updated 12:40 pm EDT, Wed November 2, 2011
Gmail for iOS quickly made real
A rumor was quickly confirmed on Wednesday after Google posted an iOS-native Gmail app (free, App Store). The title is universal for both the iPhone and iPad and is intended to give a level of speed that isn't normally available through iOS itself: new messages are flagged in real-time through push notifications without having to use Exchange. It also brings expected specific features such as Priority Inbox, labeling, starring, and spam flags.
Searches through the entire inbox also take just "seconds," Google said.
Along with a native interface influenced by Google's 2011 web redesign, it also brings features that aren't always practical in the HTML5 app. An iOS-favorite pull-to-refresh makes it easier to check for new mail. Users also just have to swipe to get to the labels without losing position. Photo attachments now have a more intuitive, native uploader, and it's possible to open attachments.
The title requires at least iOS 4 and is available in most countries.
Adding a full Gmail app helps close one of the gaps between Android and iOS users. While Android has always had the full feature set of Gmail and often uses this as a selling point, iOS has usually relegated Gmail to the same treatment as a generic account outside of the real-time Exchange workaround. With iOS 5, most though not all of the Android Gmail experience can be recreated, although Apple's OS limits won't let it download messages to a third-party app in the background, just signal that they're waiting.