Native Gmail iPhone App Reportedly Coming Soon

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FOLLOW-UP: Gmail App for iPad and iPhone Now Available

An official Gmail app for iPhone may be coming soon, providing an alternative to the feature-barren iPhone e-mail app that’s built into the OS.

The rumor, reported by M.G. Siegler, is based on multiple unnamed sources. The app may already be awaiting Apple’s approval, Siegler says, and he thinks it’ll get the nod from Apple soon.

iPhone users can already access Gmail through the phone’s native Mail app, but then they miss out on Google’s excellent user interface, which lets you quickly scroll through conversation views—in the Mail app you must tap a button for every new message—and delete or manage multiple messages with ease. The Mail app also lacks some of Gmail’s advanced features, such as Priority Inbox.

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Gmail offers a web app (pictured above) for these features, accessed through a browser, but then you miss out on badge notifications for new messages. And dealing with a Gmail window or tab every time you open the browser is a bit sloppy.

The native iPhone Gmail app would be the best of both worlds, Siegler reports. It’ll have the features of the web app, while behaving like a native app. It’ll also finally bring push notifications to Gmail—something that neither the Web app nor the native Mail app currently offer. Siegler says to expect some other new features as well, including thumbnail images for contacts.

The Gmail app is reportedly pending approval, but I don’t see any reason why Apple would reject it.  The App Store already hosts other third-party e-mail programs. And despite Apple’s rivalry with Google, Apple has approved several native apps from the search giant that duplicate built-in phone functions, including Google Voice and Google Latitude. But if approved, Gmail would be the first official iPhone app from a major web mail service. It may put pressure on Yahoo and Microsoft to create apps for Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, respectively. I hope it happens soon.

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