Blog Post

Gmail gets wings, goes mobile

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 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.

45 Responses to “Gmail gets wings, goes mobile”

  1. Interesting that you bring up the Yahoo!Go service. I had that on my Audiovox SMT-5600 and noticed several things. 1 it hogs memory to the extent that I had to restart the phone nearly daily. 2 it prevented outlook from polling my other accounts. It amounted to me not getting mail on my mobile from anything but Yahoo, and unstable Windows mobile 2003se. Since uninstalling that worthless app, I have not had another worry. On the other apps that seem to work well like this are opera mini a free java based webbrowser. at the very least it is quicker than IE, and at the worst it was free.

  2. Great question Steve. My guess is it is primarily because they believe in the concept of less is more? it is good to see that they are sticking to that philosophy. also, they have this global engineering pool which might be the reason. i dont know.

    talking about great java applications, how about trying out movamail. it is brilliant. if i find more, i will be more than thrilled to share them with you.

  3. Om, can you explain why it seems like no one else besides Google has been able to make useful, network enabled J2ME apps? The mobile versions of GMail, Google Local, and Google Maps are all great. J2ME on the phone seems to be a no-brainer way to extend your online presence to mobile.

    Or maybe I’m just not looking in the right places?

  4. In one word Great!
    I downloaded it to my Nokia E61, the app is designed to fit exactly into the phone window.
    I made a simple filter on my main PC email to send the important emails to a new account I opened for my Nokia, works great, updates fast and it is pretty easy to operate with shortkeys defined for the phone.
    Now lets see a Gtalk app for the Nokia!

  5. “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, which despite limited device support, remains one of our favorite mobile apps.”

    Deeply, agree, actually not google but another application named Morange has put all these together, push mail, IM, calendar, virtual disk , Push RSs etc, etc, It ranked high in GetJar and so far the users love it, maybe you want to have a look

  6. Okay, today the download did work, and, I have to admit, it DOES work nicer than the browser based mobile version. I’ll be reading more email on my phone now…

  7. Great app for Gmail users that want mobile access for their Gmail service. Consumers maintain 2-3 email accounts. A integrated solution that consolidates your email into one client is preferred when managing email from your little mobile phone. See Om’s previous article;

    In terms of compatibility, even the hottest new phones are not perfect and showing bugs when it comes to data services.

  8. Om, you suggest GMail could become the one e-mail client a person needs. I’m a little behind on e-mail programs. I use Yahoo’s web-based e-mail, but find some annoyances. I would like to try GMail. Can anyone tell me if GMail will allow me to forward my yahoo address to it. And can anyone elaborate on exactly why GMail is supposedly the best e-mail. Thanks.

  9. Just installed on my blackberry. It’s very nice. I used to be a big user of their web based gmail on my mobile, so this is a great improvement. Looks like anyone trying to make money selling mobile email services to consumers is going to have a much tougher time with this app out there.

  10. I wish that platforms would standardize more. I think it says something that a company like Google can’t get their apps to work on all phones. How are small companies going to be able to produce cool phone apps and get bought up by the big guys.

  11. the Java app downloaded flawlessly on the Nokia 9500 communicator but the design assumptions made for the app are a problem. The communicators have their menu buttons to the right of the screen. Not underneath.

    Om, I agree with your thinking on the use of mibiles. I have been arguing for some time that the cellphone is set to become the major influence over the evolution of the Internet. It will become the connectivity device of choice for many users.

  12. I agree with you dave. secondly there were some complaints about the nokia phone. i just checked it on E61, it worked just fine. the app, however, does open a new composition window, which kind of is lame.

  13. now all they need to do is allow for pop3 (at least) retrieval from other accounts and they’ll be good to go for folks who don’t want multiple apps for mail on one phone (honestly, on a treo you can’t beat snappermail for ease of use)

  14. I also had problems — I installed it this morning on my Nokia E61 but got a Java.Lang error suggesting that the Nokia class libraries don’t support some function used by the program.