Google has provided WAP access to email for the longest time, an apt description seeing as that’s how long it takes to read your email via a WAP based mobile device. But all that has changed thanks to the availability of a brand new Java based version of Gmail for mobile devices which promises less clicks, less scrolling, less keystrokes and much faster access.
Importantly, not only is this a lot faster than the, frankly, pretty ancient WAP service (does anyone actually use WAP anymore unless they are forced to at gunpoint?) but also a lot faster than accessing Gmail via the phone’s web browser. This is courtesy of some clever technology such as the ability to prefetch the first couple of handful of messages so your inbox is pre-populated and ready for instant access. Of course, this does increase the bandwidth you are using, and with most folk paying for their data plans on a per Mb basis rather than all you can eat, there are cost implications. Thankfully, then, you will be pleased to know that you can sacrifice the convenience for cost savings by switching the pre-fetch feature off.
Best of all though, in my opinion, is the striking similarity to the Gmail interface you are used to already. This means there is no great learning curve, the blight of most mobile versions of well known applications it seems to me, and you can literally just pick up your phone, pick up your mail, and go. The do it quicker concept has been drilled into every aspect of the application, which is really great to see. So, for example, whereas the old Java client was a bit of a functionality disaster, taking more than 10 clicks just to archive a message, the new one will do it in a couple. At last you get the ability to search your mail from your mobile as well, and there is even decent attachment support. It seems like Google has finally caught up with handset hardware technology and delivered what the public wants.
It’s obvious that Google has BlackBerry in its targets with the release of this free and easy to use application, but to be honest in terms of functionality and ease of use the CrackBerry addicts can rest easy. Gmail mobile has a long way to go before it can threaten that particular market. It’s much more likely to attract folks who are currently using Hotmail or Yahoo Mail services, and want the advantage of true mail anywhere accessibility.
Compatible with a claimed 300 different Java-enabled mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs, the applet is due to start shipping already installed on handsets from the likes of Cingular and T-Mobile in time for the Christmas rush. Or you can download it to your mobile direct from gmail.com/app
For those who can wait a little longer for their mobile gratification, it looks like Google owned YouTube is also making the move to mobile phones. Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube, was speaking at the OgilvyOne Digital Summit advertising conference this week and let slip that ‘within the next year’ he hopes to ‘have something on a mobile device.’ This being an altogether different prospect from the YouTube To Go service launched six months back which lets you upload clips from your mobile phone to the website. Doing it the other way around sounds like much more fun, unless you are a happy slapper of course.