Version Reviewed: 1.2.3
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There once was a time I owned a Blackberry. If there was one feature it performed flawlessly, time and again, it was the “push” email feature. When I switched to the iPhone, I was dismayed when I learned it did not support/possess “true” “push” capabilities. I naively assumed that a phone which can pretty much do everything my laptop (not to mention my old Blackberry) does (and better) would offer me “push” email capabilities through my Gmail account.
I rely heavily on my phone’s ability to quickly/efficiently manage my email. The iPhone’s “Fetch New Data/Push” features do “push” data to my phone, but lack the instant notification features I need daily. It checks for email at specific intervals (15 minutes, 30 minutes, hourly and manually), but it’s not “instant,” and provides no visual alerts/notifications.
Conversely, true “push” clients/services, such as instant messaging programs, maintain a constant connection between the client/service and their server, forwarding a “push” notification to users as content becomes available. Google does provide iPhone Gmail users "push" services by using Google Sync to link an MS Exchange account with Gmail, but this service lacks visual alerts/notifications and other features offered by paid "push" apps (such as "Quiet Hours" settings). This is where Push for Gmail (formally Gmail Push) comes in.
Push for Gmail provides "true" push notifications to its users, accompanied with visual alerts that show users a preview of the email (sender, subject and message preview). Additionally, users can view new emails with the in-app Gmail mobile browser or with the iPhone’s native mail app. When receiving a notification, a prompt message appears on the iPhone’s screen, providing users with the choice to Cancel or View the email:
Pressing “Close” simply removes the alert/notification from your screen. Tapping “View” opens Push for Gmail but, instead of opening/bringing you to the email, it brings you to the application’s main screen.
Among Push for Gmail’s features:
- Instant and reliable Gmail push notification with sound, text and badge(s),
- Support for Gmail and Google Apps account(s),
- Full-screen and landscape mode viewing,
- The ability to set “quiet hours” to disable notifications as you need,
- Customizable notification text displays with 28 different notification sounds,
- Forwarding capabilities,
- Auto logging into Gmail mobile browser,
- Options to open new mail with Push for Gmail’s in-app mobile browser or native mail app,
- In-app browser with tab support to allow users to read email and browse web pages at the same time,
- Advanced privacy settings (users can turn off sender, subject, mail preview in notification text),
- SSL-enabled security, and
- Offline access capability.
There are a number of Gmail applications in the app store. A search of “Gmail” yielded approximately 61 results. Narrowed down, approximately 6 of these are “push” email apps or offer Gmail “push” functionality. When reading customer reviews for the afore-mentioned paid “push” apps, “Push for Gmail” had consistently favorable reviews (approximately 64 of 77).
Setting up your Gmail account using Push for Gmail is simple. Launching the application brings you to the “Settings” screen. Simply enter your account and password and press the “Activate” button. The program then “validates” your account and allows you to set your configurations, e.g. Ringtone, Customization Notification options (Badge, Sender, Mail Subject and Mail Preview), Forwarding Mode, Pass Code Lock, etc.:
Push for Gmail features an option which allows users to set “Quiet Hours,” i.e. the days and times they want Push for Gmail to remain silent without “pushing” notifications, so they can use their iPhone at night, while sleeping, etc., without being bothered/awakened by push notifications. This feature is only available in Push for Gmail, but should be standard in every app featuring push notification capabilities. Users can configure “Quiet Hours” on multiple days, at multiple times:
In addition, from the main screen (top), users can compose a new email, search emails, refresh email and access their folders/labels. The bottom of the screen contains a “sign-out” option and a link to Google Mobile Help:
As far as functionality, Push for Gmail allows users to perform those functions available using Gmail in their mobile browser, such as labeling, conversation threading, starring, etc. and automatically syncs with your desktop account.
Push for Gmail’s main screen is basically a browser devoted to Gmail and provides its users with those options found in its desktop counterpart, e.g. read, label, archive, mark as read/unread, etc. It also allows its users to access other Google features/programs, such as “Talk,” “Buzz,” “Calendar, etc. The font size, relative to the device's display is adequate, but can present problems, making finger-gestures sometimes challenging (mentioned below):
Push for Gmail’s main screen toolbar (located at the bottom of the screen) displays 8 icons (from left to right): “Previous Page,” “Next Page,” “Home,” which returns users to their main mail menu screen from other screens, “Compose New Mail,” which, according to Push for Gmail’s developer, currently does not work correctly, opening the "Folders" page instead of new mail, a “Settings” icon, “Rotation Lock,” “Show Address Panel,” which pulls up an embedded, tab-enabled web browser (you can hold down on a link to open it on another tab) and a “Show/Hide Toolbar” icon, which toggles the appearance of these icons (show/hide):
Push for Gmail is not without flaws: The main screen toolbar icons are small (so as not to “impose” on the main screen’s real estate) and may take users multiple taps before the icon responds to their touch (and visa-versa). Moreover, the screen's relatively small size can inhibit touch accuracy. While other users may find this frustrating, it is not a problem for me and the added bonus of being able to “hide” these icons is a nice feature. Push for Gmail currently only supports one Gmail account and because it offloads push- processing onto its servers, users must rely on Google/Gmail and Push for Gmail services/servers to remain uninterrupted/on-line.
Also, if you are reading your Gmail using Push for Gmail and you receive a push notification, the on-screen prompt (mentioned above) does not take you directly to the message; it takes you to the app’s main screen, instead. As for battery life/usage, because I spend so much time on my iPhone, I’ve not noticed a decrease while using the application. That’s not to say it doesn’t affect battery life; I’ve just not noticed.
I've used Push for Gmail shortly after its debut in the app store and, when compared to similar apps, find it is a superior alternative to its app store counterparts. It’s fast, reliable, works as advertised and I’ve never missed an email using the app. Push for Gmail is a quality third-party resolution which dutifully answers the failure to support “true” push email with visual notifications.
In all, at $1.99, Push for Gmail is a simple, straightforward, decently-priced (considering what you get), application providing “real-time” visual Gmail notifications. If you simply want "bare-bones" "push" Gmail without visual alerts/notifications, you can hit the jump to learn how to use Google Sync to get your Gmail pushed directly to your iPhone.
Regardless of your Gmail use frequency/intensity, I heartily recommend this app to Gmail users who want “push” email with visual alerts and the option to defer the service on days (and at times) they choose.