New Gmail Mobile App Works on T-Mobile MDA
When I first heard about the new Gmail Mobile app for mobile phones, I kind of ignored the news because a) I could just surf to the Gmail page with my MDA and get the mobile HTML version already, and b) I thought that since the app was a Java app meant for “dumb” phones, it wouldn’t work with Windows Mobile 5. Well, I saw a few more articles about it and read a couple mentions that it would indeed work on the T-Mobile MDA, using the provided “Midlet Manager”, whatever that was.
So I went to the page with my MDA to download the app, and nothing happened. I couldn’t find any programs on my phone that would open the file that downloaded to my device. What was up? After a bit of searching, I found out that I’d need to download some kind of Java VM to run this Gmail app. What about the review that said it would work with software already on the MDA?? More searching gave me the answer: with the latest ROM update that T-Mobile provided (2.26, IIRC), they dropped the Midlet Manager. Luckily, I found a thread on the XDA Developers’ Forum that provided a download link for the Midlet Manager. However, it seems that for some people checking the thread, the FTP link didn’t work, so someone else provided a link here. I just downloaded from the mirror link to save myself some hassle, but it’s possible the FTP link on the forum was fixed. All you have to do is save the CAB file anywhere and install it. It will automatically install to your device memory, not the storage card. It can be uninstalled (supposedly) if you don’t want it anymore.
Midlet Manager splash screen:
Anyway, after I finally got the Midlet Manager working, and installed the Gmail Mobile client, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it looked and how well it translated to a mobile device.
Gmail Mobile inbox:
Instead of providing a next button at the bottom of the page to load the next set of messages, you just press down on the d-pad once you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page, and the app will load the next few messages in your inbox. This reminded me of how Google Reader works when you are browsing a feed. Once you’ve scrolled all the way to the end of the current 20 items in the list, Reader loads up the next 20 items accessible in the feed. Pretty nice, clean way of handling it.
The app doesn’t fill the screen when rotated to landscape…oh well.
The app is relatively snappy, from what I remember. I don’t have my device overclocked or anything. I was expecting it to be sluggish, given it is a Java app, and that it wasn’t really meant to run on a Windows Mobile device, but it ran surprisingly well. YMMV.
Compared to the very bare-bones HTML version of Gmail for mobile browsers, this Gmail app has a lot of features that the regular desktop-browser version has:
It even shows message threads (actual e-mail content cloned out in the screen cap 🙂 ).
When you click on the number of messages in the thread, just like on the desktop Gmail page, the previous messages that were hidden show up:
And you can click on each one individually to expand or hide the message text:
Understandably, the mobile app doesn’t support pictures or HTML message formatting, so it’s barebones in that respect. But the threading and inbox navigation works so well as it is, that I don’t mind that the pictures don’t load. I think that would really bog things down anyway. If I need to, I can just surf up the HTML Gmail. Supposedly this mobile app handles attachments well, but I haven’t had a chance to test it.
I haven’t tried composing an e-mail or searching my messages (which I heard worked well), but I’ll try to post a follow up after I’ve been able to use the Gmail app more. So far I am impressed at the mobile translation of Gmail. Now if only they’d do something similar for Google Reader (my current favorite RSS reader)! 🙂 Kudos to Google for this nice app.