What's the Best Way to Access Gmail on an iPhone?

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Google finally (finally!) released a native iOS app for Gmail today. Now, millions of iPhone users are debating whether to switch from however they were checking their mail to the new app. Let's review the options.

  • Many people simply ran Gmail into Apple's email client. This works well enough, but you lose some of Gmail's special features. For example, the handling of Gmail's "Important" messages leaves a lot to be desired. And, of course, Apple's native app still doesn't let you attach images from within the email writing pane.
  • Others used the Gmail web client, which retained many of the desktop web's features, but somehow never felt polished. The lack of true offline compatibility is also annoying to anyone who takes the subway.
  • There are some third-party apps, but none seems to have conquered the market. 
  • Now, the new official Gmail app.

I see the new Gmail app as a mild improvement over both the native Apple client and the Gmail web app. It's not going to blow your mind, but the switching costs are pretty low, too. You can use it for a while and then switch back if you find tics that annoy you. For me, the ability to attach images to in-progress emails combined with the passable UI mean that it'll probably become my default, even given all its flaws.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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