• Gmail 2.0 for iOS & a battery-saving tip

    For long-time Gmail users, the iPhone has always been a bit of a mixed bag. Recent iterations of iOS have brought more seamless account set up & archiving to Mail.app; Google Sync came along to provide true push support for email, contacts & calendars via Exchange. At the end of the day though, the Gmail power-user set have always been left out in the cold for more advanced functions, like true label support, server-side inbox searching, message muting or priority inbox features.

    Google's initial approach to solve this problem (by way of a mobile web client) was fairly full-featured, but still felt like a slow, sub-par experience. And so, like many large companies of late, Google went back to the drawing board on their native iOS app development, and has since been on quite a tear; releasing native versions of Google Plus, Google Drive, Google Search & Gmail.

    Their 1.0 attempt at a rebooted native Gmail experience was a little bit wonky (though it did improve pretty rapidly). Google seems to be on a mission to improve though; their acquisition of popular 3rd-party Gmail client Sparrow happened shortly after the 1.0 release. History aside, the latest result of the reboot-and-redesign initiative is Gmail for iOS 2.0.

    The app is a universal client, but I'll mostly be looking at the phone version.

    The new version of Gmail takes heavy cues from the style permeating all current Google products. Clean, fairly flat, light font choices; almost a bit Windows Phone-ish in its aesthetic. It's a good look, and the unity in their product design front is beginning to show.

    The big design differences in this version seem to be an attention to detail to make the experience faster, and more fluid.

    Columns zip in and out speedily; the compose window slides in from the bottom, and slips back into place when dismissed. When you switch between accounts; there's a little thud as the profile switcher hits the chrome on the bottom of the sidebar. Small stuff I know, but appreciated nonetheless.

    On the feature side, Gmail for iOS also supports multiple accounts, & quick account switching. The one lacking piece of this puzzle however, is a universal inbox.

    Fans of the Gmail-style of threading messages will be pleased to know that it remains completely intact, and is made friendlier by use of tappable headers. A small design flourish here too; if there's no profile image to draw from, the app makes a nice avatar from the first letter of your name. Cool, right?

    Other familiar features like muting, reporting span and labeling are only a tap away, accessible from a dropdown menu.

    One cool feature I also discovered while poking about was the ability to send photos or scribbles to a person. Not too sure how useful this would be from a productivity point of view, but I'm sure Pete's Facebook inbox sure appreciated it.

    There's other nice settings too, like a mobile signature —though it's universal, so you can't have a 'sent from my iPad' message— and vacation responder.

    Overall, I found it really nice to use, and while there's still the tiniest lag compared to Mail.app, I don't notice it enough to care. I'm actually using the Gmail app for my business address (on Google Apps), and Mail.app for my personal address only. Which leads me to...

    Battery saving tip

    A little while ago I had both my work address & personal Gmail account syncing to my phone via Google Sync (née Exchange). I'm sure a lot of you also have this switched on. This meant I was getting instant push emails, contacts and calendar info. Pretty cool, but I was also getting terrible battery life. It was always my suspicion that Exchange was somehow responsible for my diminished battery.

    Recently though, I switched to IMAP for my personal email account, CardDAV for contacts, CalDAV for Calendar, and the Gmail for iOS app for my work stuff. I've noticed a significant change in my battery life day-to-day.

    If you're like me & using Exchange, but suffering under a battery that can't get through the day, try switching for a day. I get personal emails in 15 minute intervals on my phone now, but it doesn't really bother me; the important work email come through instantly via push notifications. If you'd like to try, follow this excellent guide at The Verge.

    James Croft runs Go Make, a business helping education with technology in a post-PC world. He's on Twitter, Google+ & even LinkedIn from time to time.
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