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Google overhauls the iOS Gmail app for the first time in nearly four years

Gmail on iPhone
Gmail on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

My first smartphone was the iPhone 5. After some frustration, I switched to Android for a bit, and then came back for the iPhone 7. One thing I truly loved about Android was its Google Apps experience. The Gmail app for Android is intuitive, laid out nicely, and ultimately easy and convenient.

Returning to iOS with much of my data tied up in Google Drive, I downloaded the Gmail app and immediately felt cold, alone, and like Bambi watching his mother being shot (OK, that might be a bit dramatic).

The Gmail app for iPhone just wasn't a good time. Until now!

Everyone loves a comeback

OK, the Gmail app never really went anywhere, but my iPhone-using friends with Google accounts weren't using it. That's because it felt stilted and far less intuitive than its native counterpart. I mean, come on — swiping to delete might be its best feature! The lack of features was, to put it lightly, lame.

Remember Space Jam, when all the Looney Tunes get together and "spit shine" that gym until it's gorgeous? That's what Google did in the latest Gmail app update. It's a Google app, on an iPhone, that actually feels like a Google app, and I love it.

Hey, ma, look what I can do!

The latest update doesn't just come with a facelift; the iOS Gmail app has a few new tricks up its sleeve.

SWIPE TO DELETE IS FINALLY HERE!

There's nothing more annoying than having to select emails, one by one, and then tapping to delete, or selecting them all and tapping to delete. Just like in the Mail app, you can now swipe to either archive or delete email (you can change the action in the account's settings within the app).

Search like the wind

Searching was a major pain in the ass before, too. Now you can search much faster, and live search options will populate as you type, so if you're in the mood for productivity, the Gmail app now saves you time when you're looking for old email.

Save face before actually needing to

A collective sigh of relief swept over Googledom when Google introduced the Undo Send feature for desktop. You can now do it in the iOS app, so if you've sent an email riddled with typos, or you accidentally called the boss Mom, you can quickly undo sending the email and no one will know. (I mean, you'll know, and you'll have to live with that for the rest of your life. But no one else will know. Well, Google might. But no one else.)

Google plays nice

Is this a gesture of good faith by Google toward iPhone users? Who knows? Either way, it's a smart move on Google's part, especially if it actually want folks using its apps.

Will this sway anyone at this point? Perhaps not. I set up Outlook a while back and getting into a new email app can be a bit tedious. That being said, the Gmail app recognizes the Google accounts on your iPhone and has them ready to go when you launch the app, so it wouldn't be all that difficult.

I think that the best thing this update has going for it is that it makes it that much easier for Android users to transition to iPhone, which might make them want to stick around a little longer. To be fair, Google's apps are great to use — on Android devices. Making them more Google-y for iOS is a smart move.

Maybe it was everyone saying that the Pixel is Google's iPhone!

Calendar gets some love too!

Google didn't just overhaul the Gmail app; it added some shiny new features to Calendar to make things more Google-y as well!

Why this wasn't a feature before, no one knows

You now have Month view and week view in landscape. How you have a calendar app with no month view, I don't know, but Google finally added it. Rejoice and enjoy.

Shine a little light

Spotlight search support is now a thing! You can search for Google Calendar events, reminders, and more!

12 months ain't for everyone

The iOS Google Calendar app now supports alternate calendars, so anyone looking for dates on non-Gregorian calendars can find what they want.

Are Google and Apple buddy buddy now?

No, presumably not, but Google sprucing up its apps to function like they're supposed to is a boon to those coming from Android or those who just like the look and feel of Google apps. Is it a bit late in the game to attract new users to these apps? Probably, but as folks constantly switch teams, this is a positive step for Google, and a wonderful change for anyone on iOS looking for a decent email app and having to use Google Calendar.

Your thoughts?

Do you use the Gmail app now? Will you make the switch now that it's awesome? Do you use Google Calendar? Let us know in the comments below!

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.

