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Google released Gmail 2.0 for iPad and iPhone this week. The new version comes with a redesigned user interface -- closer to Google's Plus app -- and a few other minor features. I use Apple's iOS Mail program and wanted to find out first hand if it was time to switch to Gmail 2.0. I tested the app out on an iPhone and an iPad.
As we all know, Apple sets high standards for the user experience. Because Mail comes free with iOS, any alternatives have to offer a compelling reason to switch. Gmail 2.0 succeeds on both iPad and iPhone, sort of. The new design is elegant. It looks and feels a lot like Apple Mail with a few minor but noticeable differences. For example, Gmail includes much larger buttons for actions such as reply and forward. I loved that. Profile images are another feature that sets it apart from Mail. I'm not sure where the images come from -- Google Plus is one obvious source -- and anyone Gmail can't find an image for gets the first letter of his first name in white, on a green background.
I expected Gmail's search to be good, coming from a world-renowned search company. I was not disappointed. If there was ever a compelling reason for me to switch from Apple's Mail, Gmail search would be it. Mail gives me nothing but problems when I search for old emails -- and I have thousands of old emails. Not so with Gmail 2.0. I found everything quickly and easily.
In the blog post announcing the new version, Google pointed out a few new features such as multiple accounts, and Google Calendar integration. I don't see the big deal. In my mind multiple accounts and calendar invitations brings the app up-to-speed with the competition.
That's how I see the new app overall: Elegant new design, and a bunch of features that bring it up-to-date with its peers.
Name: Gmail 2.0
If Gmail is your go-to email service, then download the new version immediately. Gmail 2.0's elegant new interface rivals Apple Mail's. And although features like multiple accounts and meeting invitations aren't ground-breaking, it's good to finally have them. Best reason to leave Apple Mail for Gmail: Searching for emails is a lot easier.Price: Free
Next Page: GMail 2.0 Scribble
Scribble is a new addition to Gmail, although I'm not sure what it's for yet. I've never wanted to draw on my iPad before, and it was really hard to draw anything sensible on my iPhone. It might be useful for simple electronic signatures, but there are more professional ways to add electronic signatures.
Next Page: Searching in GMail 2.0
My favorite part of Gmail 2.0 is how easy it makes searching. Google's strength as a search giant comes through here as I was able to find just about any email I was able to think of. It's straightforward, intuitive, and offers the same sort of live results and suggestions as Google's Web search. It beats iOS Mail's search hands down.
Next Page: The GMail 2.0 Interface
The iPhone screen is tiny compared with the iPad's, so this necessarily makes GMail on the iPhone harder to use. For example, it's impossible to look at folders and messages at the same time when holding the phone vertically. To see them both, the phone has to be horizontal. But on an iPad it looks amazing. After switching back to iOS Mail after using Gmail 2.0 for only a few minutes I missed certain parts of Gmail 2.0 already.
Next Page: Multiple Accounts in GMail 2.0
The new version supports multiple Gmail accounts. Some people might find that useful, but I've got all of my various email addresses -- I've got six or seven at this point -- forwarding to one spot, in iOS Mail. iOS does not support multiple accounts, however, so I could see this feature being useful if more than one person uses the same device. Then again, I would get notified about other people's emails.
Next Page: Calendar Invitations
Google's made a big deal of this feature on its blog. Coming from Apple's Mail, where invitations are integrated already in much the same way, it feels more like Gmail is catching up to the competition than bypassing it.
Next Page: The Mute Button
Here's a curious little guy, and one feature Google didn't talk about: mute. When viewing an email, clicking the "more" button in the top right of the screen reveals several options, mute among them. Mute, basically, stops showing a certain thread in the inbox without adding the sender(s) to the spam filter list. The help page Google provides makes it look like mute is available for Gmail on the Web, too, but I couldn't find it.