Gmail, Google’s popular email service is going primetime, by going mobile. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine has just released a new Java based Gmail application that runs on most modern phones and mainstream handsets including Motorola RAZR. In addition, the Gmail app also runs on most smart phones including Blackberry and Nokia E Series handsets.
In addition, Sprint Nextel announced that it would be offering the java application and the wap version of Gmail on some of its handsets. Users on other cellular services can download the application for free by going to gmail.com/app on the browser of their phone.
Google, till recently has been focused on the web applications, and only recently has started to make a move into the mobile world. Yahoo has made a solid push into the mobile markets, but both companies lag Microsoft that has invested substantial dollars in its mobile efforts.
Google however has started to realize that persistent connections include mobile phones, especially if it wants to have an impact in high growth markets such as China and India. Mobile phones are people’s gateway to the Internet in these emerging telecom markets.
Even the US market is a big opportunity for Google. By offering a better mobile experience, the company might, and I say might, be able to lure Hotmail and Yahoo users to the Gmail platform. Google had started offering access to Gmail via a wap page, but it lacked the sizzle of the real thing.
The new application is a big improvement, enough to justify a switch to GMail as your one email account. The Gmail application retains the simplicity of the original web application, and comes with features such as search, conversation view, and automatic synchronization with the desktop version. If the application feels faster, it is. It pre-fetches messages automatically and as a user you feel no lag at all when accessing emails. The interface is clean, sleek and utilitarian.
The Google supplied phone came preloaded with the application, and after starting the application, all one has to do was enter username and password, and start receiving the emails. Hit refresh and the mailbox refreshed. The emails synced flawlessly. Not satisfied with just one phone, we tried it out on Blackberries – the Pearl and the 8700 both running on the T-Mobile network.
Google spokeswoman cautioned us “that this isn’t intended to be a replacement for the push email application on Blackberry devices. Instead, this is an alternative for users who would like to use the familiar Gmail web based user interface, but still benefit from the richness and speed of a client.
It was on 8700 the GMail app truly shined. Answering emails on a standard phone keypad is hard, but with a QWERTY keyboard the Gmail app truly shines. The Pearl was no slouch either, but on an 8700 you can breeze through email, especially if you get a large amount of email. ( I have used Shape Services’ Gmail client, which was equally good, though I found the official Gmail app and its auto-syncing features more likeable.)
In fact, if Google ever got around to releasing a single app that combined Gmail, Gtalk and GCal, they might have an instant winner on their hands. Just like Yahoo Go, which despite limited device support, remains one of our favorite mobile apps.
Imagine for minute, a mobile Linux based cellular device with a Qwerty keyboard that could support this Google communications suite. That could disrupt a few markets, and in fact become the low cost “compute” option in emerging telecom markets. Okay, that though is a sign I need some sleep.
Update: Web Worker Daily has a longer review of the application.