Is the new Gmail app interface dumb, or am I a freak?

poll New Gmail app for Android swaps out a delete button for a read-unread toggle. CNET News' Stephen Shankland thinks the change is foolish -- but asks which you'd rather have.

By default, Gmail 4.5 on Android ditches the trash-can icon to delete selected messages and adds a button to mark messages as read or unread. It's the center of the three, looking like an envelope with a little circle on it.
By default, Gmail 4.5 on Android ditches the trash-can icon to delete selected messages and adds a button to mark messages as read or unread. It's the center of the three, looking like an envelope with a little circle on it. Stephen Shankland/CNET

I'm a Gmail fanboy. Priority inbox, stars, the archive tool, labels, filters, built-in translation, conversation view, relatively effective spam blocking -- its features have helped me stay one step ahead of the chaos.

But on Friday, when the new Gmail app arrived on my Android phone, I lost some of my faith because of one simple thing: Google deleted the delete button.

In its place was a button that, I eventually figured out after some confused experimentation, toggles messages as read or unread. Deleting a selected e-mail became a two-tap operation: tap the menu button, then tap the delete option.

I was unhappy, and so are a lot of others griping about the change in the Gmail app user reviews on Google Play. Fortunately, you can re-enable the Gmail app's delete button by going to Settings, General settings, then Archive & delete actions.

What I'm trying to figure out now, though, is whether my view is typical. Should I be questioning Google's judgment or my own?

I use that delete button dozens or hundreds of times a day to dispose of mailing list messages I don't need to preserve, alerts about free Amazon e-books, and ill-targeted PR pitches. I mark messages as unread or read perhaps three or four times a year.

But maybe Google knows better. Is it trying to steer us toward those earliest days of Gmail, encouraging us to archive mail instead? Is deleting an e-mail so unusual that it shouldn't be a top-level action? Do people really mark messages as read or unread that often?

CNET asked Google for its rationale, and we'll update this post if the company responds.

When I crabbed about the deleted delete button on Google+, some people told me they never delete messages, and they use read/unread as a way to keep track of messages that need to be dealt with. That's fair -- I recognize there are plenty of ways to use Gmail and that I may not be very representative.

But I'd like a better handle on the situation. Vote in this poll, and tell us what you prefer in the comments below.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

How well do you know your surge protector?

Whether you're looking to add more outlets, or want to add a layer of protection between your gear and the outside world, here's what you need to know.