I just installed the recently announced update to the Gmail for Android app that was teased at Google I/O 2013. While the update applies to both webmail and the iOS/Android apps, I’m focusing on the Android environment because to me, it represents the most significant opportunity.
There are three new things that I think marketers need to pay attention to:
1. Sender Images
For individuals sending you email from their Google/Gmail accounts, their profile picture automatically appears in the tile space. Otherwise, the first letter of the sender name appears. The question for marketers is whether there might be a path to registering / associating a brand mark with their sending domain. This could be a nice win for companies that are using Google Apps for their email services (vs. Outlook Exchange) because users can select a picture to go with their Google profile.
2. Subject line > preview text
As you can see in the inbox screenshot, you can see that the identity tiles compress the space available for subject lines and preview text. It appears that longer subject lines now take greater priority over any preview text. Moosejaw’s subject line for Father’s Day (43 characters w/ spaces on my HTC One X) appears to be the maximum length for a subject line while retaining a 2nd line for preview text. The first 4-6 words of your preview text just became more important, depending on how long/short your subject line is.
3. NO MORE SIDE SCROLLING! (by default)
The legacy problem for Gmail users has been that HTML emails at the typical 600-640px width have only been shown the top left corner and forced users to scroll horizontally to see the right half of the email. With the new release, emails appear to be scaling such that the horizontal scroll goes away (finally!). Google rolled out their ‘Auto-Fit’ feature back in version 4.2 of Gmail for Android (circa Dec. 2012), but it was not enabled by default. With the 4.5 release, Auto-Fit is enabled by default.
Example below is the same Papa John’s email in two environments:
Left: Gmail for Android 2.3.6 on a Motorola Atrix running Android 2.3.6.
This experience still represents up to 36% of Android market.
Right: Gmail for Android 4.5 on my HTC One X running Android 4.1.1.
This probably represents up to 54% of the Android market.
However, it presents a different challenge because while iPhones support inline CSS that can alter font sizes for easier readability based on screen size, Gmail for Android falls short and still does not support inline CSS and all that responsive design goodness email marketers have been implementing recently. Essentially, while scaling is a nice update because readers can now see more of the email immediately, fonts will be hard to read.
Wish List Item Unfulfilled – Images on by Default
The other wish list I had was for images to be turned on by default as part of this update. It’s a wasted click and one of the biggest differences in the email user experience between Apple Mail for iPhone and Gmail for Android. I want someone to tell me that images on by default for iOS has been driving increases in spam. If nobody steps up to the plate to tell me this, then I have to argue that images off by default needs to go the way of Internet Explorer 6 and Netscape Navigator.
Part Two will (likely) feature what I’m calling Priority Inbox 2.0 – an attempt to bring OtherInbox-like functionality to Gmail across all environments (iOS, Android and Webmail), – so stay tuned!