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Thoughts on the New Gmail for Android

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Well, now that it’s rolling out to everyone are you fans of the new Gmail for Android? The app itself is a mix of new and old, in terms of functionality and looks. Gone is the bottom action bar, in is a new top action bar. The pulldown menu for switching accounts or accessing different labels or inboxes is gone, in is a new slideout side navigation drawer. There are massive colored icons for contacts that default to big letters if you don’t have the sender as a contact, account switching has changed slightly, and you may need to tell Gmail to show either Archive or Delete buttons depending on your preference. It’s a pretty big change, while not being that big of a change – if that makes sense. 

After spending the past few days with the new layout, I can say this – it’s a welcomed update, but there are tweaks that I’d love to see happen soon.

First, the slideout navigation drawer is essentially the previous dropdown menu moved to the side. That’s both a good and bad thing. On a good note, it’s much easier to access with one hand since you can swipe from the edge of your device to reveal it and not have to stretch to reach the top corner. It also shows your recently used labels, which came in handy over the weekend as I traveled and use a “Travel” label quite often. On a negative note, the top half of the drawer is dominated by my five different email accounts. While I hate to continue to compare this to the iOS version, at least the iOS version hides your other accounts in separate drop down in the navigation drawer. So when you swipe over on iOS, you get to see your current account along with all of the labels and inboxes under that account. If you you want to switch accounts, you can tap a down arrow, which opens up a tab with your various accounts.

I would love, love, love to be able to hide my other accounts unless needing to access them at the moment.

gmail ios

The Gmail inbox after the update now includes big, square contact cards next to each email received. On one hand, this adds some much needed color to a pretty boringly grey app, but on the other, one could argue that these massive icons take up useful space on small screens. Couple the space hogging with the fact that these icons revert to giant colored squares with the first letter of the sender’s name centered should you not have them in your contacts, and you get a confusing and unnecessary experience. Sure, the contact icon idea works in principle, assuming you have every single person that emails you in your contacts, but the likelihood of that being the case is probably pretty low. For me, I’m left with an entire inbox full of colored letters. Thankfully, you can turn them off if you want. Actually, it would be nice to have it show icons for those in your contacts, and either default to an image of your choosing or hide completely if the sender isn’t one of your contacts.

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With the new update, the bottom action bar has now been moved up to the top. I’m sure this was done to create a more consistent experience across devices (like tablets) and to meet Android design guidelines, but you are now forced to reach up to the top of your phone to delete, archive, make an email unread, etc. This may be a personal preference, but I much prefer the action bar on the bottom of apps like Gmail, where you are constantly needing to access action bar buttons. Phones are only getting bigger, causing one-handed use to become a dinosaur.

Last, we need more control over almost all of the stuff that Google tweaked in this app. For example, the “Labels” button is now gone when you are in an email or the main inbox. Google decided that you probably like using Folders the “Move To” button over labels, so they hid the “Labels” button in the action overflow and replaced it. That sucks for someone like me who has never used the Folders “Move To” button in his life. I should be able to customize the action bar buttons or at least choose Labels over Folders “Move To.”

Edit:  So clearly I’ve never actually touched the icon that looks like a folder because there was always an icon next to or in its place that was for moving things to Labels. It’s now obvious that you can just tap the folder icon and “move to” specific Labels, but someone explain the point in having both Move To and Labels buttons (like in the web Gmail)? That’s just confusing in and of itself. Plus, if you hit the action overflow button, there is an option to “Change Labels.” Either way, this is another change that was made that we should be allowed to control.

And on that note, your Delete or Archive buttons need to be tweaked in the general settings. Depending on the setting you left off from in the old Gmail, there is a chance that you will see only a Delete or Archive button, not both. You can tell it to show both though, the option just has to be manually set.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that you can pull-to-refresh now, which is awesome.

Again, overall I like what was introduced with the new Gmail app as a general theme, but there are definitely some changes I would like to see.

Your thoughts?

  • Tenley Baldwin

    I miss the checkboxes in the inbox to select mail. I find that often when trying to select messages, tap & hold doesn’t work and it ends up opening the message instead. Very annoying!

  • john4321

    wtf… really? i just updated it and have no idea how to even get my most recent mail. Who updates an app and makes it harder to use….

  • Chuck

    Frustrated w/Gmail on Galaxy S3! Can anyone help me with the following gmail quirks 1. Swipe. I spend more time backspacing and deleting because it’s not-intuitive (learning my word patterns) so the first word choice it suggests (and ends up in email) is inevitably wrong (ie: i use the word “call” a lot and it always populates “ball”; I use “I’d” and it always populates with “IKEA”).
    2. Random capitalization in middle of words??

