Recently, Gmail announced a new way of displaying email that presumably cleans up your inbox and makes you more organized — you can read more about it in Mark Wilson’s review. After using it on both the desktop and my phone, I’ve got to say they’ve done a good job. However, one thing they have not implemented yet is a priority inbox for close family and friends. While the Primary inbox does a nice job of filtering out automatic emails from social networks, shopping sites, and more, there is no way to differentiate work from personal email.
That’s where Dextr comes in. The app bills itself as a new mail experience that brings you closer to the people you love. Dextr’s goal is clear: to make it easier for you to communicate with the people you care about the most.
When you first start up Dextr, you are taken through a few tutorial screens that show you how to use it, as well as help you connect it to your Gmail account.
Right now, since Dextr is still in beta, it only supports Gmail. The team is currently taking suggestions on what other services to support.
2 of the 4 tutorial screens
You will then have the option to select which contacts from your address book you want to add to your Friends list, which serves as your inbox filter. Dextr will then look at your Gmail inbox and pull out emails from those contacts.
Your inbox and Friends list
After the initial setup, if you want to add more friends/family, you can simply swipe from right to left to reveal a full contact list and add more friends.
To be honest, there isn’t much to say here about viewing email. Select an email from your inbox and you can read the content. When an email comes with attachments, you can view a list of all of them on a separate screen. Supported files will even show up inline. At this point, only images seem to fit the bill. Still, it’s a nice touch.
From the email screen you can reply, move a message to the trash, mark as unread, star, or archive. Much like any other inbox, reading an email will not remove it from your list; only deleting or archiving it (either from the app or from Gmail) will remove it.
The “Only” Two Other Features
As interesting as this might sound, there are only two other features in the entire app: the ability to send email and Settings/Feedback.
Send email and Settings
While the email in your inbox is limited to only contacts you add to your Friends list, sending email has no such limitations. Simply start typing a contact’s name or email and it will show up in the address box. Compose the email and press Send!
Smartly, if you email someone who is not on your Friends list, he or she will not automatically get added to it. This ensures that people can use Dextr as their primary mobile email app: checking only incoming messages from important Contacts while still being able to compose and send messages to everyone else.
As far as Settings go, you can see from the screen above that there isn’t too much going on: you can change accounts, change your name, and add a signature. There is also an About and Feedback area.
Simple and Beautiful
I actually really like that I was table to tell you everything about Dextr in less than 500 words. Granted, it is still in beta and the feature list could grow considerably between now and the “official” release, but that doesn’t seem to be Dextr’s MO. The whole reason for the app is to get a much cleaner version of your inbox based on the people you actually want to communicate with. The developers give you a great app with the best possible way to de-clutter: you create a much smaller list of contacts and only allow messages from those people to reach you.
The User Interface is consistent with the idea of simplicity. There is no clutter and it follows the Holo guidelines, as well as the new Cards UI look, really well. When you have email in your inbox from friends, Dextr displays that; when you don’t Dextr suggests starting a conversation and lists three of your friends. There is one button on the bottom to compose; that’s it. It also includes what are becoming common UI interactions for touch screens: pull from the top down to refresh your inbox, swipe side-to-side to reveal extra screens and menus. This is all very consistent with Dextr’s goal: promote simplicity. Using interactions that are already familiar to you means there’s a much lower learning curve.
The Future of Dextr
I see a lot of potential with Dextr. Right now, it’s strictly another layer on top of GMail to filter your email. However, moving forward I can see it growing to be more than just a Gmail app. In future releases they have promised push notifications and hinted at added support for other email clients, but we communicate through more than just email.
I can see Dextr evolving into a full-blown messaging app that combines email, text messaging, and other services — Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts maybe? — into a simple interface while still limiting what gets through to you based on your Friends list. I think this would be a pretty amazing app because it allows you to stay connected to the people you care about without being bothered by work, email lists, and favors unless you are in front of a computer or manually checking those services. Dextr has the potential to make the phone more personal again, and that is a smart approach I can get behind.