iOS: At long last: You can now download a dedicated (and official) Gmail app for your iPhone from the iTunes App Store. Native, Gmail-like interface for your email on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, here we come.
The iPhone’s official Mail.app is a fine email client, but it’s never played completely nice with Gmail. The Gmail app promises to give you the full email experience on the iPhone without hassling with the idiosyncrasies of marrying Mail.app with Gmail. Here’s the feature rundown:
- Push notifications and sounds give you alerts when new messages show up in your inbox (naturally). Unfortunately, there seems to be a bug in this initial release that’s preventing Gmail from working with notifications. If you see the no valide ‘aps-environment’ entitlement string error message when you launch Gmail the first time (which I did), you’re not going to see Gmail in your notifications options. Let’s assume they’re going to fix this, and we’ll keep our eyes open for any short-term fix we can find. (See update below.)
- Search your entire inbox from one universal search box. This seems like a no-brainer, but you couldn’t do that from Mail.app unless you headed to the All Mail label.
- Autocomplete from Gmail contacts or your iPhone’s address book means that if you’ve managed your contacts better in either place, you can choose whichever you prefer. (My iPhone contacts are synced to my iPhone anyway, so it’s a wash.)
- Upload attachments with an attachment upload button when you’re composing messages. Nothing terribly special about this, but it’s good to know attachments are an option. You still won’t be able to share directly from, say, the Gallery app. I wonder if copy/paste works?
- iPad has a fancy split view just like Mail.app and just about every other information-dense iPad app.
The app also supports the following Gmail-specific features:
- Priority inbox
- Threaded conversations: This is probably the most exciting things. Most Gmail users fell in love with threaded conversations a long time ago, and it’s the threaded conversations I most missed when I switched to the iPhone 4S from my Android phone.
- Archive, label, star, delete, report spam: You know, all the basics you use in Gmail but don’t have access to from just any email client.
The nice touchy elements include pull-to-refresh and swipe right to view labels (sort of like the left sidebar in Gmail on the web). Beyond that, it’s all like you’d expect. You can swipe left to archive a message (playing around with it, this gesture is actually a little buggy).
The bad: As far as I can tell, the app doesn’t currently support multiple Gmail accounts. Or offline caching of your email. Bummer. Also, the notifications bug mentioned above appears to mean that the app won’t do any notifying until Google gets an update out the door. Finally: The app has nice native elements, like swipe-right-to-view-labels, but the main interface isn’t all that native feeling. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s just the web version wrapped in an app. That would be fine, except that when you try natural gestures, like swipe-left-to-archive, it’s jumpy and ugly—it doesn’t feel like the iPhone’s very satisfying native swipe-to-delete gesture, because it’s not. Hopefully Google will push it in better directions in subsequent updates.
Gmail for iPhone is a free download from the App Store, available now.
UPDATE: Looks like Google has pulled the Gmail app from the App Store, to be re-released once they’ve fixed the above-mentioned notifications bug:
The iOS app we launched today contained a bug which broke notifications and caused you to see an error message when first opening the app. We’ve removed the app while we correct the problem, and we’re working to bring you a new version soon. In the meantime, everyone who’s already installed the app can continue to use it.
We want to bring you a great Gmail experience, and we’re sorry we messed up here