Mailroom: Gmail on iPhone for Power Users

When it comes to webmail, everyone and their grandma knows that Gmail is the best. A lot of us power users have felt let down with the iPhone mail app that does not support brilliant Gmail features like conversation threads, labels, and so on.

With Mailroom, it is now possible to handle multiple Gmail and Google Apps email accounts with almost all of the goodness and glory of their desktop browser based features. Mailroom costs $2.99, so let’s investigate further to see whether it’s worth the price.

Adding Multiple Accounts

Mailroom opens to near nothingness upon launching the app. There are no fancy design elements, icons or even a help prompt to start with. Surprisingly, this minimalism does not make the app look featureless.

You can start adding Gmail and Google Apps account by using the Add icon on the lower left corner of the app. This opens up another very minimalistic form with just three fields. Be it may be a Gmail account or a Google Apps account for your own domain, the app does not ask for you to input the domain URL. All you have to add is the email address & the password.

Mailroom identifies the account type and URL, then proceeds to log into the email account. By default, your email address is auto filled as the label for the account.

If you want to rename a label, you will have to do it in this page as it is not possible to change the same from the Settings page once it is created.

Absolute Minimalism

Absolute Minimalism

Mailroom finds, verifies and logs into the email account pretty quickly. The inbox details are fetched immediately and displayed in the Accounts page. The unread mail count badge is displayed on the right side of the label.

As many Google email accounts can be created in Mailroom using the same steps and all the accounts will be displayed on a single page under Accounts. You will have to enter full email addresses for Gmail accounts too as the username alone is not sufficient.

Adding a Google Account

Adding a Google Account

Moving between accounts is snappy and fantastic. The multiple Gmail account experience is similar to that of switching between multiple Twitter accounts. Each account has its own space, independent and is totally functional. Mailroom remembers which account you were accessing when closed and opens at the same point when quit and re-launched.

Multiple Google Mail Accounts

Multiple Google Mail Accounts

Mailroom has a brilliantly thought-out mail count system for the inbox. The “TrueNew” message count badges not only show the total number of unread messages you have in the inbox, but also how many new mails have come in since the last time you loaded the app.

This is a welcome feature for those of us who have huge email overload in the inbox all the time. Thanks to Mailroom, no unread message goes unnoticed or unattended.

TrueNew Count & Inbox

TrueNew Count & Inbox

Inbox

Mailroom’s inbox is pure, unadulterated magic! With the familiar light blue theme, threaded conversations complete with labels, it is hard to distinguish between the native Gmail web app and that of the Mailroom app.

Gmail Web Interface & Mailroom Inbox

Gmail Web Interface & Mailroom Inbox

Unlike the default iPhone mail app, Mailroom supports threaded conversations in their entirety – just like in a desktop web browser. Turning up the contrast from the UI enhancements section of Settings can help differentiate between read and unread threads much better.

Threaded Conversations & Floating Menubar

Threaded Conversations & Floating Menubar

The floating top bar lifts a lot of weight for the Mailroom app. Options such as Labels, Mute, Report Spam etc. can be accessed using the drop down of the floating toolbar. Adding a label to a conversation is extremely simple and all you have to do is check the label name.

Labels and Folder View

Labels and Folder View

The composing window is pretty standard, but it is the address book that is worth mentioning. Rather than using the contacts from the address of the email account you are logged in, Mailroom lists contacts from the iPhone address book.

Since there is a good chance that people whom you are in touch with frequently are already in the address book of the iPhone, no matter which Google mail account you are logged in, you will have an active list of contacts to choose from.

Composing a Mail & Address Book

Composing a Mail & Address Book

Just like desktop Gmail, Mailroom lets you view images inline when viewing a HTML email. Mailroom handles email attachments with ease and supports multiple formats including .pdf, .doc, .docx, .htm, .html, .pdf, .txt, .xls, .xlsx, .jpg, .tiff, .gif, .mp3, .aac, .mp4 files etc.

With the help of the built-in web browser, it is painless to view the embedded links without having to leave the app. If you wish, the links can be launched using Mobile Safari as well.

Offline Support

Are you on an airplane or in a no-man’s land with no cell reception? Fret Not! With Mailroom it is possible to read, reply, and compose messages without Edge, 3G, or Wi-Fi. Mailroom leverages the power of HTML5 and Gmail’s offline storage to allow offline access to all your mails.

A version of all received and sent mails are cached whenever the data connection is available. Since all emails are mostly text, this cached does not take too much space on the iPhone either.

Offline Access

Offline Access

All the operations you perform in your inbox, such as composing mails or deleting a few, are executed in the Gmail account once the data connection is back on. This happens automatically without us needing to have to initiate anything.

Final Thoughts

Mailroom is an app that has long been a dream of every Gmail power user. The inbox experience is smooth and suave, making you wonder if Google has designed the app under a proxy name to circumvent App Store delays.

Mailroom, however, falls flat with its lack of push notifications. Though it is possible to receive push notifications using third party apps like Prowl, Mailroom’s awesome features are eclipsed by this huge drawback.

Apart from this glaring omission, I could not find any other drawbacks in the app. It would be interesting to see what Mailroom is going to do when multiple Exchange Server accounts along with push notifications are going to be supported in the upcoming iOS 4. The future could look very bright!


Summary

Mailroom provides seamless integration between Gmail's world class mobile web app and familiar iPhone conventions, along with progressive web interface enhancements for features Google left out. It gives you access to your local iPhone Address Book, attachment viewing, managed offline reading/replying/composition, and more.

9
  • Mark

    Sounds good. But does it behave like the native Mail app in that if I want to email a photo I’ve taken or email link from Safari it opens this app as the default?

  • Jack

    i am still support the native mail. although i use Gmail before i got an iphone, now i am use Me.com

    if i really need to login gmail, just log in safari. there is iphone web browser support for gmail.

  • http://karmamole.com Omar Kamel

    Unfortunately, this app might be a bit too late. I think iOS 4 might make it a bit redundant, with the unified inbox and the threaded messages, etc..

    • http://www.kristarella.com kristarella

      As it turns out this app hasn’t become redundant with iOS4′s Mail. I guess the new unified inbox might be good for some, but the threading is really average: it doesn’t include sent messages and it doesn’t put any weight on who is involved with the conversation, just piles things that have the same subject (even though that’s Gmail’s main criteria there must be more to it, because it never incorrectly stacks my mail), and still no support for multiple labels.

  • Teddy

    Uhm… all this talk about the slickness of the app, etc. Visit gmail.com with Mobile Safari on your iPhone. Looks to me like they are just selling a wrapper for the Mobile Safari version of GMail.

    • http://www.kristarella.com kristarella

      Still offers significantly more convenience with multiple account and offline support. I quite like the Gmail mobile interface, but signing into different accounts in Safari is a pain. So actually, a repackage of the mobile interface with extra features could be kind of cool.

  • http://www.kristarella.com kristarella

    Thanks for the review Justin! Just bought this! Was not so sure when I first saw it (because of the impending iOS4 update), but now that I’m not remotely impressed with iOS4′s threading I’m gonna try this out.

    Also, the developers say they’re working hard to get push notifications happening.

  • Steven

    Try iGmail Top – no multple accounts but push notifications

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  • http://lasexperienciasdevida.blogspot.com Musikito

    It looks great, I’ll give it a try!

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