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I still want my official Gmail native app, please

Gmail web app

I’ve been having a few small problems with the Mail app as of late. Sometimes it does this crazy little move where it dings as if there’s a new message in my Gmail inbox, shows me said message, then hides it as I tap to view it. I then have to refresh the inbox and wait for it to download over again — and sometimes that can take up to a minute despite wi-fi or 3G. The Mail app has been acting a little funky and it has started to wear on my patience. This got me thinking about what other alternatives were available

The Gmail web client is pretty great: it’s got the threaded messaging, the archiving features with the floaty bar, and it even has an offline mode thanks to HTML5 support in Safari. Unfortunately, because of its web app status, it’s missing a bunch of useful little features like full-screen support (Google could enable this themselves AFAIK, but they don’t), push notification for new e-mails, and better scrolling for long e-mails. It’s also missing the ability to reply from a different account, which is a bit of a hassle since I forward several address to one account. If Google were able to plug those holes with a Gmail native app, I’d be on it like a Canadian on peameal bacon (which, as Patrick agrees, is the right kind of bacon).  ** Editor’s Note: the statement in parentheses is inacurrate, and just plain wrong. 🙂 **

A quick “gmail” search of the App Store showed me two third party apps that interface with my beloved mail service: Gmate Mail for Gmail and App Gmail. The first one wasn’t free, so I skipped it (I’m being cheap). I did download App Gmail for free, though. It launches a specialized browser that allows you more screen space and whenever you launch a link you’re given a little toolbar at the bottom with navigation buttons and one “Done” key. Once you finish checking out whatever link your friend or your mom (hi, mom!) sent you, tapping on done will take you right back to the inbox. Well, most of the time anyway. When I first loaded the app up, it actually just ended up freezing and showing me a white screen, but a second try got the job done just fine. The major downside to this app, as it stands, is the fact that it’s still web-based and it doesn’t seem to cache as well as Safari does, so every time you load it up it seems to download the whole UI anew (which takes about five seconds). That’s just too long to wait every single time I want to check my mail.

Despite that disappointment,  finding some pertinent results in my Gmail search has been a pleasant little surprise. I won’t be using either app instead of the Safari web app, but it’s good to know that other developers are thinking about how to make the mobile Gmail experience a bit more accessible. I can only hope this will spur Google to make something a little bit more substantial and native. For now I’ll just have to live with the Mail app functioning as a badge, and use the Gmail web app as my main email client.

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  • Brent Byington

    Is it just my iPhone, but I don't get pictures or HTML emails anymore in my mail app. It's just boxes with question marks. It used to be so good, then just stopped toward the beginning of summer.

  • actually same here. Ugh. I also still need th bloody mail app to send pics 🙁

  • Try using the bit of javascript I wrote. It runs in a completely separate app from Safari now! http://thinkenzyme.com/blog/how-to-make-gmail-like-a-native-app/