INSIDE MOBILE: Why I Hate Mobile E-Mail

There's a lot of functionality that's provided in a smartphone to manage e-mail, but e-mail was created as a desktop application that has been ported over to mobile. Mobile e-mail just doesn't give the same positive user experience yet. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy explains why he hates mobile e-mail.


I have been thinking for quite some time about writing a column on why I hate mobile e-mail. I feel almost like a traitor for suggesting that I-a mobile analyst whose livelihood depends on promoting mobile and wireless technologies and services-would suggest that I have any other feeling than "love" when writing about mobile e-mail.

But, there you go. I've said it. I hate mobile e-mail that's delivered to wireless handheld smartphone devices such as an iPhone or BlackBerry. Here's why.

Why I hate wireless e-mail has to be considered in context. When you get e-mail message delivered to your phone, it's much more difficult to manage. For example, consider the following:

1. You receive an e-mail message asking for an appointment. It's not easy to flip over to the Calendar, see if the date's open, add it to the Calendar, and confirm it back to the person who sent the e-mail message. Some services such as Good Technology and SEVEN try to make the experience at least functional, but it's nowhere as easy as using a desktop application such as Outlook.

2. You get an e-mail message that has a number of attachments (in PDF, PowerPoint, Excel and Word). You might be able to view them, but interacting with them and saving them to your desktop folder on your notebook PC is just about impossible.

3. You receive an e-mail message that requires a thoughtful reply. You simply can't do that kind of response with a wireless handheld device. I've tried it and have spent most of the time managing the spelling, spacing and how it will look on the screen.

4. You typically get most of the e-mail messages that your spam filter eliminates on the desktop. Thus, your wireless system is spending time downloading worthless e-mail messages that consumes unnecessary resources. More wireless e-mail systems need to include spam filters on the server side and ways for the user to indicate not to send messages from specific domains (blacklist).

5. Someone in an e-mail message asks you to look at a Website via an enclosed link. When you go to the Website, there's not a mobile version so it's cumbersome to view and navigate. And, to make matters worse, you sometimes have to look at two to three Web pages next to each other. That's easy to do on a desktop but almost impossible to do on a wireless handheld.

As you can clearly see, managing e-mail on a wireless phone is difficult and, at times, impossible. Often, I just use my BlackBerry to read incoming messages to keep informed and then reply when I get back to my desktop. I suspect that every one of you has thought about or experienced these situations as well.