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Five Ways to Improve Gmail for iOS

Five Ways to Improve Gmail for iOS

Great analysis by Ken Yarmosh:

A native Gmail app on iOS had been anxiously awaited for years but when Gmail for iOS launched back in November 2011, it do so to much berating. The main complaint against the app is that it is basically an iOS wrapper around the standard mobile web app. Personally, I found the criticisms overall harsh but it does need to be improved. In no particular order, here are five ways to do that.

I agree on all the points, and I’ll add that Google might consider picking the team that created the Search app for iPad to improve Gmail for iOS. Google Search for iPad is a great app: fast, stable, responsive, innovative – that’s Google at its best, making a native app that is not cumbersome or underpowered. Gmail, on the other hand, feels like an attempt to “get the job done”: take a web view, throw some native wrapper on top of it, call it a Gmail app. Done. Gmail for iOS disappoints, but I’m still hoping Google is preparing something good for it. If that’s the case, please, Google, follow Ken’s suggestions.

On the other hand though, I can’t stop thinking about Sparrow for iPhone. That’s one of my most anticipated apps of 2012.


Gmail for iOS Updated with a New Notification Sound, Better Labeling, and a Whiteboard

Google’s official Gmail app for iOS is was quickly taken off the App Store when it first launched due to a notification bug, and while many of us are still waiting for a proper implementation (banners anyone?), Google’s decided to tweak the default chime for something more recognizable in the meantime. Instead of one iOS’ default dings, Gmail’s notification alert has been replaced with a chime that sounds like you’ve collected a coin from a 16-bit video game. Perhaps that’s the only thing to love about Gmail’s latest update if you’re a consistent user, as the addition of mobile signature support and a vacation responder aren’t too exciting. These features can be accessed via the gear icon at the top of the menu view.

Google’s gone ahead an improved labels with nested label support, better organizing the collection of labels you’ve set-up for the mobile interface.

But perhaps the oddball new feature (which doesn’t make much sense to me) is the addition of a whiteboard (Google calls it a canvas) that you can doodle on. Anything you draw, sketch, or write can be customized with different colors, brush sizes, lines, and paint. When finished, you can attach these doodles to your outgoing message.

Google does address one of my main complaints:

Behind the scenes, we’re continuing to work on highly requested features like banner notifications, multiple login support and the ability to send-as from any account already configured in Gmail. We want to make sure these are done right as we continue to improve the Gmail app.

Now that’s the update we’re looking forward to. I don’t know if the whiteboard is something we needed, but bug fixes and a more recognizable notification chime are certainly welcome.

[via the Official Gmail Blog]

Gmail for iOS Is Back In The App Store

Following an unsuccessful launch on November 2, Google has re-released its official Gmail app for iOS in the App Store, which was pulled due to a bug that affected push notifications. In spite of the criticism received by the app, it appears Google didn’t make any substantial changes, as reported by this version’s changelog:

If you already have the Gmail app 1.0.1 released on 2 Nov, you will need to uninstall or log out of the old app prior to installing the new app.

We’re currently re-testing the Gmail app for iOS and we’ll update this post with more details if necessary. Update: push notifications are now working in this version (as you can see I have a badge on my Home screen), but there are no new features. The app is still web-based as in the first version, with no support for multiple accounts and poor scrolling performances, among other issues.

Download Gmail for iOS here.

Google Releases Gmail for iOS

Google has just released its first official Gmail app for iOS, available on the App Store here. The app runs natively on the iPhone and iPad, features notifications, messages threads, Priority Inbox and many other Gmail features from the web interface. In developing Gmail for iOS, Google says they have tried to bring the best features of Gmail for the web – which is also optimized for iOS devices – to the iPhone and iPad while taking advantage of the native capabilities of these devices.

The company has indeed implemented name auto-completion and Camera Roll integration for image attachments, but we couldn’t find support for multiple email accounts in this first version. Also, we were unable to receive “badge notifications” for new messages, although this may be related to the just-launched nature of the app and an error that several users are reporting on Twitter. The lack of multiple account support is disappointing, frankly, as the app simply loads up a web view upon first launch, asking you to log in with a Google account, and that’s it. There are no settings, no account options – there is a “reset app state” button in the iOS Settings app, which will simply reset the app’s state (logging you out of your account) as the name suggests.

As many have already noticed, the interface of the app seems to consist mainly of a web view inside a native environment that guarantees some of the aforementioned features such as attachments from the Camera Roll. Some animations are smoother than Gmail’s web counterpart – such as the swipe-to-reveal Inbox action – and this should be an advantage of the “native” nature of some elements of the app. Other animations and menu, however, are clearly web-based, and not as smooth and responsive as you would expect from, say, Apple’s Mail app. Overall, it appears Google took Gmail’s existing web app for Mobile Safari, added some new features and graphical elements in the inbox and message list, and released it as a free app on the App Store. This app clearly can’t be compared to Android’s native Gmail experience, or Apple’s Mail app for iOS, which still remains a fine and powerful client. If you’re a fan of Gmail’s web app for iOS devices, I believe you’re going to like some improvements of this “native” version, but I can’t imagine any Gmail power-user – people who regularly switch between two or more accounts every day – doing any serious email work with this app.

There are some nice improvements over the Gmail web app for iOS devices, but this is far from the “pretty fantastic” native app many were expecting.

From the feature list:

  • Get alerted to new messages with push notifications and sounds
  • Find an email in seconds with search across your entire inbox
  • Autocomplete email addresses from your Gmail contacts or select from your device’s address book
  • Upload photos with a click using the new attachment button in compose view
  • On iPad, navigate your inbox and read your mail simultaneously with split view

You can find Gmail for iOS on the App Store.

