Gmail's Java mobile app: Ahh...not so good

After seeing Oliver’s enthusiastic review at MobileCrunch today, I was pumped to download this app and give it a try. I probably won’t use it and here’s why…

The one huge competitive advantage Palm enjoys with the PalmOS — besides a huge number of applications from years of being the dominant handheld maker — is that these people really know how mobile applications work.

In fact, the primary reason I bought my 700p (PalmOS) version instead of the 700w (Windows mobile version) is because the PalmOS use was far simpler for navigation. Often one click or a few movements of the nav wheel lets me accomplish what I want to do: make a phone call, scroll through stuff, get my alerts, etc. On the Windows version, multiple clicks or movements are the norm and I often found myself pulling out the stylus to manipulate it…which I almost never do with the Palm version.

So with anticipation I downloaded the Java midlet (the app that runs inside of the Java virtual machine (JVM)) since Oliver talked about speed! Speed and ease of use is critical with smartphones and I’d hoped that access to my email and manipulating it would be streamlined.

Not so. Instead of hitting my “mail” icon on my Treo 700p (which I’ve set in preferences to launch my web browser which has Gmail as the home page…thus it comes up right away), the Gmail midlet causes me to perform a number of tasks with my finger, through menu selections and more. NOTE: It’s altogether likely that the incredibly old version of IBM’s WebSphere Java runtime offered through Palm might be the issue and newer JVM’s on more modern operating systems (the PalmOS is very long-in-the-tooth) might help matters.

There are some good things like having my contacts load fast for quick searching (a big plus when I want to search within the thousands of people in my Gmail email). Reading Word .doc’s and PDF’s worked. It wouldn’t playback (nor launch the Palm audio player) to let me hear my WAV voicemails I’ve setup to be emailed from Vonage.

So before passing final judgement, I need to try this on a different phone, more modern operating system and updated JVM before I slam them. For now, it’s not so good on the Treo 700p.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

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