, Flash capable, a Swype-enable keyboard, GPS, HD video playback. With apps like Kindle or nook, this will obviously be touted as an e-reader as well. I’ve read that Samsung may release 7″ and 10″ tablets. The official word about that, and clarification on all the specs for the Galaxy Tablet(s) will be revealed on September 2.
Sidebar commentary: I am glad that Samsung appears to be going with “tablet” as opposed to “pad.” I, for one, think iPad is a goofy name, and could stand to be spared from a slew of competing pads on the market.
Apparently the forecast for the coming week in the mobile world calls for 100% chance of precipitation, because it’s raining Androids. By my count three new Android devices will launch the coming week. Yesterday I posted a piece about the refresh of Motorola’s Droid—the Droid 2—which is available on Verizon Wireless tomorrow. (You can “pre-order” it today online.) This is the second Android device launched on Verizon in the span of a month.
Not to be outdone, AT&T is launching two Android devices in the this week alone; and these releases are on the heels of AT&T launching the Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) three week ago.
This jimmy is a behemoth. It’s arguable whether the Streak should even be called a phone. With a 5” screen, it is pushing the boundaries of what you can hold up to your head and not look like you’re talking into a Trapper Keeper. Hey, I’m all for more screen, but at some point you just have to call something a tablet with phone service; something many argued should have been incorporated into the iPad. Though I’m not big on Bluetooth headsets for aesthetic/style reasons, I think using one would be ideal with the Streak. I would imagine that people would use the Streak more as a tablet than a phone. With that, I will be very curious to see reports on battery life.
Once we get beyond the wow factor of the Streak’s size, attention can be turned to what’s under the hood, if you will. The first, and most important, thing to highlight with the Streak is that it’s running Android 1.6, which is only three operating system updates behind the current Android operating system—2.2 Froyo. An upgrade to Froyo is promised by the end of the year. (Those of us who have waited on updates for other devices may be a little skeptical about the upgrade timeline, but we’ll see.) I cannot understand why Dell would release the Streak running 1.6. Given all the launches, why not wait and at least come out with 2.1? Strange.
The Streak will be available for pre-order tomorrow, August 12, and will be in stores Friday, August 13. It will cost $299 with a two-year contract on AT&T. An unlocked version of the device will cost $549. If you order through Dell, you can get a (pretty cheap) Plantronics Bluetooth headset for $1.
The Xperia X10 (I don’t understand why Sony Ericsson couldn’t go with Xperia or X10, but not both together) has been in the rumor mill for some time. It’s been in reviewer hands for a while and received mixed reviews. The positives seem to be build quality, good screen, fast processor and a good camera. Like the Dell Streak, the glaring con is that Xperia is running Android 1.6. The importance here is that a lot of apps and widgets only run on devices running Android 2.0 or higher. Sony Ericsson promises an upgrade to Eclair 2.1 by the end of the year, though no hard date has been set. This strikes me as add because by the time the X10 gets 2.1, most devices will be running 2.2, and the next update Android 3.0 – Gingerbread, will be rolling out early next year.
The Xperia X10 will available this Sunday, August 15, at AT&T for $149, with a two-year contract. You can save $20 if you buy it through Sony. I’ve read that you can get your hands on one at Amazon.com for $49, but I have yet to see that deal surface. The usual caveat with Amazon’s deep discount price is that you have to be a new customer.
As a bit of an aside, check out the commercial for the X10 below. I have to give it to Sony for thinking about a broader appeal (read women). The Droid ads are pretty cool, particularly the last ones for the Droid X, but they are pretty dark, and appeals to techies.