Gmail Labs added another small but useful feature: a small green or red phone icon along the sender’s name indicates whether they are within business hours according to their local time or not. The detail screen also shows current time where the sender is.
I certainly find this addition useful, although the use case the Gmail Blog came up with may not be the best one: calling your girlfriend in response to her angry email in the wrong hours. Hm.. if you can’t remember what time zone she is, you won’t be together long.
Those of us doing business internationally or just having friends around the world probably have more realistic scenarios: at any given day I have email correspondence from all continents except Africa, and yes, I could calculate the timezones, but having them available at a glance certainly helps. This, btw is my answer to PC World’s Brandon Slattery who has never had this problem and calls the feature ridiculous.
So yes, I like it.. but …seeing a little green phone icon don’t you just want to click it? Of course you can, but nothing happens. Which is kind of the problem. If we’re thinking of integrating email and voice communication, why this half step. With Google Talk and now Google Voice (formerly Grand Central) this little icon should be turned into a call me hotbutton. Oh, I forgot… that’s Skype.