32 Comments
  • I will make a switch only after these things:
    1) Ability to show hamburger menu with a gesture, as it is in most of the others apps
    2) Stable back gesture work - it is now some kind of randomly working thing in the app.
  • could not find a way to change swipe settings in account settings, or anywhere.
  • Tap on the hamburger menu button > scroll to the bottom > "settings" > tap the account that you want to change the setting on > tap "When removing messages, I prefer to..." > Set it to archive or move to trash.
  • You missed a big feature that Google removed from the GMail app - the ability to have multiple signatures for multiple "Send As" email addresses. This was done in the old GMail app by turning off mobile signature - then the proper server-side signature was applied once a message was sent, based on the Send As email address used. It still works this way in m.gmail.com under Safari on iOS, in fact you can see a mention of this feature in settings where the mobile signature can be turned on. This renders the use of GMail app useless for business with multiple accounts requiring multiple signatures. This needs to be fixed!!
  • I like the update to the Gmail app, but it's not my main client (which is Outlook). I just use it for work emails as we are a Google Apps customer. The one annoyance I have is with the new swipe ability. You choose whether you want to archive or move to trash, but it then only works with that choice, regardless of which direction you swipe. In Outlook, you can set what you want to happen if you swipe left or right. For instance, I have mine set to mark items read/unread if I swipe it to the right and delete it out of the list if I swipe to the left.
  • This is exactly the same complaint I have. I use Outlook for my work email, and LOVE this feature. I'm going to give the Gmail app a shot for my personal email, but not being able to set different actions for different swipes might make me go back to Spark -- that app actually allows you to set FOUR different swipes (full swipe from right or left, and half-swipe from right or left), which can come in really handy when trying to tame your inbox.
  • Still loving Spark by Readdle, best email app as far as I'm concerned. Sent from the iMore App
  • When will Google add 3D Touch features in Google Apps on iPhone?
  • I love the additions of the swipe feature. One thing I would like to be added is the ability to change if I want something to be as priority or not, you only can do this in desktop. Other than that, so far I love it and I'm please!
  • And it still doesn't know how to handle mobile queries correctly/consistently like Mail.app. I'm happy emails are rendering a little better but as an email marketer this is infinitely frustrating.
  • I second the Spark email client it is amazing with support for as many signatures as you want and has a default for each account snooze feature, smart lists etc the list of features is a mile long.
  • I was looking forward to an update, hoping to see the app updated to allow Active Sync accounts. No joy. Maybe next version?
  • I hate the new app, they removed easy and obvious functionality like using checkboxes to select mails and deleting/archiving with a single tap to having to use hidden UI like swiping to get anything done. If there was a way to downgrade back to the older app I would, since there isn't I have deleted the app off my phone and switched to using Apple's built-in Mail app which is so awful it is making me consider using Outlook for all my email needs.
  • The checkboxes are still there; just long press and they appear. Swiping to archive is no less hidden than it is in the standard iOS mail app which remains far less functional or usable than Gmail, Outlook or most others. Posted via the iMore App
  • I totally agree. i can't stand the updated gmail app. The most frustrating thing for me is the inability to swipe to delete the promotions, updates and forum mail notices that land in primary. I am forced to open the mails. It involves so much time each day. The old app allowed you to just swipe and delete as they came up and i simply go in on my desktop gmail app every other day or so and cast my eye - for about 2 seconds - over the rubbish that is always there . Is there a fix or hack for this ?
  • Great read, Mike Tanasychuk. But, would you go from Inbox back to the Gmail app? That is, if you used Inbox.
  • Same question here! I use Inbox on phone and browser!
  • I like the new layout of the redesigned GMAIL but I'm a real fan of Outlook for IOS so I don't really have a reason or want to come back to the stock iOS app but at the same time I'm kinda confused by the iPad version because per Google Material design guidelines the floating compose button should be on the lower right hand size and yet it positioned in the lower right hand side of the left column because which is very strange to ,me and a couple others who have tried to use it.
  • Your review is way too complementary. You can swipe to delete, but you can't have more choices with right or left, full or half swipe as with other apps. You still cannot use the Gmail app for non-gmail accounts - heck, even the built in Apple iOS Mail app has a combined inbox across multiple email services. Gmail lets you send attachments as a link to a Google Drive file, but won't let you download and send the actual file. Lastly, Gmail is opening links in Safari, not Chrome. Are you kidding me? I'm sticking with Outlook for iOS. I'
  • The Gmail app is designed for Gmail, it's not a generic email client, it's an app so you don't have to use the mobile website (and can get notifications), so it won't ever support other email services other than Gmail, the same way Yahoo's doesn't support anything other than Yahoo either, they're not generic email clients in the way you think they are
