Ping app makes e-mail more like chat

With color themes, doodles, voice messaging, and even video chat, the iPhone app feels more like WhatsApp than your traditional e-mail account.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
3 min read
With Ping, emails are organized into rich-media conversations that resemble the threads you find in mobile messaging apps. Ping

When Erez Pilosof told me his iPhone app Ping makes e-mail fun, I didn't believe him. You probably won't either -- until you get your hands on the app.

Ping, launching later this month, is meant to be e-mail's hipper younger sister. With color themes, photo-sharing, funky audio alerts, doodles, real-time and voice messaging, and even video chat, the app acts more like WhatsApp than your traditional e-mail account. Ping is still e-mail, of course, but with a fresh twist on organization and the modern feel of mobile messaging.

"I hate my e-mail," Pilosof said, "luckily enough I'm also a programmer and designer. So I tried to re-imagine e-mail."

A serial entrepreneur, Pilosof's contempt for the dated communication form has been channeled into Ping, which proffers a fluid interface where people, not messages, take center stage. E-mails from people you know appear in a "Chat" feed with messages organized into rich-media conversations, meaning, that like in messaging apps, each new e-mail is added to a conversation chain with a person or group. Generic e-mails like newsletters, meanwhile, are filtered into a separate feed that you can ignore altogether should you choose.

After awhile with Ping, you might forget that this is e-mail. The fast flow, variety of communication options available -- voice, text, video, even Facebook messages -- and look of threads are elements so akin to mobile messaging apps that sending e-mail in a traditional sense becomes a foreign concept.

"We translate the old to the new," Pilosof said. "The way we communicate today has changed, but e-mail has stayed in an old paradigm ... so basically, we're making e-mail modern."

The application will be a little too modern for some -- especially those who love labels or folders. Ping is bereft of such boring, work-like features and instead offers up a universal search bar, as well as quick access to media and document libraries that display visual collections of images and files buried in your inbox.

Those open to the unconventional e-mail option will likely appreciate the app's subtle touches and hidden tricks. You can flip your phone to landscape to view all the attachments from a conversation, for instance. And when two people both use Ping, e-mail exchanges become real-time message threads, which means you can see when the other person is typing. Custom notifications for different types of messages or contacts should also come in handy for control freaks who want more -- say in the e-mail alerts that buzz their smartphone.

Making e-mail a fun endeavor is no easy feat, and it's one that Ping will have to plug away at should it wish to be a viable alternative to your standard inbox. Pilosof, without disclosing specifics around funding, said that the Israel-based company has the financial resources to take it slow and focus on the product before it every worries about making money.

Ping works with Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo, Aol, and iCloud email accounts. The app will make its official debut on iPhone on September 18 and eventually make its way to Web, Android, and iPad.