Google unleashed a new version of its mobile Gmail app in the Android Market on Tuesday, and said its mobile Gmail updates will no longer be tied to Android updates. The goal, Google said, is to enable smartphone users to receive the latest Gmail enhancements without having to wait for system updates to hit their phones.
The latest app improvements include enhancements that streamline Gmail replies. As users scroll through a conversation, their most important message actions "will now stick to the top of the screen -- one click away -- no matter how long the e-mail is," noted Gmail for Android team members Simon Arscott and Paul Westbrook.
If users can't remember what prompted the most recent e-mail in a thread, they can now "view previous message content more easily -- just like in the desktop version of Gmail," Arscott and Westbrook wrote in a blog. "Tap 'Show quoted text' to reveal the previous message."
Minimizing Inbox Clutter
Designed for smartphones powered by Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, the software update integrates limited support for Priority Inbox -- an experimental way of taking on information overload in Gmail that Google introduced for desktop PCs last month. With Priority Inbox, Google has found a way to minimize the inbox clutter caused by mail that isn't outright junk but isn't very important, noted Google software engineer Doug Aberdeen.
Google has evolved Gmail's filter to help separate the wheat from the chaff by splitting the user's inbox into three sections labeled 'important and unread,' 'starred' and 'everything else,' Aberdeen wrote in a blog. "In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules," he explained.
Android handset users now have access to the same Google technology for desktop PCs, which is still in beta. "If you've enabled Priority Inbox via the desktop version of Gmail, you'll see an 'important' label that shows all messages flagged," Arscott and Westbrook wrote. "You can even add a shortcut to 'important' to your home screen."
Improving Filter Performance
Gmail will automatically flag some incoming messages as important, based on whether the incoming message is from a person whom the user communicates with regularly as well as a type of message that that user normally opens and replies to. "And as you use Gmail, it will get better at categorizing messages for you," Aberdeen wrote.
Moreover, users can improve the app's automatic flagging performance by clicking on buttons at the top of the inbox to correctly mark a conversation as either important or not important, Aberdeen noted. "You can even set up filters to always mark certain things important or unimportant, or rearrange and customize the three inbox sections," he wrote.
Google also updated its mobile app for the BlackBerry platform Friday to enable users to search for items in their Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Docs files, which are stored in the cloud. Start Google Mobile App and initiate a one-time log-in to your Google account, and then either type or speak the search words to find what you are looking for, wrote Google software engineer Luis Sigal. BlackBerry users also will be able to launch web-based apps such as Google Docs or Reader, he noted in a blog.
Additionally, the latest version of Google Mobile App for Apple's iPhone -- which launched at Apple's Apps Store last month -- now pushes notifications about e-mail and calendar updates to the user's home screen. "To ensure you get alerts, go to the Settings > Google Accounts panel inside Google Mobile App and switch on the notifications you'd like to receive," wrote Google Engineering Manager David Singleton in a blog last month.