Google has rolled out a new Gmail app for Android, and the good news is that it’s available as a standalone download from the Android Market, which means updates won’t be tied to operating system updates anymore. In other words, you won’t have to wait for Android 3.0 to get a new version of Gmail if you’re currently using Android 2.2. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the new app is only available for Android 2.2 at the moment. So if you were hoping that a new Gmail app that’s independent of the OS would make your older Android 1.6 device feel like new, it looks like you’re out of luck, at least for now.
Google has been saying for a while that it plans to take this approach with some of the core apps that are normally bundled with the operating system. This will allow Google to push updates more quickly to devices even if they’re running HTC Sense, Samsung Touchwiz, or Motorola Blur software which tends to lead to handset makers taking a longer time to push out operating system updates.
Aside from OS independence, there are a few other new features in the latest version of Gmail, which is quite similar to the version leaked a few weeks ago.
First, there are new persistent icons near the top of your screen no matter how far down you scrolling a message. This makes it easier to reply or star a message without having to scroll all the way back to the top. Honestly, I think the old version left the screen feeling less cluttered, but I can definitely see how this new toolbar could save some scrolling time.
Gmail for Android now also has a “show quoted text” button to show you text quoted in earlier messages, much as you can do with the desktop version of Gmail.
Google has also added a bit of support for the new Priority Inbox feature. If you enabled priority Inbox in a desktop web browser, you’ll see a new “Important” label in the mobile version of Gmail, although that’s not quite the same as dividing up your inbox window the you can on a desktop.
Gmail for Android is available as a free download from the Android Market if you’re running Android 2.2.