Google Sept. 21 upgraded Gmail for Android, decoupling the application from the operating system for future Android releases and adding limited support for its new Gmail Priority Inbox feature.
The Gmail for Android team said in a blog post the update will be available only for smartphones and tablets running Android 2.2.
That includes the Google Nexus One, Sprint HTC EVO, as well as the Droid line from Verizon Wireless. That covers the Motorola Droid, Motorola Droid 2, HTC Droid Incredible and, beginning today, the Motorola Droid X.
Gmail updates will no longer be tied to new Android releases, an effort to separate the app from the mobile OS.
The benefit of this? Efficiency, said Google, enabling users to “get new Gmail stuff faster without having to wait for system updates.”
Google’s speedy Android rollout makes it hard for phone carriers to keep up with new OS builds.
By untethering its apps from the OS, Google can facilitate upgrades to the apps through the Android Market, enabling users to enjoy them immediately, similar to the desktop model.
Google recognized this issue early on and had talked about decoupling apps from the OS and making them available for download and upgrade from Android Market back in March.
Google I/O came and went in May and, while the company introduced Android 2.2, the company announced nothing along those lines. Decoupling apps from the OS sets up Google well for the Android 3.0 build, geared for tablet computers, this fall.
New Gmail for Android offers new usability perks, which users may see here.
When scrolling through a conversation, Gmail now sticks most important message actions atop the screen. To see a previous message in a long thread, users can tap a new “Show quoted text” button.
Gmail for Android also has some support for Priority Inbox, the inbox management tool Google launched late last month.
Priority Inbox lets users designate some messages as more important than others, a boon at a time when users are feeling the weight of e-mail overload.
Specifically, Gmail users who have enabled Priority Inbox in the desktop version of Gmail will see an “Important” label that shows all messages flagged as important from Gmail on their Android phone.
However, the app won’t yet display sections for “Important and Unread,” “Starred” and “Everything Else.”