The new Gmail for iOS has removed the curtains and opened the windows.

It makes threaded conversations feel more like IM.

And its predictive search already feels too good to ever give up.

You can also see how the team made good use of the iPhone’s longer screen, replacing small text and toolbars with big buttons.

Responding to GCal invites is handy, with new, big buttons that you’ll find throughout the app.

And to the relief of geeks everywhere, yes, there’s multiple inbox support.

Co.Design

The iOS Gmail App 2.0: Faster and Far More Beautiful

Google has just released their new Gmail app for iOS. And it’s a testament to how speed and beauty make software a joy to use.

Yesterday, Google released a long-anticipated sequel to their iOS Gmail app. It’s been over a year since the original app’s release, and for the past 6 months, Google has hunkered down to create the new app.

No doubt, you’ll hear about the new features: Multiple inboxes, predictive search, GCal/G+ integration, and infinite scrolling. And while all these features are essentials for the Gmail power user, the greatest improvement is far more intrinsic: It’s the feel. Launching Gmail 2.0 for the first time is like opening the windows of a stuffy house, airing things out during the first warm day in spring.

“Your email list is really a to-do list that others have made for you. It’s really important that it not feel overwhelming, that it feel like a nice place to inhabit,” Jason Cornwell, lead designer for Gmail, tells me. “We spent a lot of time with typography to make it feel light and clean, and not like a burden.”

The new, airier design was largely influenced by Google’s iOS Chrome app, which itself is based on the work of an internal, cross-functional iOS design team at Google. This team works on Google’s marquee programs for iOS, so while Google as a company may innovate from the bottom up, they’re beginning to develop a successful design language all their own. (Google has the same sorts of design teams for web and Android, too.)

“I think Google’s always been good at technical interaction design, making products that are very efficient. In the past year or so we’ve put a lot of effort on polish and beautification,” Cornwell says. “We want apps to feel native to the platform they’re running on. If you design for the web, it should feel like it belongs on the web. If it’s on iOS, it should feel like iOS. But if we just design [Gmail] to look like an Apple app, we’ve sort of failed. We want it to have some personality that’s its own.”

Gmail 2.0 runs on the iPhone, but it isn’t Apple. In fact, I think it looks and works better than Apple’s stale mail app. It makes liberal use of white space, feels responsive to your touch (the infinite scrolling inbox really helps here) and offers the instantaneous, deep archive searching we’ve come to expect from Google products. Even the little things--like the fact that threaded conversations now have avatars (to feel more personal and casual, like instant messaging) or a subtle new animation that takes you from page to page--add to an overall experience of joyfulness when checking your inbox.

That is until you realize, you really do have to answer that email you’ve been dreading.

Download Gmail 2.0 for iOS here.

Add New Comment

16 Comments

  • Amelia67

    Does this site represent the "best" thinking in design these days?  Is everyone working here between the ages of 18 and 24?  Your NOTES section below is a perfect example of some really flawed thinking.  The comments are actually difficult to read with their thin, pale typeface.  Your FROM THE EDITOR on the right is close to unreadable for anyone with vision problems and uncomfortable for those of us who simply have aging eyes--as will every single one of you sooner or later.  One wonders if anyone there has ever taken the time to read vision and readability studies because it sure looks like you've mixed up the real world with design ideology.

  • Reto

    For me, the new design looks very similar to the Windows 8 Design Language - Google may have take ideas of it from there.   

    Nowadays, it seems like the iOS design is getting dusty and old-fashioned....

  • Drew

    It's a very elegant app, but why is the message typeface on the home screen so thin? The whiteness of the screen blows out the thinness of the type making it near impossible for my (slightly older) eyes to read. Elegance = yes. Readability, usability = no. I've had to ditch it. A shame. (There are much better screen fonts out there nowadays too. Arial and Helvetica?...c'mon)!

  • Weston Vierregger

    No doubt a product of Googles purchase of Sparrow and it's terrific designers. I've been waiting a long time to see how that acquisition would affect the iOS Gmail app, and I'm thoroughly impressed!

    However, sad to see that the Sparrow acquisition which no doubt led to this redesign isn't mentioned at all in the article.

  • HillDesign

    Just wait until Mr. Jonathan Ive gets his hands on the Apple app side of things. Watch out Google!

  • CooperB

    The "light and airy type" along with the grey color of the Subject and first line (why can't I turn off the first line?) makes the app have so much whiteness that I could use it for a flashlight. 
    Why is "airy" now associated with legibility and usefulness? 
    For example the main text of this web page itself is 15/23px. Really? Does that make the page more readable or just make users scroll more? 

  • vickytnz

    I found the lack of difference between read and unread items a little unnerving. Sure, it's probably less stressful now if you do get inbox overload, but there's not much in it now. I liked in the old version how it was incredibly obvious what you had and hadn't read. Suspect this is aimed at people who don't hit inbox 0 often.

  • CooperB

    Using fonts that aren't light weight and gray would be a starting point. And tighter leading would be helpful. I don't think of closely grouped information as necessarily being cluttered or illegible design. That's more about the layout of the information.
    I wear glasses for computer and phone use and personally the lighter, spacier stuff is a less friendly experience for my eyes. 

    Of the 2 examples above I find the old one on the left to be more legible. For instance why is the color of the subject in the new version the same as the first line of the message? Does that help separate the information and give it a hierarchy? Is that better? And as for the font size the old one looks larger for the subject and first line. Does making them smaller help legibility in some way?

    I wonder if there's been any good studies about font weight, leading, color etc. for readability on these devices. 

  • artdrectr

    Sorry, not sure where you're going with this. Are you saying you'd prefer smaller characters, tighter leading, and more color? 
    IMO, I don't mind scrolling if it means items won't be cluttered. Also, remember that many users don't have perfect vision and find it difficult to read 6pt type.So, to me, 'airy' indeed means uncluttered, focused, legible, useful.

  • sullivbt

    uggghhh.... "marquis" program? really, bro? is it a royal program? pro writers shouldn't be making this mistake - it's "marquee" :-)