Email vs SMS

Earlier today Jon Steinberg tweeted this question: “I don’t totally understand why people with email capable devices use SMS. Is it because they don’t have push email? Please explain”.

My answer: its because email needs improvement.

Over the past 21 years or so I’ve been using email, its changed in 5 important ways:

  1. Webmail
  2. Portable mail
  3. Push/instant mail
  4. Threaded conversations
  5. Search

Those are big changes. But that’s about it. There is so much pent up demand for a better email system that even an email system filled with ads like gmail is growing like wildfire. Apparently its close to taking over hotmail. Why? Because its fast, reliable and brought us #4 and #5 above.

But that isn’t enough.

Getting back to Jon’s original question. My inbox probably looks like yours. Its a mess. Its filled with all sorts of stuff and the default view (on the blackberry) is reverse chronological order.

That means that the most recent email are the ones that “bubble up” to the top. And “new” doesn’t always equal important or urgent.

So SMS fills an important void. It does a better job of urgency and light conversation.

Wanna tell me you are running late for our mtg? Pls god don’t send me an email. Send me a DM on twitter or send me a sms.

Other ways email can improve? Here’s a list right of the cuff: 1)show me emails from people that I care about the most first 2)show me emails that are replies to my original email 3) show me emails where I’m on the cc list later 4)remind me when I have replied to items #1 and #2 in a new way (avoid falling thru the cracks syndrome) 5) don’t show me unimportant emails on the weekend or when I’m on vacation.

Email is an incredible tool. But it needs to get smarter still.

Disclaimer: pls excuse typos and exceptionally poor grammer. Wrote this on my blackberry with markdown in a hurry. I’ll do some edits later and add better links.