    Any other suggestions are welcome as I’m about ready to go to new BB as I find the typing on soft keys (in either rotation) to be cumbersome especially with a case, I have an Otter Box

  • daniel

    I just cant understand why they would remove the boxes to the left to check to delete AND remove the trash bin icon!!!!!! Its much more annoying now to delete messages

  • JimBob

    I installed Hangouts+ in early May, I think Gmail app changed after that. I hated Hangouts+, so I uninstalled it and got Talk back on my Galaxy Nexus. I always had my Talk conversations saved automatically in my Gmail Chat label. They are still being saved there on my PC version of Gmail, but they are not appearing (as if they are not saved) on my Android Gmail app. There haven’t been any new Talk conversations placed in my Android Chat folder since May 6 (which may be around the time that I tried Hangouts+.) Moreover, when I go to Settings > ????.gmail.com > Manage labels, the Chat label doesn’t even show up in the list of labels. When I go to the pull-down menu to look at my labels, Chat appears in the Recent Labels and All Labels lists, but again, it is never updated with new Talk messages. Yet, things are just fine on the web version, and the Talk messages are, indeed, being saved in that Chat label. Any ideas? Thanks.

    • JimBob

      I just verified the same behavior on my Xoom tablet, on which, I did not install Hangouts. Therefore, I think this is a Gmail issue, and it has not been fixed in the newest release. Simply put, the Chat label is not recognized under the “Manage Labels” options in Settings, nor is the Chat label synced with Google Talk. Anybody else experiencing this problem with Android Gmail? Thanks.

      • JJean

        Yes, I have the same problem. The chats have not synced on my phone since May 17, also around the same time I installed Hangouts, and the chat label isn’t recognized in the sync settings. Anyone found a fix yet?

  • Marge Dean

    This is horrible in many ways. But the elimination of some way to select multiple message for delete is truly user-hostile. What the heck? There are plenty of times when I want to delete an email without opening it, but this is now impossible — first you must select and display the email, and then (assuming you have figured out how to get the delete option back, and that can take several frustrating minutes) only then can you delete it. The entire user-hostile interface now takes multiple clicks for things that previously could be done in one touch, or in a slide touch. This was clearly untested. Typical case of programmers doing things because they can, not because they should or because users will benefit.

  • AMorphew

    Not a fan of the GMail app update. It adds nothing of value to the experience.

    You mentioned the presence of both the “Move” and “Change Labels” buttons – I use both frequently in GMail through my browser. “Move” applies a single label and archives, while “Change Labels” lets me apply multiple labels and then choose whether or not to remove the message from the Inbox.

  • KT Pierce

    It looks HIDEOUS. There used to be little boxes that you could place little checkmarks in and delete multiple emails at once. The new look/layout is extremely inconvenient. I can’t even tell which emails are “read” or “unread”. It’s extremely frustrating and I don’t know how to change the look or use a different program to read email because every time I try to input all the POP info, it says “authentication failed” even though I input my username and password perfectly. Nothing seems to work. I don’t know how I’ll be able to check my email anymore. Being forced to switch to Yahoo makes me feel sick, but I don’t really have a choice. :(

  • Rohit Rajan

    Can anyone tell me how i can download .zip attachment in the gmail app?

  • NOName

    Has anyone experienced problems with Google Calender sync?

    • NOName

      I enter on my SIII and it does not update the desktop version. I looking in >settings and the following message is there… says for the Sync Calender in >Sync Settings the following message: “Sync is currently experiencing problems. It will be back shortly.

  • Jay20

    why can I still not send word documents?

  • John

    I personally, loathe the new version. Why do these companies always need to break things that are not broken just to show they are making progress but in reality they are going backwards? Please go back to what you had. Also Google please stop forcing people to be on Google+. There are many people who do not care about social media and want nothing to do with it.

  • DannyGE

    I have always wondered why it can’t just be an email app that can handle all email accounts in one place instead of one for GMail and another for all other email accounts, since many people do have other accounts elsewhere as well. I know it’s possible to use POP and IMAP to get GMail in other apps, but why not have a native GMail app that can also handle POP, IMAP and Exchange, so we don’t have to switch apps to access all our email? One interface for all email.

    Separately, on a phone I think the new interface is OK, although I turned off the big letters right away, but on my Nexus 7 I liked having the list of accounts and labels always visible on the side. It would be great if tablets had the ability to dock that as constantly visible. Otherwise it seems like it has gone from a nice tablet app to a phone app that is also used for tablets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KryptoTheSuperDuperDog Krypto Thesuperdog

    awful update, the delete is now buried and the useless icons take up so much more space. just go to app info, and delete updates to return things to the way they were: splendid.

