December 5, 2012

Gmail For iOS 2.0 Is Good, But Lacking, Upgrade

Those who love the iPhone and Gmail should soon realize it’s one or the other.

Google’s release of Gmail 2.0 for iOS yesterday greatly improved the experience on the iPhone. It is a significant upgrade, bringing multiple account support, improved visuals and a much nicer look to the application. However, it still is far behind the Android version of Gmail in terms of features and integration with the operating system.

The improved interface is one of the best upgrades. Fonts are larger, animations have more flair, and there is tighter integration with Google services, such as Calendar, Chrome and Google+ (as much as the iPhone will allow).

After spending more time with it, I still found Gmail to be rather slow. Opening a message from the notification center or lock screen was rather frustrating with significant lag. While the multi-colored ball that indicates waiting is clever, I had to stare at it for far too long while waiting for a transition.

Those who have used Sparrow are the most likely to find Gmail 2.0 frustrating. There is no rapid way to navigate messages and not nearly enough of the helpful gestures and swipes. Even though it lacks push notifications, Sparrow still works much quicker and offers far more ways to power through a cluttered inbox. Quickly swiping through messages is very useful for a filled inbox, and one that Google would be wise to add in a future update.

In the end, those who are Gmail power users may not find the Gmail app to be a satisfactory option. Given the structure of iOS (which does not allow any program other than Apple’s Mail to be the default) and Google’s position as the primary Apple competitor, it only makes sense that Android’s Gmail will be best.

This is where the situation gets tricky for those on the iPhone. No choice is without some compromise: there is the default Apple mail app, which has changed little since the iPhone launched over five years ago and has minimal integration with Gmail.

There is Sparrow, which has substantially more features and offers the best set of tools for navigating email. But its time is likely limited, given that its developers now work for Google.

The superiority of the Gmail experience on Android is one of the reasons I moved to Google’s mobile platform. The latest Gmail release is another sign that while Google intends to improve its iOS applications; the greatest attention and focus is going to be with Android.

Image Credit: Google

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