Update: Google had to pull Gmail from the App Store to fix the notification bug mentioned above.

Native Gmail App From Google Coming To The iPhone Soon?

If you’ve been yearning for a good, native, Gmail app for the iPhone, you might not have to wait much longer. MG Siegler claims that Google “is on the verge of launching their native Gmail app” and have likely already submitted it to Apple for review.

Although Google has a good web version of Gmail that is optimised for the iPhone and is also supported by iOS’ inbuilt Mail app, many have long wanted a fully native Gmail app and experience on iOS. Probably the biggest reason for a native Gmail app is push notifications (in the native Mail app, Gmail only supports fetching every 15, 30 or 60 minutes). Yet according to Siegler’s sources, the app is also “pretty fantastic” - something that many users of Android’s Gmail app have also often commented on. His understanding is that this is Google’s first iOS app since they began their recent commitment to design and that “all indications point to it being a good [app]”.

The native Gmail app will likely bring other key functionality as well: like Priority Inbox and one-click starring of messages. Other possibilities include some of the stuff Google is about to roll out for Gmail proper: like contact icons, better threading, and deep searching functionality. Maybe there will even be some Google+ integration, which Google is also hard at work on for Gmail.

The big question is whether Apple will approve the app, because to date they have rejected alternative email apps that would compete against the native Mail app. However, Siegler believes Apple probably will approve it, in which case it could mean that we could also soon see other third party Mail apps on iOS. One such example could be Sparrow for iPhone, after the developers revealed in August they have started development on such an app. In an interview with Business Insider in August, Dominique Leca from Sparrow noted that it would be highly inconsistent for Apple to continue to reject alternative Mail apps when Apple has since allowed replacements for Safari on iOS in recent months.

[Via parislemon]

Gmail Mobile Web App Gets Multiple Sign-In

In the past months, Google has released a series of updates to improve the overall experience of the Gmail mobile web app, which works on iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, as well as other smartphones and tablets. Google made the mobile web app more accessible and usable with notifications, undo bar, Retina graphics and “pull to refresh”, and today they’ve announced another update that brings Preferences and multiple sign-in to the service when viewed from mobile devices.

Multiple sign-in has been around in the Gmail desktop website for quite some time, and it’s a useful shortcut to quickly switch between multiple Google accounts (and thus Gmail inboxes or Google+ profiles). Starting today, a new sign-in button will appear at the bottom of the iOS web app, allowing you to jump to another account, which will automatically load its Gmail inbox. The feature is already live in Mobile Safari (tested on an iPhone 4 running the latest iOS 5 beta).

Furthermore, Google is now allowing users to set Preferences directly from the mobile web app. The company is highlighting the possibility to create a mobile-only signature, so your friends will associate typos to a smartphone’s keyboard. Also, the Preferences come with vacation auto-responder settings, and a few more options.

We know that autocorrect and other mobile spell-checks can be frustrating as you are typing on the go. Let your friends know that you are responding via your mobile phone so that they understand why you might have sent a message that you are meeting for “monitors” and not “mojitos”. It’s an easy way to make them understand why your message might be short or have a few typos. To create a mobile signature, from the menu view, press the new settings icon, choose your signature, and then check the box that tells us you want to activate it. If you ever want to disable the mobile signature, you can uncheck the box and we will use your desktop signature instead.

Google notes that each Gmail account can have a separate bookmark. On iOS devices, you can save a Gmail shortcut to the Home screen by tapping on the Action icon in Mobile Safari, and then Add to Home Screen (Gmail’s webclip icon has been optimized for the Retina Display as well).

Sparrow 1.3.2: Drag & Drop to Labels, Conversation & Reply Redesigns, and Gradients!

Sparrow has a really sweet Mac update available this afternoon from the Mac App Store, bringing lots of new features and tons of bug fixes to improve its game and interface on Lion. The last update brought full-screen support and a redesigned sidebar that’s significantly improved my workflow, and now that sidebar is getting some additional use thanks to drag & drop. Whether you’re on an IMAP account or using Gmail, you can drag and drop emails into a folder or label to quickly move and archive messages. That alone makes us really happy, but check out what else Sparrow has added past the break.

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Gmail: Now Pull to Refresh and Retina Display Ready

Use Gmail on your iPhone? There’s an update waiting for you when you log in, including sharper graphics that shine on the iPhone 4’s Retina display. The  new graphics were a highly requested feature by Gmail users, and now Google’s gone and made everything prettier so their web interface doesn’t look as fuzzy or pixelated on our high resolution phones. And hey - now it feels like it belongs!

Want to refresh your inbox or a conversation? Simply pull down to refresh. Gmail now lets you refresh your inbox naturally, and you keep the conversation going if you’re rapid replying to a friend’s or coworkers email.

Finally, there’s some new transitions you can check out. As you navigate across Gmail, sliding transitions help create flow while generally looking pretty — it’s that final polish that iOS users come to expect on all apps (native or web).

There you go kids. A better Gmail for iOS.

[via The Official Gmail Blog]

Getting Started with Mail in Lion

Maybe you’re new to Lion (welcome newly acquainted Mac users), or maybe you’re not much of a Mail user to begin with. Well, “Hello From Cupertino, CA”! Much of the hype around Lion has revolved around the iOS-inspired changes made to Mail, which aims to make reading messages, composing email, and navigating through conversations really easy. To do this, Mail likes to hide the Mailbox List, while getting you comfortable with the new Favorites Bar. Lion’s new vertical message list and message-preview pane better make use of wide-screen displays, especially while full-screen. If you’re not familiar with this terminology yet, don’t worry. Grab a cup of coffee, your favorite morning or afternoon pastry, and get ready to set up Lion with your account.

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