  • BOBBY FINCH

    I don’t like the new colored squares that replaced the box to check if you wanted more than one gmail deleted. Can this be replaced with the old “check to delete” box? Now if you have multiple gmails to be deleted, you have to open each one ti delete…this is ridiculous. Thank God I deleted over 3 thousand emails before this was changed. If this format is going to stay like this, I will have no choice but to go back to AOL and will not recommend gmail to my friends.
    A very disatisfied customer…….
    Bobby Finch. [email protected]

  • lesserlesserwashington

    Can we please get rid of labels and go straight to having folders. Gmail is the worst email in terms of organization and design.

  • Aaron

    Hi there, is anyone else experiencing this where if you get a new email in your Gmail that a notification isn’t always routinely showing up. I checked and unchecked the Gmail notification setting in Settings, but that didn’t help. Any ideas?

    • Aaron

      Nevermind looks like someone already had this and solved the issue. Thanks

  • gbertoli

    How about a choice of a dark theme instead of the bright white….really annoying at night. Matter of fact, all Google apps should have that choice built-in.

  • Johnz

    They took away the select radio buttons next to each message so I could select a bunch of spam and delete all at once. Now I can see a photo there which is cool but give me the option buttons to do multiple selects!!!1

    • Johnz

      Never mind. I see the new feature to just tap messages.

  • ustamills

    The big letter icons are too goofy to take seriously. On a phone screen why the heck would you want to chew up that much real estate? They yell “PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!” and then don’t do anything useful. I hope I find on option soon to kill-em-like-clippy.

  • scubasteve

    Anyone else getting separate email notification icons for emails in different categories? I’ll come back to my phone after a while and see 4 or 5 gmail icons in my tray. Annoying.

  • Kristi

    Thank you for the how-to to get rid of those pointless sender image icons!

  • viewthis66

    what about the “icon for labels” within a message. that’s gone or can i get that back through settings?

    • viewthis66

      Never mind… The folder icon controls the labels …

      • Hounddog

        Can’t see this – where’s the “folder icon”?

        • viewthis66

          when you click on an email to view it, it’s at the top right… also, i found a nifty trick to change labels while viewing the email, simply tap the label itself and the list of labels appears for you to make your changes.

  • viewthis66

    swipe to delete is gone? only swipe to archive? please tell me wrong and how to change that setting. thanks in advance.

    • Raven

      Settings -> General settings -> Swipe to delete

      • viewthis66

        i know why i didn’t see it… in settings i had “Archive and Delete Actions” set as Archive and Delete. I changed it to Delete only. thanks!

  • Raven

    I generally like the new layout except that I feel they are wasting too much real estate with white space padding in between things like the avatar icons and messages in the list. It may be fine a Note 2 or something, but on my 4″ screen it seems like a lot of wasted space.

  • haproot

    I miss being able to “check” several messages and delete. Now I have to long press to select multiple messages and it seems so much more clunky to me…

    • Raven

      Just tap on the new avatar icon to select multiple emails.

  • Daniel

    I agree that they need to have an option to move the action bar to the BOTTOM where my hands are and where it’s easiest to reach those functions pretty much always.

  • DG

    I want to be able to quickly delete emails like I did before. Now it’s several steps. I don’t like the update!!

  • Phil Hyde

    I really wish the swipe action on the main listing could be customized. Swipe left for archive, or right for delete.

  • Ken

    Don’t like it.

  • huffimus_prime

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask about this after everyone’s had a month or so to get used to the changes? I mean, people are frightened by change. Obviously most of the responses will be negative.

  • sr_erick

    I like the update. It’s a nice visual refresh and works well.

  • Todd

    I would prefer the menu action bar to be on the bottom. Not a fan of it being on the top OR not being able to move it.

    Other than that, I removed those wonderful sender images and things are ok now.

  • Angry User

    Worst Change Ever. Furious at google for making this change. Can no longer select multiple messages and delete. Forcing usage of archive is evil. Looking for new mail service now. Thinking of throwing out my android device.

    • sr_erick

      Yes you can. Update your settings to add the delete icon back. Tap on a message (or multiple) to select. It isn’t rocket science, just explore a little.

      • kigo

        But I lose that function to select multiple email (bulk select) when I turn off the big obnoxious icons.

        • sr_erick

          No you don’t. Tap and hold (long press) on the first message you want to select and then once it’s selected, proceed to selecting any other messages along with it that you’d like. Again, explore. This is Android, there’s always a way to do something although it may not be completely obvious at first.

    • faganm24

      There aren’t checkboxes anymore, however if you select the icon or contact image it serves the same function and selects the message while allowing you to select multiple emails. Does that answer your question?

    • Phil Hyde

      Wrong. You need to first re-enable the Delete icon. Then you can long-press a message, which enables the selection mode. Choose several, then Delete. Voila.