Control email, control the world. That was clearly on Google’s mind when it launched GMail, now one of the world’s most popular email services. At the time of its launch it was considered a major departure from what everyone considered to be a very good search engine. On iOS alone, where it competes with a built-in app, GMail has amassed more than 2 million downloads in just the last 30 days.

Over the years, there have been quite a few email apps that challenge the prevailing standard layout with a static list. Most have raised a fair amount of buzz but flamed out quickly. There was Mailbox (acquired by Dropbox), Boxer, and even Inbox by Google. Despite significant promotion, Inbox has only mustered about a tenth of GMail’s downloads on iOS in the past month.

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Even in this age of collaborative communications and runaway messaging apps, email offers a platform for innovation. It’s an opportunity being addressed by Notion, which recently debuted for iOS. Notion uses artificial intelligence to sort out emails based on its interpretations of your relationships.

Relationship AI is influenced by how often you communicate with someone or how quickly you respond to them. But it’s not just a passive email sorter or highlighter. Notion can make suggestions in a section of the app called Radar that will, for example, prompt you to answer requests made of you or remind people to answer to you based on historical patterns. Over time, there’s the potential for Notion to prompt you to catch up with former business colleagues you haven’t networked with in a long time and keep your professional network vibrant.

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Prior to Notion, most of the AI solutions to email-based communications have centered around solving the ping pong problem of appointment scheduling with “agents” such as X.ai and Clara.ai. Both these subscription services are aimed at professionals and organizations. As Inbox and others have shown, it will be an uphill battle to tear people away from the email clients they know and love, even if they don’t love them back.

 

AuthorRoss Rubin