Gmail mobile testing

I know I have some article/posts back in my queue (about the W3C work, specifically), but I wanted to post my first impressions about gmail for mobile devices.

Test environment: Nokia 6230

First of all, login. For some reason I get the same login page as a web browser (tested more than once, using the Openwave WAPgateway and the direct connection without gateway). This is a little bit uncomfortable. The device browser asks me if I want to accept the secure connection because it doesn’t recognize the certificate. I accept and login. Obviously logging in is a little uncomfortable as I used a password without a mobile device in mind. But this is not Google’s problem, of course!

Once logged in I get a more mobile-friendly layout. I see a tiny logo on top of the page and then a list of the emails I have in my inbox.
I am not entirely convinced about the tabular layout, but I can’t say it’s bad. Basically, if you haven’t tested it, you read the sender and the title in some kind of a grid, something like this:
title 1
title 2

Where e-mail titles are links. At the bottom of the page there’s a link to the next page. I didn’t check the number of emails listed on purpose, I wanted to do a “usability test” and I have to say that the list looks reasonable. Long enoough to list a good number of messages, not too long to get annoyed scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Reading an e-mail. I don’t like the tabular layout of the e-mails heading: sender, title, subject and date. It looks like a lot of my small screen space is wasted. It looks well organized, anyway. I can’t say it’s BAD, but probably I wouldn’t have done it that way.

Subject: title 1
Date: Dec, 22 2005

The e-mail looks good, if the message is too long you get a “next page” link. If you are at the second page or later you have a link to go back. The length of the page seems good here too.
At the bottom of the page you have a list of links to reply, forward, etc. It is good that they are using accesskeys for these links.
What I REALLY like is that at any time clicking 0 you go back to the inbox (while reading a message, of course). Once users will get used to this it will be perfect.

I tested 2 e-mails with attachment, a Word document and a PDF. Both were readable and it seemed like it tried to respect the original layout as much as possible. Images are removed from attached documents. I haven’t tried an email with an image attached. It’ll probably be removed (or not viewable).

What is really innovative about this software? Actually I think nothing!
e-mail clients are one of the first things there were developed for WML sites and i-mode devices have the email client integrated by default.
I like the use of the accesskeys, but basically I don’t see any real innovation. Even viewing the attachments is something that “we” had already done. A long time ago I worked on an e-mail client and we also showed images rescaled to the appropriate size . There are open-source softwares for linux that let you convert a PDF into a text document and the same for Office files such as Word or PowerPoint. Converting an excel file is probably useless on a mobile phone, MAYBE could be of use on a PDA (with a wider screen).

It will be interesting to see if the “Google brand” can bring success to this service just because it’s Google!

Tags: gmail, google, email, mobile

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