featured image gmail vs inbox

Gmail vs. Google Inbox: A User’s Real-World Comparison of the Two

featured image gmail vs inbox

It’s pretty easy to say Google Inbox is just an objectively better version of Gmail and call it a day, but the two email apps play to a few different and key strengths. I’ve used both apps, know which one is right for me, and which app plays to what strengths. I’ll share everything I’ve learned in my time with both apps, and help you make a choice between the two.

Related: Have You Had Any of These Problems with Your Work Email on Android?

The easiest way to figure out which email is the best for you is to compare them both head to head. To save you some time I’ve listed the best features of both, who each app is better for, and threw in a few of my own thoughts just to make it a little more fun to read. If you’re still wondering who wins the vs. match between Gmail and Google Inbox, keep reading.

The Apps and Ratings

Let’s start off with links to the apps themselves, and how much people like them. Even though both apps are from the same company, the opinions on them aren’t the same. Let’s look at Gmail first, which is almost always the stock email app most people will use.


Google Play Rating: 4.3 out of 5

Joy of Android Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d give Gmail a solid 4 out of 5 right off the bat because of its simple but effective design, low impact on battery, easy to understand inbox categories, and to be able to use multiple accounts in one place.

It’s the default email app for plenty of Android users, and there are a few good reasons why most of them won’t switch to something else. Gmail is perfectly capable of suiting almost any Android user’s needs.

Inbox by Gmail (Google Inbox):

Google Play Rating: 4.2 out of 5

Joy of Android Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Inbox by Gmail is often seen as an objective improvement over Gmail, but I don’t completely agree with that thought. As an upgrade, you get a better notification system, email bundling, more categories to work with, better email screening, and an easier time getting your inbox to zero.

On the other side of the coin, you lose the ability to unify accounts and use up much more battery power in the process. I’ll go deeper into these topics in just a moment, so then you can really see if either Gmail or Google Inbox is the right email app for you.

The Best Email App for an Organized Inbox

Let’s talk about inbox organization for a minute. I won’t lie, even though my Gmail inbox has different sections, it’s an awful mess. I don’t take the time to sort things properly, I only open one email out of every ten that I get, and I constantly ignore notifications. If you’re an Android user that’s suited to Google Inbox, everything I said must be driving you crazy right now.

in different inboxes gmail vs inbox

That’s because Google Inbox is great for sorting all your email into smart piles and categories without you having to lift a finger. If you don’t trust Google Inbox to make those decisions for you; it’s easy to setup yourself, and won’t take much time.

If you want to customize your inbox with Gmail, well, it isn’t going to be as easy as it was with Google Inbox. While Inbox leaves several customization tools at your disposal, Gmail doesn’t give you nearly as many options. Gmail’s inbox is comparatively simple, which is perfectly acceptable for Android users that don’t need further options.

Gmail is perfect for people like me that don’t care about clearing every last message from my inbox, but it doesn’t have the most organized system in the world. For the best inbox possible, with a marginal time investment from you the user, Google Inbox is the best choice.

Winner: Google Inbox

The Easiest Email App to Navigate

Ease of navigation is something that’s always important to me about any app, not just an email one. As much as I love the way Google Inbox is setup, it isn’t immediately clear how to navigate the system without either viewing a tutorial or taking some time to familiarize yourself with it.

pinned gmail vs inbox

Gmail, on the other hand, has a slide system that’s very easy to swipe through and use just from a glance. Most Android users have been using, or have already used Gmail from the beginning, so it’s already a familiar space. If one of your worries about transitioning to Inbox is having to learn a new system, your worries are valid.

gm menu gmail vs inbox

While I really like the number of systems and changes made in Google Inbox, and all of them improve over what’s already established in Gmail, I still have to give this category to Gmail. The tried and true app is much easier to use, and perfectly suits my own needs that are relatively simple.

Winner: Gmail

The Best Android Email App for Your Phone’s Battery

Battery consumption is one of the highest points of contention for me with apps, and the more complex the app, the more battery it’s probably going to use. It’s pretty easy to see where I’m going with this because all of Google Inbox’s complex features means it’s an app that’s extremely taxing on your battery.

Related: How to Increase the Battery Life for Android Phones

Since Gmail has a much simpler toolbox to work with, on average it isn’t going to use as much battery throughout the day as Google Inbox. Keep in mind that while Inbox does use more battery, it isn’t always going to be by a noticeable amount. If you’ve used an email app like Bluemail before, and are fine with how much battery that app uses, you’ll be fine.

bluemail battery gmail vs inbox

For everyone else that needs to make every last second of their battery count, Gmail is the much safer option.

Winner: Gmail

The Friendliest Email App for Your Business or Job

I won’t mince words; if you’re on the fence between Google Inbox and Gmail and are looking for a good work email app, Google Inbox is the easy choice. As much as I love Gmail’s simplicity, it isn’t meant for business, whereas Google Inbox seems made with business in mind.

in-different inboxes gmail vs inbox

With Google Inbox’s different systems to sort emails, organize replies, and notifications; it makes for a much better inbox for your job or business. The notification system for Google Inbox is one of the best available, but it’s just a part of the whole package that I’ll touch on later.

pinned gmail vs inbox

You don’t have to just take my word for it, Google Inbox is free to try and keep, and it even has a video at the start that tells you how to use all of its new features. Google Inbox will take longer to learn than Gmail, but it’s a professional email app that treats your inbox well.

