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Gmail app comes to iOS, leaves BlackBerry

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November 23, 2011

Developments such as this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. After all,
the iPhone is a growing platform, while the BlackBerry is shrinking. It
makes sense, in a general way, that a developers would choose iPhone over
BlackBerry if they had to pick one platform for their app. Even so, Google’s
decision to discontinue the Gmail for BlackBerry app, while at the same time
releasing a Gmail app for iOS, seems odd at best. The app is much more
needed on the BlackBerry platform, for two specific reasons.

Native email syncing

Both the iPhone and the BlackBerry have native messaging apps that can
consolidate many email addresses into one inbox. Both explicitly support
Gmail, though both have their share of drawbacks. The problem is that
BlackBerry’s biggest drawback is a bit bigger of an issue.

On the iPhone, setting up Gmail is a breeze. There’s even an option
specifically to set up Gmail. That isn’t the most efficient way to do it,
though. Using the webmail setup does not provide true push email, so users
have to set a refresh interval, or manually check messages, in order to see
an update. In either case the messages don’t update in real time. There is
an easy solution, though. By setting up Gmail as a Microsoft Exchange
account, users get true push and a wonderful Gmail experience. It renders an
app unnecessary.

BlackBerry, too, has direct Gmail support. It even has the Enhanced Gmail
Plugin, which brings nearly every feature specific to BlackBerry — labels,
stars, spam, etc. — right to the BlackBerry messaging system. Yet it has
one uncorrectable drawback: the two-way sync is not instantaneous. That is,
if you read a message on your computer, it remains unread on your BlackBerry
for up to two hours. That can prove an annoyance to some users, and in some
cases necessitates the use of an application.

Mobile web version

Previously, there was no Gmail app for iPhone. Whether that was Google’s or
Apple’s doing is anyone’s guess. Google acknowledged the absence, though.
They pointed to their mobile web app as a viable solution. In many ways they
were right. Going to mail.google.com from the iPhone browser provided a
wonderful Gmail experience. In fact, it’s very similar to the one that the
new Gmail for iPhone app provides. Having both features is kind of
superfluous.

Once it announced that it was discontinuing the Gmail for BlackBerry app,
Google pointed to its mobile web app for BlackBerry users. For users of new
BlackBerry models, such as the BlackBerry
Monaco
, a/k/a the 9850 and 9860, this works well. The mobile web version
of Gmail loads like a charm, and it functions in a nearly identical way to
the iPhone mobile web version (mainly because it’s the same, being mobile
web and all). Yet this doesn’t help users who have older BlackBerry models.
The BlackBerry browser has always drawn criticism. While the mobile web
Gmail app will load on older models, it doesn’t render particularly well.
It’s a clunky experience, especially without the benefit of a touchscreen.

It would seem, then, that BlackBerry users are in far greater need of an app
than iPhone users. While iPhone users have two superb Gmail solutions, the
native messaging app and the mobile web app, BlackBerry users have drawbacks
to both. The two-way sync issue annoys users to no end, and the lack of a
viable browser has plagued the BlackBerry for years until they released
their latest model. The conclusion is for the reader to draw, but it’s hard
to think of this as anything other than Google’s bet against BlackBerry.
From a purely user-based standpoint, the BlackBerry app is much more needed
than the iPhone one.

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  • Studio

    The Gmail application is a lot faster than the included mail app except it doesn’t have full notification integration.