Google Shows Offline GMail Proof-of-Concept for iPhone

We asked what else Google could possibly give iPhone users this month to add to the incredible list of Gmail Tasks, Latitude, Google Books, and Google (Active)Sync, and Google Docs spreadsheet editing, and pretty much everyone said: push Gmail.

Turns out we zigged and Google zagged, because they've whipped up offline Gmail instead.

What's that and what does it mean? Offline WebApps use HTML5 standards and SQLite to keep your data open and available when you have no internet connection (like on most airplanes still). When your connection goes off, the data is kept live on the local machine, and when your connection comes back, it's re-synced back to the cloud.

Okay, so IMAP already does this in MobileMail and other mail clients, fair enough. But Google's IMAP is notoriously strange (and I'll say it -- shoddy), and many people prefer using the web interfaces anyway as it allows for a more consistent experience from device to device (a browser is a browser).

iPhoneBuzz thought offline Gmail looked ready for prime time, but says it's still a proof-of-concept at this stage, and there's no info yet one when Google might release it to the masses.

So, something you need? Something you want? Or should Google devote their Gmail time to push already?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Google Shows Offline GMail Proof-of-Concept for iPhone


Hmm, interesting but push Gmail setup with their new exchange would be pretty sweet. And would show that Google is still good and not as evil yet.
I'm just wondering though, I hear about the strange things Gmail does setup as imap on the iPhone but I never have any problems. Gmail is by far the fastest email on my phone. I have AOL and Gmail setup. With both all I did was enter my user name and password into the iPhone's mail app, which I assume is imap because both behave as imap. Gmail works a lot better than AOL and has never not worked.

Offline gmail in a browser is all well and good, but unfortunately it is pretty useless if I don't have a new mail notifier to tell me to go look for new mail.

Ditto on the need for a new mail notifier. Offline access is great, but without a notifier it fails. I don't have much problem using gmail on with iPhone mail, but would prefer an email client that was more gmail friendly (lets me star and label mail easily etc.)
What would be great is if google built a front end based on licensing, that made their mail service look like an exchange server. Then outlook would work as a client on the desktop (outlook imap is so bad as to make the application unusable for me with gmail). This should improve the experience on iphone as well.
Still, apple needs to implement things like landscape editing and multiple mail signatures.

Good idea but with safari refreshing each i start it not sure if the offline thingy works 100%. I will work with the mail app for now, works fine for me.

Push on iPhone destroys the battery life. I don't know if it's directly related to Microsoft ActiveSync, but when I enabled push for Google Sync, my iPhone, when standby, behaved like some 3D game was running, consuming the battery in a matter of hours...
For push to work, it should be bundled with GSM/UMTS, so the tower would notificate us just like it does with text messages.

@Wesley: I use Google Sync as well and my battery lasts almost 24 hours. Try removing the sync account and re-configure it. See if that helps.

@M. Elwan: I'm using Google Sync with fetch now.
I tried more than removing the account, I've restored my iPhone (I had it running with upgrades since 2.0, so I thought it was a good idea to do a clean start), and still that was happening.
That plus the phone using EDGE almost every minute when on standby (something that makes me mad since I have WiFi always available).
At the moment I disabled push, everything was back to normal.

Offline Gmail is for when you are, well, Off line.
When you are Off Line, a notifier does you no good, because, as you might expect, you are off line.
Notifier and offline are two different things, solving different problems, and lack of one does not make the other useless.
So saying offline gmail is useless because it doesn't notify you is sort of a non sequitur.
I get that you want gmail push. So do I.
But that won't do you any good in an airplane.

"For push to work, it should be bundled with GSM/UMTS, so the tower would notificate us just like it does with text messages."
Don't hold your breath on that. Blackberry has that patented and locked up tight in their MobiText/Datatak network (which they pay carriers to co-locate at most cell sites).
The GSM standard is unable to include this even if they did a standards revision because of these patents as well as those held by NTP on the concept of un-solicited notification of mail arrival.
Further, the arrival of G4 or G5 won't necessarily help, because even if they added mail arrival signaling to the standards, NTP will claim it is an unsolicited email notification.
Active Sync side steps this issue by having the hand held solicit an e-mail check which the server sort of forgets to answer right away. (nudge nudge, wink wink).
I just don't see Apple paying the royalties that NTP wants nor maintaining the infrastructure that RIM has.

Push gmail would be cool I guess, but who really needs their email more often than every 15 minutes? I get email for work all the time but seriously, do you need it instantly? Isn't someone going to call or text you if they need you that badly?

@Wesley notificate?! Really? Well bravo for your 6th grade English teacher. Good point anyway. Too bad the us patent system doesn't always help the progress of good technology. Once we overcome that barrier I will notify you.

I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

I moved to the iPhone from the Palm Pre.... Push gmail on the Pre was sweet. You would make a purchase at Amazon and literally 2 seconds later your phone would chime with the receipt. Sure you don't check it all the time, but you can always turn the notification off or to something subtle if that's your thing. Google really needs to get this going.