What's the most heavily used application on your mobile phone? Is it search? Maybe it's YouTube or some cool game you can't keep from playing. For some, it's Gmail, for work and play.
Google's mobile team today took big steps to improve the speed and performance of Gmail on the RIM BlackBerry and any phone whose operating system is Java ME (Java Platform, Micro Edition). Go to m.google.com/mail in your mobile browser to download Gmail for Mobile 2.0, as the refresh is called.
Derek Phillips, software engineer for Google's mobile team, wrote in a blog post today, Oct. 23, that Google reworked Gmail to "push all the processing to the background, greatly improve the client-side caching scheme and optimize every bottleneck piece of code we came across."
Sounds like a lot of work, but if these bullet points are true, it was worth it for users, who may now access the application in over 35 languages.
Gmail for Mobile 2.0 also includes greater raw speed and faster scrolling. Google claims Gmail won't freeze, which should please people tired of seeing their Gmail windows lock up.
Key to the new application is basic offline support, allowing users to compose and read their most recent e-mails even when there is no cellular coverage in the area.
Outgoing messages will be saved in the phone's outbox and sent automatically when the phone regains access. In addition, 2.0 allows for multiple mobile e-mail drafts. Compose e-mails, click "finish later" and send the e-mails at your leisure when access is restored. What's great is that when you regain coverage, Gmail for Mobile 2.0 pushes the e-mails you've composed into the background. This means Gmail lets you move on to other activities without performance degradation from a backed up e-mail stream.
Users with both a Gmail and a Google Apps e-mail account can sign into them at the same time, so you can switch between them without having to use two different mobile apps for personal and work e-mail.
The new application also allows QWERTY phone users to use shortcut keys. Users may hit z to undo, z to go to a newer conversation and j to go to an older conversation, among other shortcuts.
The importance of such improvements can't be understated. Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, Nokia and Palm are all jousting to provide the best user experience on mobile devices.
Vendors that can create the fastest, most reliable and most efficient Web services for productivity applications will get a leg up with consumers and businesses as well.
While text messaging is clearly used with greater frequency than e-mail clients by the majority of mobile phone users, there is a segment of the user population that relies on Gmail for use on their smart phones.
That includes most of the over 20,000 employees at Google who use Gmail as their work e-mail client, and plenty of other Gmail lovers on the go.