Google announced a new and improved Gmail web site specifically for mobile browsers that supports the latest Web standards, namely the iPhone, iPod Touch and Android platforms. Speed and responsiveness are improved, especially in bad or non-existent network situations. Thanks to aggressive caching, opening recently read messages and composing new email will still work fine.

iPhone and iPod Touch devices have to be upgraded to firmware version 2.2.1 to get the new code, but all Android phones will benefit immediately. The service leverages such technologies as HTML5 and Gears to work its magic.

The experience of using Gmail on these mobile platforms is now much closer to using the actual web site than before. Multiple messages can be selected out-of-order and operated upon immediately, using a floaty action bar. Use of the limited screen real-estate has been optimized, making the stars and labels on messages more prominent. Search and new email icons are now conveniently at the top of the message list as well.

After using the new site briefly, I can confidently say if I had to use a web-based Email application, this would be the one, for two big reasons: Caching and Search:

  • Caching: Since it leverages the Gears-like ability to cash anything that's been touched, and all the screens for creating a new email, it works great even when wireless or cellular signals are not available. Once you are back in range, everything is synchronized without any more effort.
  • Search: Google has always leveraged search as a big differentiator for Gmail, and now that power is easily accessable in the mobile site as well. One click to an icon gets you in to the search interface and finding that particular email quickly an easily. Search is also used when composing an email, letting you quickly find people by any part of their name or email address,then letting you select who you want to add out-of-order.

I will admit, I don't have an Android phone so I don't know how the new Gmail website stacks up against the native mail client. For those of you with Android phones, how is it working for you? Would you say it is better or worse than what's built-in?