Nov 9, 2006

Gmail client on Java mobile

Google released its mobile client for Gmail sometime back, but I never actually got around to testing it until now. After having used Gmail & Yahoo Mail on my mobile browser (Opera), I had quit the service as the data transfer charges were getting out of hand. This client does help out a lot in that regard and much more.


The installation of the software was pretty simple. Type in the download URL ( in your mobile browser and you can dowload the client and have it installed on your phone under a minute. There is hardly any setting or configuration changes required, and you can use it out of the box. You will need to have Java support on your phone for the client to work. Most modern phones support Java, so that isn't really a problem. (Installation on my Nokia N70 was very easy and totally trouble-free.)


Once the program is launched, you are prompted to enter your Gmail username and password to sign in. A fairly redundant warning appears saying the program will use the network to send and receive data. Once confirmed, your Gmail inbox loads almost instantly. You can select messages and read them as conversations, in true Gmail style. I have not found that feature useful enough to cheer about, but some of my friends are crazy about it.

What is really interesting about this tiny app is that it can provide you almost all Gmail features, as if you were using it on a PC. Major functions are available through the numeric keypad, and also through a menu if your prefer that instead. Besides standard email functions like reply and forward, you can also archive, mark as read or unread, report as spam or delete.

Google claims that this client is faster because it has built-in prefetch feature, which automatically loads links in background while you are still reading the first message. Preloading is not recommended if your phone company charges for every kilobyte downloaded, as you may waste money on messages you never actually read. For a flat rate data plan, it is simply great.

The Settings menu does not offer you much though. You can choose to be signed in always, or turn off the preload messages or use smaller fonts, and that is about it. Another thing the program lacks is a new mail notification feature, which I believe would come in the later versions. Also, you can not compose an email to a new email address, unless you have added it in your contacts list which is not all that great either. For a Version 1.0.0b launch however, I think the program comes off really nice.

Better than Gmail through mobile browser

One major advantage of this application over using Gmail on a mobile browser is that it can limit your data consumption to a great extent. Many phone companies charge for data usage (usually for every Kilobyte downloaded) and over a month, this can add up to a decent amount. By using built-in forms like the login prompt, the app reduces your data consumption, which would have otherwise cost you for every sign-in. The prefetch feature is simply great if your data plan is a flat charge one, as it really speeds up the mail functions many times.

This application should encourage more Gmail users to use the service on their mobile devices, widely considered to be the next phase in computing. I would love to see if Yahoo can come up with something similar, as my experience with Yahoo! Go has been less than satisfying. Considering the two companies are going neck to neck in so many areas, it wouldn't surprise me to see a similar app from Yahoo very shortly. (Read the Google - Yahoo rivalry)