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.

Does the Gmail app need a delete button?

Google replaced the delete button in its Gmail app with a button that lets you switch a selected message's status between read and unread. W

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.

 

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