–Engage

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.” - Steve Jobs

Ok, now I’m getting frustrated [A real iPhone flaw]

I’m not sure if this is design or engineering, or just lack of focus, but there is a HUGE problem w/ iPhone mail and I don’t hear anyone else talking about it.

Ok, what’s the big deal?

Well, first a little background:

1. I use Gmail for all my email. That is 4 accounts that I use through one pretty amazing interface. I do it predominantly all on the web site of Gmail, but of course the reason I have an iPhone (one of many) is to be able to do email on my phone as well. Some might say I write more email on my iPhone than I do on my desktop/webtop

2. For people who don’t know Gmail on the iPhone is a POP experience. This has some pretty big limitations over the real Gmail experience which is more akin to an IMAP experience.

3. Gmail on POP regardless of mail client (even Outlook or Thunderbird or Mac Mail or Entourage or Eudora or Blackberry) is REALLY piss poor. Why? Because of a fundamental design flaw in Gmail’s UI logic that really doesn’t take into account the POP interaction model. That is, there is only 1 user mailbox for all email. (The exceptions seem to be SPAM and Trash are separated out). This means that just b/c you removed something from the inbox doesn’t mean that it is removed from the POP mailbox. Further, messages you send are kept in that same mailbox. Now, the latter issue is because all messages are kept in that mailbox so that a thread can be maintained called a conversation. I get that. But here is how this translates to the user experience of someone on an iPhone. (Oh! let me clarify one thing. If I was using the Java client like I was on my Treo or Blackberry this wouldn’t be a problem. This is only about using the POP service which you have to do on an iPhone, to take advantage of your contacts and to be able to do polling.)

Here’s what you get.

1. You get up in the morning and do what everyone does. You check your email. You go through and prune your inbox, read stuff, label stuff, etc. etc. (You would think that you are “done” with it; or alternatively that there would be a way to say, “I’m not done with it.”) You’ve even written a few emails, btw.

2. You start up your email client in the morning. Let’s assume that you don’t have polling on, but you are doing manual retrieval of your email. So what you get is ALL the email whether it has been read or not AND all the email you sent coming in. Now, I don’t mind EDGE too much, but having to wait for a ton of email I already read and managed is a total waste of my time. Oh! it’s a waste of my time on WiFi too.

3. Then I have to go through and prune out of my iPhone inbox all of the messages that I just downloaded that I don’t want to keep.

4. But it’s not even that simple b/c as it is downloading messages it is only downloading headers and maybe the short preview. For each message I look at I have to wait to download the whole thing again. Or worse, sometimes I start deleting before it starts downloading the previews AND as it downloads previews it STALLS!!!!! the entire client so I can’t even delete or view messages and in regards to deleting, I’m being held in limbo sometimes for 30sec. to 1min. at a time for messages I don’t even want downloaded!!!!!!!

5. Oh! and there is this neat setting where you get to globally decide how many messages you want to keep in your mailbox. But dig this! … Just b/c a message had been previously totally downloaded and viewed there is NO WAY to make sure it continues to remain on the client. It may not even be listed in the mail box anymore b/c you have 51 messages in total and the message you want is the 51st. It will only hold 50 messages in memory/cache (I guess).

Soooooo … when I’m on the train UNDERGROUND!!!! I can’t get to a message and start a reply like I was hoping to! (or you have to REALLY think a head or stand upstairs before going underground and do all your management. Uh!?! I might need to get some place people! This is a MOBILE!!!! device.

Oh, this list goes on, but the real issue I wanted to focus on is the stalling. I mean Gmail does its thing and that isn’t Apple’s issue, though it should be. But the engineering debacle here or lack of design oversight on the experience of POP email IS Apple’s fault. This is a simple issue of underestimating network management and the need for real multi-threaded support in the email client. (The Browser lacks this to, exemplified by the fact that two windows can’t be downloading at the same time. OR! one background window can’t be downloading while a foreground window is being viewed and not downloading even.)

Now don’t get me wrong. The total experience is a billion times better than any phone I have ever had, but I just expect more and want more and well NEED more!!!!

So Apple, I’m hoping that patch 1.2 fixes email and that it comes out REALLY soon.

Gmail … WTF! can you just admit that you didn’t get it right and fix it!

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