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Google Mail on mobile just got easier

Google releases a mobile Java Gmail application for cell phones.

Google is very smart about mobile devices. On a PDA or cell phone, the Google search experience has been, for quite awhile, very different than it is on a full-size screen. Google even parses Web pages it links to and tries to repackage them in a mobile-friendly way. (To force the Google mobile version, go to www.google.com/m.)

Mobile Gmail

Gmail, though, has not been a great experience on mobile devices. But on Thursday Google released a mobile Java Gmail application for cell phones that makes using your Gmail account much easier (news story). The new app--which will be preloaded onto some new Sprint phones, or available for download for anyone else who has a Java-capable phone here--is a very good mobile version of the Gmail Web app. The app gives Gmail its own custom menu system, which is much easier to navigate than a Web-based app would be on a cell phone. Gmail's message threading also shows up clearly, and the site displays attachments (like photos and Word documents) in the app. One snag: In my tests on the phone Google sent me to try the product, links to documents on Google Docs and Spreadsheets did not work. Oops. (A new WAP version of the reader is available too, which I have not tried.)

In related news, Google's new RSS reader also now has a mobile interface. It's a subtly different application from the full-size Web version of Google Reader. In the mobile app, you're presented first with your "reading list," the nine most recent stories to come in to your feeds. You can select one from pressing its number (1-9; or 0 for the next nine), and, as with Google.com on a mobile, you'll get a special lightweight display of the story instead of the fully loaded page. You can also select a feed to read or search through your tags, but the cell phone interface is better suited to the task of skimming feeds.

Google clearly recognizes that when you're using its services on a mobile device you probably want not just a different user interface, but different content as well. These are good mobile apps.

(Photo: Google)