Google pushes Gmail update for Honeycomb tablets

by Phil Hornshaw

Google is slowly rolling out improvements for its proprietary apps, with the latest being the addition of new gesture controls for Gmail, geared toward Android tablet users.

As The Verge reports, the update comes to tablets running Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the tablet version of Google’s Android operating system it released last year. And in fact, while the update is for Honeycomb users, Google is touting it as an “Android 4.0 experience” for them.

The update specifically brings swiping gesture capabilities to the app, allowing users to quickly move between newer and older conversations, and things like setting custom notifications for various user-created labels. The app will also now sync the last 30 days of messages whenever you’re connected to the Internet, so that you can more quickly and easily move between messages, read them and search for them, whether you’re actively connected to the Internet or not.

Gmail users who aren’t on Honeycomb also get a few improvements in the latest Gmail update. A new API allows third-party developers to access Gmail’s label system and the whole app has gotten some performance tweaks to make it run better.

It’s notable that Google is working to bring features from Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to users on Honeycomb – mostly because ICS is taking so long to get filtered out to users. Reportedly, the version of Android Google is currently working on, for release later this year, is tablet-specific like Honeycomb, which could also have an effect on how many tablets receive upgrades to Android 4.0, and when.

It’d be nice for Google to find a way of actually pushing all of ICS to tablet users, not just the bits and pieces in individual apps, but Android users are probably ready to take what they can get as they wait (im)patiently for their upgrades. Meanwhile, that Google is continuing to improve the mobile experience of its proprietary apps is great, although users are still reporting a few issues (and the update doesn’t seem to work with our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1). Hopefully Google will continue to improve the experience for all its Android fans.