  • Google really needs to make Calendar a universal app, not iPhone only.
  • Oh god. i'm finally old - everybody else complains when they change twitter, or Facebook or iOS. nope I like those changes. new gmail app on the other hand - yuk!! bring back the old. I'll have to read a bunch of articles and how to s and see if I can figure it all out.
  • Did anyone else notice they took away contact photos? Some of the photos still show, but a great deal of them do not. I have not been able to figure out why some still show up and others do not. I have both a google apps (work) account and a gmail (home) account. I have a bit of the OCD when it comes to contact photos for my contacts, so it is painful to see them go away. It is very similar to the inbox app, but that seems to have fewer features overall.
  • I don't like having separate email apps if I can help it. When I came back to IOS the lack of push for gmail in the native client annoyed me so I totally dumped gmail for outlook. Haven't missed a beat. Sent from the iMore App
  • I personally dont dig the material interface inside iOS. That said, I'm moving into a Google-free year. Trying to rely as little as possible on their services. Not cause of any hate - just a new beat.
  • Have you looked at the reviews in the app store? I'm of course guessing but I'd say a good 90% of 1774 reviews for this latest version update are giving 1 star. You can pretty much tell it's a change that most people are not happy with. Including myself. First of all, why change the layout at all? I mean, now I have to see those stupid Promotions and Social folders in my actual Primary list of emails? I mean that's what I love about Gmail is that I don't have to pay attention to those. Also, the new color scheme does look like it's for a kindergartner. Lastly, they changed the notification sound and so far I haven't been able to find a way to change it to what I want. Ok, small thing for most, but for me, I hate it. This whole update seems to be change for change sake and seems unnecessary. They had a great app and I hope they revert this horrible idea. In the meantime I am going to be checking out the Spark app or even Outlook. I still love my Gmail as a service, but this app update was just ridiculous. I hope they revert it back I really do.
  • I guess my judgement is a bit clouded by how much I enjoyed the Android version of the Gmail app. When I came back to iPhone, it was so different and foreign feeling. Now it's more in-line with Android, which I was probably too used to. I'm not sure what you mean by Promotions and Social Folders; I don't have those in mine... Totally hear you on the notification sound. That's an oversight for sure, though it may be coming soon.
  • Yeah, It is growing on me a little. However, there are a couple things I still don't like. One new one I've found is that when looking at a single email you used to be able to swipe left or right and go through your email that way. That no longer is the case. i loved the option. Now you have to go back to the full list of emails and then click the next one you want to look at. The old way was smooth. As far as the Promotions and Social Folders are concerned. They function like the ones on the web version. Where you can designate what emails get sorted to Promotions or Social. Like any email from my facebook goes to my Social folder tab or whatever they call it(where I promptly ignore for eternity). They never used to show up in your full list of emails, they used to be on the left with Inbox etc. However, I did find that whenever a new email goes to say the Promotions folder, it will show up in the full inbox list of emails as "PROMOTIONS" but as you get more regular emails to your inbox, that PROMOTIONS folder moves down. Little consolation but it's ok. I think you have to enable those folder sorting things on the web service? I also wish there was the option to have it show only what you want in the emails list. Like I don't need a preview at all on my iPhone screen. Maybe just have it show the subject. I have to also say that the circles at the left of the emails are growing on me. Known email domains are showing their icon which is somewhat helpful and can speed up things.
  • The message display looks too cartoonish and takes up too much space. I would use it more if there were a way to turn off the body preview, I do not want or need that. The whole interface should be more compact. So I still use the stock iOS mail app to check gmail regularly because it is much cleaner. Then I only go to the gmail app if I need more functionality.
  • Excellent article. I prefer Safari or Chrome, also out here sharing via browser email on various widgets is a different thrill. On shared devices I find the browser is much convenient. I never use Outlook and less of Mail apps also, all these active logins slows performance drastically.
  • i got rid of the gmail app a while back when inbox came out. i enjoy it a lot and i use the email app as my backup so I'm not sure i need to jump back into this.
  • i'm just stocked, the Gmail app must be used as new mail will not be automatically pushed to iOS with phone locked.. Tried adding my account in Mail, but it even with "push" enabled, "Fetch new data" set do something other than Manual does not automatically grab anything.. I'm forced to open mail to either check ASAP. or set how often i want to check.. For me, 5 minutes is too long,,, I need it to work like Apple mail on Mac where emails on server will be received automatically before iPhone gets it. I guess Gmail app solves this?