Your inbox and contacts lists are about to become smarter - er, make that Smartr. Today, Xobni is releasing two public beta products under a new Smartr name - the Smartr Inbox for Gmail and Smartr Contacts for Android.
Anyone who's used Xobni for Outlook, which has been around for several years, understands the power that comes with liberating the inbox - allowing users to learn more about the people they're corresponding with over email, including an email history of messages sent, as well as contact information.
That power is now coming to Gmail - where it's been in private beta since earlier this year - as well as Android. The iPhone version remains in private beta.
It's a good product and I might even argue that it's too good. It indexed five of my inboxes in less than a minute and found more than 8,000 contacts. I have to admit that the number felt overwhelming to me and I was prepared for massive duplication when I looked at the list. There's no way I could have 8,000 names in my collective inboxes.
Apparently, I haven't done a very good job of keeping a tidy inbox. Over the years, I've corresponded with quite a few people and quite a few people have tried to correspond with me - to the tune of more than 8,000 people. You see, Smartr went through and found all of the people in my inbox, indexed each of the emails with those specific people, indexed who else was on those emails with us and then, went and scoured social networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for their profiles, too. The result is a nice and tidy - and not at all unruly - searchable database of contacts for me.
But it does much more than that. Because it's smart enough to know when I last corresponded with someone and the frequency of those exchanges, it not only indexed the people but prioritized them to make my searches that much smarter. Now, when I start tapping "JA," for example, the list would know that I exchange emails with someone named James more often than I speak with Jacob and list them in non-alphabetical order. It's smart enough to know that I'm probably looking for James when I type "JA."
The tool is a nice productivity add-on for Gmail - but the real power comes in the mobile app. The interface is clean and simple - a simple search box and some rotating thumbnail images of people. In that sense, it's no longer a contacts "list," but instead a database. And, given that we're usually looking for someone when we open our Contacts, it's definitely a smarter way to manage more than 8,000 people.
I have to admit that I was a bit turned off by such an overwhelming list and the indexing of people who landed in my inbox five years ago and I've never again corresponded with. But the counter-argument made sense, too - what if ran into that person at a professional event like a trade show? Suddenly, I'd not only be able to jog my memory about the name and association, but would also get a run-down of the messaging exchange, as well as a peek at their social networking profiles.
With that said, I would like a bit more control over the settings within Xobni - maybe limiting the indexing to the past two years, for example. I would also want to be able to create my own "Favorites" list, in addition to the Top 10 Contacts that Xobni puts together for you, based on relevance and frequency. The company says some customization tools are on the horizon and that they're actively seeking feedback during this beta period.
A couple of other things:
The Android product also indexes SMS messages - which I must admit felt a little creepy (OK, a lot creepy.) The company says there is a setting to enable and disable this feature.
Indexing of Google Chat messages is on the radar - which becomes increasingly important for business users as Google gains some traction with its Google Apps for Business product.
The iPhone version is in private beta and is expected to go public before the end of the year.
Other versions are on the radar, the company said. (I asked specifically about other mobile OS's, as well as other Web-based mail products like Yahoo or Hotmail.) The company isn't naming names yet - but did note that 80 percent of the code is re-usable and that only 20 percent of it is customized for Gmail, which means that offering Smartr on other platforms won't be a great challenge
The new products are available for free download today at Xobni.com. There is also a Pro version available.