Review of Gmail 2.0 for iOS – it’s no Sparrow, but it’s close. Damn close.

In short, it’s actually pretty good.

Before continuing, it’s worth noting that anyone using Sparrow needs to stop dreaming that it’s going to be coming back. It’s not. The Sparrow that’s still available won’t see any further development beyond potential bug fixes.

Using Gmail accounts in Mail were always a tiresome affair. In fact, using Gmail in Mail on any Apple operating system is a pain in the ass. This isn’t so much a fault with Mail but with how Google implements Gmail. Unlike every other email provider, Google’s implementation of labels instead of folders means IMAP support will always be hit-and-miss. Using Gmail through the website is a great experience and being able to use multiple labels for emails is a blessing. This highlights IMAP’s flaws though in that it’s strictly a hierarchical folder structure – your email goes here or here. Whilst Gmail’s implementation of email works great, unless you’re using the Gmail website then any traditional IMAP client just doesn’t work brilliantly. You will see “duplicate” emails (even though they aren’t) and it will take you a few hours to correctly set how sent or deleted email should be stored (quick tip, not on server since Gmail handles it transparently). This is why I will only use Sparrow on my Mac if I want to use a client.

On iOS at least, I’ve been in denial about Sparrow for some time and it’s been firmly attached to my home screen. However, lack of push notifications and what has turned into pretty basic Gmail support meant it’s really not got much going for it.

The latest version of Gmail for iOS (yes, both iPhone and iPad) is close to the original layout of Sparrow (despite the Sparrow team not actually being involved in this version). There’s an off-canvas menu for accessing labels and settings, multiple account support and a really good implementation of Gmail’s search.

There are some key differenced though. Unlike Sparrow, the look and feel is less iOS and more Google Chrome. I like the Google UI in Gmail though in an iOS app, I feel we’ve been spoilt with apps such as Sparrow so it feels a little, I don’t know, cheap? It sometimes feels like it’s just a WebView wrapped in an app.

Sparrow is almost the Google equivalent of Tweetie. A truly great iOS app swallowed up by the very company it was designed to work with. However, what makes Google different is that they already had their own app available. Sparrow wasn’t bought just to gut, rebadge and ship, it wasn’t an easy way to release an official app. Google wanted the Sparrow roadmap of where they were headed.

It’s overall feature list, the fact that it’s universal and coupled with push notifications makes this the best Gmail app for iOS – finally beating Sparrow. Some of you will disagree with me on this but since Google swallowed up the Sparrow team, we’ve been living in a perpetual state of denial. The sooner you move off Sparrow, the easier it will be for you.