Mobile Safari Gmail redesign

Google recently updated their Gmail web interface for the iPhone in Mobile Safari. The changes are subtle, but effective. They describe how the interface redesign makes Gmail act more like a native app, and they’re right. But there are some differences that make this new look work more intuitively than a web-app or a native app. A hybrid of the sort, allowing the unique qualities of native app with the full functionality of living within the browser.

The first thing you’ll notice when logging into Gmail, the Safari navigation toolbar disappears. One thing about native applications, given that users are not in a browser, normally no navigation toolbar exists to enter in a URL, you don’t need it.

Full-Screen Mode

Gmail in “Full-Screen Mode” with a fixed-position toolbar.

Gmail’s prior version also had a fixed toolbar with the same navigation UI elements, but the difference was in the placement. It was very cluttered originally, with your controls fixed on the side. The effect was that of a toolbar following your every move. Quite annoying when you are trying to scan your inbox. This time around, it’s affixed to the top status-bar, clean and out of the user’s way.

This is one of my favorite part’s to the redesign. Prior versions might have hid the navigation toolbar at first launch, but when you would pull down to scroll, the URL would reappear. No reappearing now.

Full-Screen Mode

Safari navigation toolbar hidden, giving Gmail “Full-Screen Mode” with a fixed-position toolbar.

But we are still in a browser at the end of the day, so we can’t be sandboxed in. By tapping the status-bar just as if you were trying to scroll to the top in Safari, not only will you fly to the top, but our old friend re-appears. When the user scrolls back down, the toolbar hides once again.

Top Tap

iPhone status bar revealing the Safari toolbar.

They also made some crazy improvements to the page load speed and caching. When one flick’s their finger to scroll down quickly, normally you see a bit of that loading “checkerboard” effect. Scrolling now is more like a momentum-driven gliding.

Fluid Scrolling

While scrolling the Gmail toolbar remains fixed in a better, less obtrusive way than before. Scrolling is also much faster, without the “checkerboard” loading look.

Google keeps impressing me by how much they look into improving the iPhone’s UI. Considering Google is now competing directly with Apple, I think they are clearly taking the higher road. When Apple has a petty dispute over an app they may try to release, that’s when the true innovations come. With the Google Voice HTML5 breakthrough, YouTube and now Gmail, my hat goes off to them.

I hate flying

Traveling by air is the biggest pain in the ass, it’s not just my imagination. I’m a cynic, I admit that, but airports, airplanes and the airlines annoy me just as much as cellular and insurance companies. Actually more considering I have to go through the traveling “process” more often. Although I do believe that some of the reasons many flight attendants and airline employees are less than a joy to work with is aggravation from their companies making the rules of conduct. But in my opinion that excuse quickly runs out.

Many of the low-level suits of the airline companies, those on the phones and in the airports, have the same artificial sense of elitist entitlement as their “frequent flyer”, “advantage” and any of the other eye-roller titles the blood suckers give to the customers they hook.

It’s not difficult to notice so many of the simple improvements airlines can make to make the flight just a little bit more bearable. obvious size constraints aside, my being 6’ 3” I could use just a tad more leg room, but my comfort runs into profit margins as it would require a reduction of seats. What would that mean in the long run? Simply put, an easy excuse to raise the fairs even more. So let’s focus on what could be done with the tools we already have. The drink cart: does it have to be the same size as the aisle? Especially since most airlines no longer serve food on the average flight? If you look at the cart you will notice that the edges have a metal trim on every corner and edge. I find it odd that it’s such an armored device considering most other trims in the plane are plastic and rubber to cut weight.

Another thing you will notice are all the dings and dents. To me, that’s like the fear I get parking next to a beat up car in the parking lot. Whether it’s the driver or the car(t) it doesn’t matter, truth is, it’s probably a combination of the two. Get some foam or any kind of padding, and wrap that up. Everyone will thank the first airline that implements this because everyone at one time or another has been a victim of the cart, and it hurts.

But I do want to stress again that the carts do not have to be that heavy or wide. There are so many lighter and better maneuverable alternatives available. Look at any of the latest high-tech baby strollers. Those hold and house the safety of a helpless child, something anyone sane person cherish’s much more than a bag of peanuts and a Sprite.

The armrest needs to be wide enough to hold more than 2/3s of an adult elbow. I always think about the non-verbal struggle my brother and I would have on family vacations when we would fight for armrest real estate. One person would always be taking up the front half and the other would have the back. What’s even worse is the raw deal the middle seat gets having to share with both neighbors.

Can we give some love to the brave one that gets blocked in by not one but two passengers? The window seat experience would be just a little bit more bearable if the surface around the window frame were a padding similar to what’s around the drink cart. It can’t be a porous foam as that would cause just a bit more spreading of bacteria and germs. Though its not like we should really worry about that considering the close quarters passengers sit in, but we are trying to improve the situation. By having the padding sealed it would allow for quicker better cleaning.

I would like to hear suggestions others have, feel free to add to the list…