Gmail for iOS – It’s not that bad!

And let the complaints begin. The new Gmail app for iOS (which has since been pulled from the App Store and unfortunately didn’t last longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage) is finally real. But no less than 10 minutes after going live my Twitter timeline erupted into mass hysteria and anger like only nerds can evince over the utter “failure” of Google’s native Gmail client for iOS.

I heard everything from “it’s just a web app,” to “they stole the design from Facebook.” And my personal favorite from G Style Staff Member Samuel Huang who said that frankly “Google is being lazy and releasing things when they aren’t complete.” Admittedly, some of these concerns are legitimate. I was not impressed by the web interface that Google chose to use. I would have much rather seen something more iOS like (as in just mimic the Apple Mail client and call it a day). There is no need to be super creative, Google. Just don’t give us the same interface we see in Safari. So I do see how many can infer that this is a half baked effort by Google. But when it comes to Apple fans I find that they always lean towards form over function. I like the Gmail app for several reasons.

  • Threading – Threading does not work well for me on iOS in the mail app. I want my sent emails to be included in the thread. Also it doesn’t seem to be consistent. Some things that should be threaded aren’t. Having a Gmail client alleviates this problem
  • Exchange Drafts– Because of a limitation of Google Exchange on iOS I can’t sync drafts and get push email on my phone. This is ridiculous to me and a native client helps with this dilemma.
  • Email Attachments – Why can’t I start to compose an email and then add an attachment? This is the way I think. And I’m thoroughly annoyed that Apple always tries to force me to conform my actions to their system. The new Gmail app (because it doesn’t have much of a choice since it can’t be my default client) allows me to attach an email from the compose view.
  • Other Reasons (Labels, stars, Archiving)– I don’t really care about these as much but they might be important to others and still a step up from the Apple Mail client.

One thing that I will have to agree with Sam about is the fact that multiple account support would have been nice. I know many people have more than one Gmail account and it makes no sense for Google not to allow this. Though, I believe that Android users didn’t not have the ability to add multiple Gmail accounts until Eclair.

So folks, for me it’s not the end of the world. I welcome Google’s attempt at trying to bring a native app to iOS. I have more access to more functions that I did in the past. Is it the best implementation? No. Do I care how smooth it scrolls? No. I just want it to work. And hopefully they fix that notification bug (the reason why it was pulled from the App Store) and then I can actually use the program on a daily basis.

Before I wrap this up I want to take this opportunity to address a few things. First of all let’s be realistic on a couple of points. This will never been as fully integrated as the default iOS app simply because it’s Apple and they don’t allow that. So being able to make this our go to email client is never going to happen (good luck Sparrow Mail). Second of all, I don’t think Google is lazy. I think their apps show a lot of effort and polish on Android because they need to spend their time and energy where it counts and that’s their own OS. Will it appease most Gmail users? Yes. So all these nerds and iOS fanatics who love to complain about Google need to just relax. Yes, there was a bug on launch but Apple is not immune to this kind of failure. Shall we say Apple’s Lion OS which is the worst execution of an upgrade that I have ever experienced?

My final advice. Let Google sort out the mess. Let them upgrade the app and just enjoy the new features we have. We didn’t even have an Gmail app yesterday, so it’s not the end of the world. It’s simply a beginning.