A Quick Wrap-up of Push Gmail apps

by Ankur Gupta

A Quick Wrap-up of Push Gmail apps

by Ankur Gupta on September 23, 2009

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Push and Gmail have not been synonymously associated with each other since the introduction of push email on iPhone a year and a half back that has been restricted to MobileMe, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange servers. But with the advent of push notifications it was only a matter of time that emails from your Gmail account got pushed to the iPhone. We’ll be looking at three different apps, PushMail, GPush and Push Gmail that offer the same functionality.

PushMail: Expensive but productive

pushmail-app PushMail brings with it push notifications for not only Gmail but any email service that supports email forwarding. PushMail requires you to create an account on dopushmail.com and forward emails from your email account to the PushMail account. Emails forwarded to PushMail account are deleted from the server as soon as they are pushed to your iPhone. I’ll get to the security aspect a little later. Once you have created an account on dopushmail.com using the app, move the app to the last screen and let it rest there and watch it push emails to your iPhone effortlessly.

Setting up your Gmail to forward your emails to PushMail’s account is rather simple. Head to Gmail settings and in ‘Forwarding and POP/IMAP’ tab enable forwarding, adding your registered dopushmail.com account address. Remember to keep Gmail’s copy in Inbox else you will lose the mail as PushMail server does not store mails. The process should be similar for other email service providers that support email forwarding. A thing to note that Gmail supports forwarding to only one email address, so if you are already forwarding to some other email address you’ll have to create a Gmail filter[1. Tip: Putting your Gmail handle in ‘To’ field in filter options lets you select all your incoming emails] to forward your email to the PushMail account.

pushmail-notificationPushMail displays the sender’s name, subject and the beginning line of the email in the push notification that pops up almost instantly when you receive the email in your inbox. To view the email, you’ll have to launch the Mail app manually but would have loved some kind of integration to launch the app from the notification itself. Developers at PushMail are working on the feature along with sound customizations, badges and a privacy feature that does not include the body in the notification. The app comes with a price tag of $2.99 [iTunes link], a bit steep but worth it, if you want push notifications for Gmail or other mail services. If you need cheaper alternatives read on.

GPush: Simple but restrictive

gpush-appGPush, an alternative to PushMail offers push notifications for your Gmail or Google Apps email account. Unlike PushMail, GPush does not require you to set up a new account on their server. The app uses your credentials to login to your account and monitors it for any incoming emails and pops a notification as soon as a new mail is received. The notification displays the email of the sender and the subject line. Support for only a single account limits the functionality of the app. The app is priced at $1.99 [iTunes link], a shade below PushMail.

Push Gmail: Attractive and economical

Push Gmail, new kid on the block, goes about pushing Google account emails to your iPhone just the same way as GPush using your account credentials. Interface is of virtually zilch importance for these apps but Push Gmail sports the best UI out of the three apps reviewed. Apart from a nice UI, the app has the ability to launch Mail.app from the notification itself, a feature missing from both PushMail and GPush. Also Push Gmail has an in-app Gmail browser that can be used to view your incoming mails instead of launching Mail app. The push notification pop-up is similar to PushMail displaying the sender name, subject line and the body preview. Push Gmail is priced at $0.99, most economical among the three.


Summing up

Coming on to the security aspect of push Gmail apps. GPush and Push Gmail use secure SSL connection to connect to your Gmail account but giving out credentials of your all important account doesn’t fit in my preference list. On the other hand, PushMail’s method of forwarding email does seem a better option considering emails are not stored on their server and the security threat is limited to the amount of information contained in the confidential emails sent to you. In either case one needs to have a certain amount of trust on the developer else there is no point investing in such an app.

Overall, PushMail seems to edge ahead from the other two for having the ability to set up multiple email accounts spanning across several email providers and not just Gmail. Also as discussed above, I prefer the method used by PushMail to set up the notifications as compared to GPush and Push Mail. At the moment, Push Gmail offers more features than PushMail and GPush and combined with its attractive price tag, Push Gmail could do very well for itself.

Death of push Gmail apps?

Google just introduced the ability to push Gmail account emails to your iPhone using Google Sync. The service requires you to set up a Microsoft Exchange account on your iPhone for your Gmail account to push new incoming mails to Mail.app just like MobileMe or Yahoo. So where does this leave all the budding push Gmail apps? There are a couple of reasons why I would still use one of these apps for pushing Gmail account emails to my iPhone.

First, iPhone only supports one Exchange account, so if you use Microsoft Exchange for work, then you can’t set it up for your personal Gmail account. Also multiple Gmail account holders are left with no option but to forward emails from secondary email accounts to the primary email account for them to get pushed. Secondly, email pushed to iPhone through Mail.app is notified via a beep sound that I somehow manage to miss most of the times. Using push apps, I get the added advantage of having a notification displayed even while iPhone is locked. That said, Google Sync will seriously dent the sales of push apps.

[Header image via Flickr, credits to Bradley]

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