On the device side, however, I found the Google-powered experience to be a familiar one on a BlackBerry. I could use the device's native e-mail, calendar and contact applications for most things.
Synchronization of actions between the device and Google cloud happens in a timely fashion in most cases. When reading an e-mail on the BlackBerry device, the same e-mail would be marked read on the Gmail Web interface right away. Also, I found that I could archive or "star" an e-mail on the device by simply moving it to the corresponding folder. Google also claims that the Connector will synchronize labels from Gmail, although I could not find any evidence that this works at this time.
Users will likely find they still may need the Gmail Mobile App on their device for some functionality. For instance, the BlackBerry device maintains only a few days of e-mails (depending on configuration). Gmail and Google Apps users may be well accustomed to being able to search quickly through gigabytes and months of collected communications. These users will need to rely on Google's client application for that kind of activity.
Contact synchronization occurs bi-directionally. Updates made on-device replicate immediately to the cloud and can include all contact details plus any configured contact photos attached to an entry. In addition to the users' own contact lists, administrators can create a Global Address List for a list of contacts common to everyone in the e-mail domain.
Calendar integration with Gmail services is a little less robust, offering only one-way synchronization from the Web calendar to the device. Therefore, while users can input calendar entries on their devices, these updates will not synchronize back to Google Calendar.
Raju Gulabani, director of product management for Google Apps, said the company's research showed that the majority of users use the device calendar in this way, so read-only access is acceptable. To my ears, however, it sounds more like two-way calendar sync simply wasn't ready in time for Google's desired launch date. Indeed, Gulabani said that two-way calendar sync should be added as an enhancement down the road.
In tests, I found calendar and contact synchronizations do not get pushed to the device like e-mail does, but instead they piggyback with push mail. According to Google representatives, the "presence of an e-mail is an indication that the user wants to be notified of the calendar changes. If no e-mail is present, we wait for next scheduled sync to save on battery life."