Despite Google’s persistence on adopting web views in an iOS frame, Gmail’s iOS app has been consistently improved since its inception. For the amount of ridicule Gmail for iOS has received, whether it be for its mobile web disguise or a lack of support for multiple accounts, it’d be a shame not to recognize some of the substantial improvements that have been made to the app. While I didn’t think Gmail was a great app, I didn’t think of it as a bad app, offering a native Gmail experience for account holders who want to take advantage of Google’s quick search capabilities, labels, and importance markers. On iOS, the main benefit is near instant notifications, something that Apple’s native Mail app can’t take advantage of unless Gmail is set up as an Exchange account. (And that notification sound? One of the best.)
Google Launches “Hangouts” Messaging Service for iOS, Android, and Web
#MacStoriesDeals – Tuesday
Pixelmator 2.2 Blueberry
iOS 7 Wishes
Today Weather Gets Dark Sky Alerts, Forecast.io Support
Gmail has a small update out this afternoon, promising all around smoother animations and scrolling, the ability to save picture attachments to your photo library, and bug fixes that squash some annoying issues.
Gmail 1.3 on iOS is certainly a bit speedier: scrolling through the Inbox and revealing the panel feels as smooth as a native app, although Gmail’s sliding animation to a message can still display lag here or there. However, the speed improvement doesn’t change that Gmail is a web app, with the Gmail splash logo being displayed at startup, network complaints when strained for bandwidth, and some “this doesn’t feel right” moments when composing email.
A new feature added is the ability to save pictures to your photo library, but it’s clunky, awkward, and not obvious. To save an image attachment, you have to open the image attachment in Gmail’s browser, then tap and hold on the picture to bring up the dialogue to save your picture to your photo library. Oddly, you can print from the message view, but you can’t save a photo (you have to open it first). I think the Gmail for iOS team would be better off replacing the Safari icon in their browser with a sharing icon, letting users Open in Safari, Save to Library, Open in App, or Print from a more familiar and traditional list of actions.
Composing email still feels awkward, with the compose window being relatively finicky and jumpy, but bug fixes have at least solved one annoying selection issue. Before, I couldn’t drag the cursor before the first letter of the first sentence in Gmail for iOS, but this is remedied in today’s update.
Gmail is passable as an app (it’s certainly not Sparrow) and it’s slowly getting better, but its flaws as an email client in a web view still show in the most important places, such as when working with attachments and composing a message. If you’re inclined on being in Google’s ecosystem, Gmail is free on the App Store.
When Gmail first launched on iOS, we lamented at two things: the lack of support for multiple addresses and notifications. While Gmail on the iPhone is still a web app at heart, it has gotten better as the app gained support for signatures, a vacation responder, and nested labels. If you’ve thought Gmail has been forgotten and left behind, today’s update brings some much desired requests into the application.
First up, Gmail for iOS now brings support for proper notifications on iOS. Instead of hearing just the chime, you’ll get banner notifications and will be able to see a history of recent emails in the Notification Center. Secondly, you’ll now be able to send a message from an alternate email address. This can be configured in the app’s settings. If you have other email accounts that forward their messages to your Gmail inbox, you can reply to those messages as the other address. Lastly, you don’t have to worry about signing back into Gmail every time you leave. Gmail will save your login information and keep you logged in unless you sign-out yourself.
If you need Gmail on your iPhone with proper notifications, today’s update might just win you over. It’s a free download from the App Store.