If you ever have problems with your work email, even if you aren’t using Google Inbox or Gmail, check out our guide to see how you can fix them.

Winner: Google Inbox

An Email App That Works with More Than One Inbox

Google Inbox works with just that, an inbox by Google and for Google. Gmail, on the other hand, let’s you use more than one email address that isn’t tied to Gmail. This isn’t just about inboxes other than Gmail addresses either; if you’re used to having one unified inbox with multiple Gmail accounts, that isn’t a feature that’s a part of Google Inbox.

in settings gmail vs inbox

To make matters worse, I have the option to load one of Outlook email accounts, but all I get when I try is an error screen.

error gmail vs inbox

This isn’t a feature that every Android user cares about, but if you want to have all of your accounts unified in one place, Gmail is much better than Google Inbox.

Winner: Gmail

The Best Android Email App for Forgetful Users

I’m not going to bother lying about this, I’m very forgetful. It’s to the point where I have to write almost everything down so I can remember what I had for breakfast right after I eat it. If I’m that bad, it’s easy to imagine how many emails I lose in the shuffle, even if I see a notification for one just minutes prior.

in-notifications gmail vs inbox

With Google Inbox, notifications have a snooze feature that makes them disappear for now, and then show up again later as many times as you want. Notifications also change depending on what part of your inbox they’re going to, making screening emails even easier so you can get to the important messages faster.

in more notifications gmail vs inbox

Gmail, on the other hand, I’ve had problems with notifications in general. It feels like Gmail only tells me when I have an email waiting when it feels like delivering the message. I’ll take a mail carrier that knocks on my door every time they have mail, over a carrier that only drops mail in the box when they feel like it, every day without question.

Winner: Google Inbox


Gmail and Google Inbox won the same amount of categories in my book on what makes an email app important, but this doesn’t mean I think they’re apps made equally. For most Android users, I recommend Google Inbox over Gmail. It’s a relatively painless switch, is easy to learn, has a bigger toolbox, and a similar design.

Related: The Best Email App for All of Your Email Accounts: Blue Mail vs. K-9 Mail vs. Gmail

Google Inbox loses a few points by removing some of the simplicity that I like from Gmail, but that doesn’t make it any less of an improvement. Unless the categories that Gmail won were the most important factors of an email app to you, make the switch to Google Inbox if you haven’t already.

If you ended up having a different opinion than mine, I’d love to hear about, or anything else you have to say about both apps in the comments below.

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  1. I’ve been using Gmail for years and am happy w/it. However, the business function of Google Inbox is interesting. Is it possible to try Inbox and not lose Gmail?


    1. yes. it’s essentially an add on. both apps will still work. you can access inbox or gmail online.

      another app you can try (one that I use for work and personal) is ActiveInbox. It is a paid service, but it has different functions I find more useful. The mobile app is similar to Google Inbox.

        1. Hi, PJ! If you’re using Google Inbox, there’s no reason to keep your Gmail app around. However, just deleting Gmail won’t make a significant difference in the amount of available space on your device.

  2. One of my frustrations with Inbox is that it does not allow you to send an email to a group contact list.

    And now GMAIL has added the ability to send money while creating an email.

  3. After years with Inbox, I have now switched back to GMail. And I’m so happy now.
    I have been frustrated with Inbox for a long time – but only now found that in the settings I could tell GMail NOT to be re-routed to Inbox.
    1) Inbox list view doesn’t show me the date of the mails – I depend on seeing the dates – for instance:
    1a) Scanning down the list of mails, Seeing the date is part og recognizing what mail it is (“ahh, that was the one I wrote last Monday” …)
    1b) Scanning down the list of mails, it helps me to se which ones I received (or wrote) after and before a given meeting
    2) GMail list view shows me the colored tags on each mail – that is a super efficient way of quickly scanning the mail list – just as it is sooo great in assisting me to see what is the contents of a given mail without opening it (for instance a mail with the two tags “Home” and “Insurance” shows me what I need)

  4. I’ve been using both apps: Inbox for my personal mail and Gmail for my work mail. Here’s why:
    Inbox: “Save to inbox” from Google Chrome; snoozing an email for later (use that A LOT); see ongoing reminders.
    Gmail: add an email signature.

    I just don’t understand why they don’t add at least the snoozing to Gmail, I wouldn’t mind going back to it completely, because it feels better, with being able to see the email dates and without all the graphic gimmickry of Inbox that make it feel like a shopping mall leaflet.

  5. I tried Google Inbox but decided I liked Gmail better. When I went back and opened gmail, all of my ‘Inbox’ labels were removed (except in All Mail) and so were all the filters I had created. I didn’t realize it would remove ‘Inbox’ labels and delete the filters. Maybe there should be a warning that Google Inbox will change certain things in gmail if you decide to go back. That’s the only thing I did differently and have been using Gmail happily since 2009. Also when I try to move an email to Inbox, that feature is not an option in the Move menu or in one of tabs above after you check an email for action. If anyone knows another reason or how to fix this, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you. Thanks!

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