Since I moved to the iPhone (coming from an Android HTC Desire) back in June last year, one of the things I missed the most was the tight integration of Android OS with the Google “world”. With “Google world” I refer to Gmail, Calendar, Docs, YouTube and so on. In particular, Gmail is my #1 communication tool and I use it with multiple accounts for both personal and business stuff. Moreover, I don’t use Gmail as the average user, but I have over 80 filters and 40 labels.
On the iPhone, the Gmail experience is far from being great: no stars, no labels, no multiple accounts, nothing. For a power Gmail user, Android (and the latest Ice Cream Sandwich version is the even better from this standpoint) is definitely the OS that offers the best experience in terms of Google services integration while iOS is… frustrating.
All that said, how to survive? Well, there are actually four great ways to use Gmail on the iPhone and I tried them all.
1) Mail.app with Exchange
When you start configuring Mail.app on your iPhone it shows you a big Gmail logo you can’t ignore,. Well, make sure to ignore it To get a fully push Gmail experience you must configure Gmail on Mail.app through MS Exchange. Here is what to do, step by step:
1) Go to Settings – Mail/Contacts/Calendars
2) tap “Add new account”
3) Choose “Microsoft Exchange” (NO, don’t choose Gmail)
4) In the following screen, insert your email and your username and password.
5) Select whether you want to sync your calendars and contacts too.
Done, you now have Gmail on your iPhone, with push notifications and full sync. Unfortunately, even if you can see folders (labels) you can’t “copy” a message to a folder, but you can just move it, that means deleting it from the Inbox (you don’t usually want to do that).
Fully native app.
No stars, bad management of labels.
Mailroom is the first Gmail client I tried on my iPhone. It’s basically a native app that integrates a web view of the mobile Gmail. It is pretty simple and works very well. It supports icon badges to see how many unread emails you have and multiple Gmail accounts.
No special features, but it should be enough. Unfortunately, no push notifications and no other sync options. It also provides an integrated web browser and picture viewer.
Works very well.
TrueNew support (new messages count since the last time you opened the app and total new messages)
No native Gmail experience
If you want the best fully-native app to use Gmail on your iPhone, Sent is the app for you. It’s new and not perfect yet, but it is really well worth a try. Multiple account support, signature, labels, stars, if you are familiar with Sparrow Mail for MacOSX, it can be considered the “Sparrow” for iPhone. Well, the guys who developed Sparrow Mail are actually working on an app for iOS, so it’s not really the right definition, but at this time it’s the native app that provides the best Gmail experience on the iPhone, until the Sparrow guys officially release their, at least.
It’s not bug free and it doesn’t support push notifications, but I guess the guy behind it will release other updates very soon with multiple improvements to the current version. What do you think?
Labels, stars, multiple accounts.
Still buggy, no push notifications.
Expensive (but I bought it anyway to give that developer more resources to keep improving it)
4) Gmail for iOS
Last but not least, here is Gmail for iOS, released by Google in November and constantly updated. At the time being, it is my favorite app and I use it everyday. The latest update (v1.1) brings a few features not available in the first releases, like signature and lots of little improvements. There are still some downsides, though: first and foremost, it’s not really a native app like Sent, but it shows a web view with a modified HTML5 interface. Secondly, push notifications are available but don’t leverage the power of iOS5, yet.
Moreover, multiple accounts are not supported yet and one thing I find a bit annoying is that unlike Mail.app, when you open the interface because you get notified about new messages, the new messages are not there yet but you have to wait for the app to download them.
Like Sent, I expect many improvements in the following versions so unless something cool comes out from Sent itself or from the Sparrow guys (see the last paragraph), I think I will stick with it.
Official by Google
Labels, star, signature, priority inbox, push notifications.
No multiple accounts support.
Now it’s up to you, what’s your favorite? If you are not a power user, I think that the first solution with Mail.app would be fine for you. Otherwise, Sent or the official Gmail app are definitely the best choices, until Sparrow will officially release their mail client for iPhone, something I’ve been beta testing for one week now and… it’s amazing!
- Gmail for iOS Bug Fixed, But Key Features Still Missing (readwriteweb.com)
- Gmail for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Now Available (readwriteweb.com)
- Gmail Finally Gets a Native iOS app (iphone.appstorm.net)
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