Email was supposed to make our lives easier. Instead, it’s become a dumping ground for travel itineraries, receipts, social-media updates, work documents and invitations–to say nothing of actual spam. (According to a recent study, most professionals spend almost a third of their workweek just wading through email.) Tech companies have made a sport of vying to tackle this data deluge–not just in your email but also in everything from your calendar to your to-do lists–as consumers increasingly complain about information overload.
The latest entrant: Google, which set the standard for streamlined email with Gmail a decade ago. On Oct. 22, the search giant unveiled Inbox, a free smartphone app that acts as a kind of intelligent filter for the unending tide of emails. The app automatically separates receipts, social updates and promotions into distinct categories that can be tackled separately (or ignored completely). Users can “snooze” emails to deal with them at a set time or when the user arrives at a designated location–home, for instance–as indicated by the phone’s GPS.
“People were trying to run their lives from this email inbox, but that was really a lot of work,” explains Alex Gawley, product director for both Inbox and Gmail. The resulting software is a lot like a cross between the old Gmail and Google Now, the company’s digital personal assistant.
Google’s new app is hardly the only option, though. Here’s a quick look at who wants to become your electronic assistant.
This appears in the November 10, 2014 issue of TIME.
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