China Cripples Android With Fitful Blocks of Gmail, Market Apps

Google’s chronicle of woes in China has grown even larger, with the apparent Great Firewall block of Android’s Market and Gmail apps by authorities.

The issues are intermittent now, but ongoing for the past 60 hours. Right now, the Gmail service is failing on my Android phone – although it has worked briefly for a few minutes this morning and last night – and the Market app is agonisingly slow and fitful.

Gmail for Android and the Android Market are two key apps in Google’s popular mobile OS. Both have been inaccessible for just over 36 hours, on a variety of mobile and broadband ISPs across the country. This won’t affect every Android user in China, since many use neither Google’s own email nor app store on their phones. That has created a whole ecosystem of of alternative app sources in the country.

Gmail for Android app is currently blocked in China, since Saturday morning. No email incoming, unable to send any out.

The Gmail website/web app remains accessible in China for the time being, and is working fine via IMAP, such as in the iOS Mail app. But Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has always used separate servers for its Android OS services. It’s back to being blocked and broken right now in the native Android app, as a write this (pictured right).

TNW Asia is reporting that the Android Market website is blocked in China this morning, although it currently appears to be intermittently available.

Gmail as a whole has been the subject of interference and slow-downs since Google’s allegations of widespread hack attacks against Gmail users in China earlier this summer. At the time we showed you a a video of how a malicious Flash file was being used to hijack some people’s Gmail accounts and forward mail to a mysterious agent.

So, what has caused this block? Perhaps it’s an error on someone’s end, or Net Nanny is dishing out some temporary (or perhaps permanent) punishment for something. Come to think of it, it might be related to how Google+ this weekend enabled the Dalai Lama to chat with the Archbishop Desmond Tutu – a virtual equivalent of the planned face-to-face birthday meeting in South Africa that Chinese authorities were so utterly desperate to stop. That might sound ludicrously vindictive and petty to the point of being mental – but that’s how Net Nanny works these days. The Great Firewall has jumped the shark: it can no longer realistically claim to be a national security tool – it’s also used as a stick with which to beat a tenacious enemy.

On a related note, just three months ago, Google’s brand-new social network, Google+, was blocked in the first week.

» This article was first published by Penn Olson, The Asian Tech Catalog, and is reproduced here with permission.

This article originally appeared in Penn Olson.