November 8, 2006

Gmail for Mobile Application Reviewed (Blackberry 8700c)

Google recently released an application that allows Java-enabled cell phones to download Gmail software directly by pointing their mobile browsers to www.gmail.com/app. The installation for my Blackberry 8700c was as easy as all previous Google Apps (Local and Google Talk). The software is remarkably simple to navigate and the overall looks and feels remain much the same as the Gmail we are all so fond of. Normally, I have been accessing Gmail through my phone's web broswer via http://m.gmail.com, while this worked, the mobile application promised to give me the best possible experience, I could not resist!



User Interface – The UI design is very nice. The scroll wheel on the Blackberry acts as the navigator. The font size by default is small, however, when the scroll wheel highlights a feature, the font size enlarges and bolds for easy viewing. There are a number of shortcut keys that allows a quicker access to features; for instance: "c" for compose mail, "i" for inbox, "d" for delete. I assume those are probably the only short keys that I'll use frequently enough to remember. Other obscure shortcut keys includes: "s" for star/unstar a conversation, "y" for archiving, "!" for reporting spam and lots more. There was one shortcut key that was against the default Blackberry shortcut key. Normally, pressing the "space" key in Blackberry act as a PageDown key, in the case for Gmail, it acts as an enter key whereby opening an email instead of scrolling down. This will take a while for me to get used to.



Receiving Email - New emails are marked in bold type. The inbox can be refreshed manually or it automatically refreshes after you have sent an email. According to the Gmail Help Center, this application will only prefetch 50KB worth of data at a time, you can also turn that feature off if you have a limited data package. The email conversations are stacked just like its desktop sibling, again, Google kept that same touch and feel into this version and that is something I really enjoyed.



Composing Email - Composing an email is easy, the screen is very intuitive. A box for recipient email, subject and email body is presented by default. You can also add a cc/bcc box as an option. The auto-fill address function works just like desktop Gmail would, I think its little features like this that make all of Google's mobile applications valuable. Its clear that the developers at Google understands auto populating email addresses makes a mobile users task much easier, kudos!. The application doesn't allow me to save an email as draft, this is something that should have been in place as I often need pull other references from inbox to complete an email. Sending the actual email doesn't take much longer than it would through Blackberry's default email capability. In fact, I was surprised to see Gmail available for Blackberry devices as it could be considered as somewhat of conflict of interest. Perhaps Gmail is considered a personal application whereas Blackberry push-email is considered professional application.



Other Features - Pretty much all of Gmail's features have been incorporated, this includes: stars, labels, search, archive, report spam, and read/unread. I have notice that contacts did not make it to this version. While the emails from my contacts automatically populates while composing an email, it would still be nice to have access to the contacts to get information such as physical address or phone number. In addition to standard features, Gmail supports attachement viewing, I tested MS Word, Excel and PDF files and they work flawlessly, Gmail turns these documents into plain text, which works for reading the content but not powerful enough if your job relies these documents.

Again, I am satisfied by the sheer simplicity and functionality of this Google mobile application. While I am not certain how will this play into Google's advertising plan, I wouldn't be suprised to see more features rolled out in future releases which may include Google's text ads. I think there is definitely enough screen real estate to have small text ads such as the Google Mobile Ads. Once again, my windows-powered mobile devices will have to sit out and continue to use the browser version of Gmail.

Update: I found a reference from The Mobile Gadeteer where the author tested this application on a Windows-powered TMobile Dash and it worked. My Dell AXIM X30 stopped working ever since it reached its 1 year mark, so I can't test it out for myself.

4 comments:

Oliver said...

Is there anyway to get GPS directions on your Blackberry without having to pay extra for it? I have the 8700c.

ay said...

Great question. I don’t think there is a free solution for your 8700c because it doesn’t have a GPS receiver/chip built into that phone. Whereas the new Sprint 8703e has a GPS chip inside.

As additional reference, most people said the TeleNav Bluetooth GPS and software works best for your phone.

Nenad said...

I had a problem with my V800 I got a “certificate not valid” error. Finally I solved the problem and enjoyed in yet another excellent app from Google. The only problem is that you can use it only for checking GMail account. With another program that I use http://movamail.com/ I watch my other accounts. I will try to think of a reason why should I use Gmail mobile. When I can do all off that on my old app Movamail

ay said...

nenad, thanks for sharing the Movamail program. Pretty cool application. I suppose for $2.95/month, its the best choice for an all-email-in-one solution. As far as GMail app, I think the benefit is that it offers all the functions from the desktop browser version into a mobile package. I suppose you can always use it as a secondary email application when you need to search for "Stars" or "Labels", otherwise, Movamail is probably excellent for checking new emails. Thanks.