Gmail 2.0 For iOS: It Doesn't Suck Anymore

Gmail for iPhone and iPad reached version 2.0 Tuesday, and it's finally good enough for prime time. Gmail on iOS was a very bad app at the beginning, missing features that even the mobile Web version had. But now, in addition to a light and clean redesign, it has multiple-account support, auto-complete in search, RSVP to Google Calendar invites and more.

I would describe the Gmail experience through Apple's built-in Mail appsas basically OK-ish - most of the time. Gmail users on hte Web have gotten used to some important features, though, like labels and filters, that Apple's Mail app doesn't have. For a while, the official Gmail app was awful, so a third-party app called Sparrow was the best native Gmail experience. Then Google bought Sparrow in July. The major Gmail update today is the first since that deal.

Version 2.0 adds profile pictures to messages, which is a nice touch reminiscent of Sparrow. That app used Facebook accounts to pull in profile pics, which Gmail doesn't do, obviously. But the new Gmail update does add more social features from Google+. In addition to the profile pictures, you can also +1 and comment on Google+ posts.

Back when Google bought Sparrow that seemed like it would be the plan. The Sparrow team built interactions that added personality from social networks to the email experience. Google now has the means to build that in-house. The dedicated Google+ app for iOS is not much of a draw, but Gmail is the ideal place for Google to start drawing iOS users into its social layer.

Good Enough To Switch?

I really want to. I want to use this app all the time. But email is a service that's integrated through the system. Other apps interact with it, and search on the device looks through it. I want to have the most recent version of my email on my devices all the time, accessible by any app. For that reason, I'm afraid I have to keep using Apple Mail. But it's good to have the Gmail app on board in case I need to do any labels or mark things as spam on the server side.

Gmail for iOS is available now from the App Store.

Google also updated Gmail for Android on Monday, improving the visual presentation for messages and photos. That's available for devices with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and up on Google Play.