Every mobile engineering team — including Google’s — struggles to
make its applications available to all users on all devices. Even if
you scope your work to today’s smartphones, you’re left with no less
than five major operating systems. But Google pay this cost because native
code is often the only way to build an app that’s rich enough and fast
enough to meet users’ needs. Enter the mobile web.
number of mobile devices ship with an all-important feature: a modern
web browser. And this is significant for two reasons:
an engineering team, Google can build a single app with HTML and
systems. The cost savings are substantial, not to mention the time you
can re-invest in user-requested features.
- Having a web
application also means Google can launch products and features as soon as
they’re ready. And for users, the latest version of the app is always
just a URL and a refresh away.
Of course: what sounds good in theory doesn’t always materialize in practice. So back in April 2009
Google’s team began re-building Gmail for mobile for today’s modern
browsers. Google wanted to know: Could the mobile web support Gmail’s basic
and advanced features? Could Google stuff the app with functionality while
still keeping it fast and responsive? Today, and for the first time, Google have answers to both questions.
Over the past 8 months Google have pushed the limits of HTML5 to launch a steady string of Gmail features, including:
- Full label support
- Swipe to Archive
- Smart Links
- Faster address auto-complete
- Move and Enhanced Refresh
- Auto-expanding compose boxes
- And many more…
yes, HTML5 and the mobile web are clearly up to the task of building
rich and powerful apps. But speed is arguably the most important
feature of any application. And Google have remained unsatisfied with Gmail’s
performance on the mobile web. Until now.
As of today, and thanks to numerous optimizations,
I’m happy to report that Gmail for mobile loads 2-3x faster than it did
in April. In fact on newer iPhone and Android devices,
the app now loads in under 3 seconds. So yes, the mobile web can
deliver really responsive applications.
The Gmail for mobile team isn’t done, of course. Google have focused
primarily on performance over the past few months, but many other
features and optimizations are on the way. So keep visiting gmail.com for the latest and greatest version of the app.
ahead, it’s also worth noting that as a worldwide mobile team, Google will
continue to build native apps where it makes sense. But Google is incredibly optimistic about the future of the mobile web — both for
developers and for the users.