By Ros Hodgekiss on 5th December 2012
Gmail's release of its app for iOS was always sure to raise hopes amongst those crying out for a searchable inbox, or eyebrows amongst the skeptical and previously underwhelmed. But for designers, v2 was an opportunity for Gmail to up their game and provide a better email experience for subscribers overall.
Naturally, we were very keen to give it a test drive and see if the changes to this email client were more than skin deep. In this quick review, we'll look at how it supports CSS in HTML email and outline a couple of other notable features that are relevant to both designers and subscribers alike.
Well, we won't hold you in any further suspense here - Gmail for iOS's CSS support is just as variable as its peers and predecessors, both mobile and browser-based. After running our tests, we found that it's still very much comparable to browser-based Gmail, in that it still ignores styles in <head>, which rules out CSS selectors and yes, media queries. This means that those who have created responsive email designs may have little success in tailoring their layouts for this client, unless using fully fluid approach (which isn't always a bad idea).
To give you an idea of what impact a lack of media query support can have, here's a side-by-side comparison of our newsletter, in Mail and Gmail respectively:
While the newsletter content is easily readable in Mail from the get go, in Gmail you're forced to zoom to make head or tail of it. This can be a tad awkward, especially as tap-to-zoom isn't enabled, as is customary in native apps like Safari and Mail. It seems we're not alone in thinking this is pretty sub-par as far as email navigation goes.
Other things haven't changed, either. For one, images are still blocked by default, although you are prompted to display them, then consequently always display them on a per sender basis (pictured above). We found that these settings are synced across your Gmail account as a whole - if a recipient selects for images to display for a given sender on their iPhone, this will carry across to Gmail in the browser and vice versa. Pretty neat.
What you may also notice is that emails are truncated with a 'Download entire message' prompt. While this may be reminiscent of iOS Mail's truncation, it's woth making the distinction that this occurs even when the message is downloaded over a wifi connection. This seems to occur when a message exceeds 20kb in size.
That said, the app's clean look and yes, ability to rapidly search for messages your Gmail account does really make v2 an attractive email client for iOS; we'll be sure to keep an eye out to see if it becomes a popular choice amongst your subscribers. However, for email designers and those just wanting to make their email campaigns beautiful and readable, it's ultimately more of the same.
What do you think of Gmail v2 for iOS? We'd love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
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