Yesterday, Google dropped a number of updates and improvements for their web-based Gmail and Calendar apps for the iPhone. A lot of the changes made are on the backend, so while you may not see a huge difference right away, you will likely notice snappier and more consistent performance in both apps, though I found the most significant difference was in Gmail. Apparently this is due to aggressive caching using a completely redesigned system architecture. In other words, Google gave the app one heck of a tune-up.
Part of that tune-up includes making sure that you won’t have to worry about losing valuable data or not being able to check that important email you’ve just received, even if you’re in an area with a bad cellular data connection. Basically, you now get limited offline support in Gmail for iPhone thanks to Gears integration in the new system architecture.
You also get some very handy usability improvements, including a new way to perform batch commands, which should save you a lot of headaches. The big change in this area is the addition of a floating menu bar which scrolls with you as you move through your inbox. It means that you can check as many messages as you want, and then, using the menu, batch delete, archive, mark as read/unread or spam all without returning to the top of the page.
Search has been moved to the top for easier access, and individual message appearance has been overhauled, so that reading your emails on the iPhone more closely resembles the desktop Gmail experience. Overall, it’s actually a much better experience than Mail.app, but I still prefer a software to a web-based email solution. Calendar gets the same look and feel as Gmail, and the same underlying engine, but I don’t use Google Calendar much so you’ll have to see for yourself about overall usability improvements. Check out Gmail.com on any iPhone or iPod touch to see the changes.