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Pencil Banner vs. Gmail: Android app showdown

Ian Paul | Nov. 29, 2012
Microsoft's Webmail service recently passed the 25 million active user mark, a milestone the company celebrated by releasing an Android app for The supposedly new Android app is part of the software giant's plan to take on Gmail, Google's critically acclaimed Webmail service, which has about 425 million active users.

Gmail on Android has a far simpler interface than the tab-based menu Microsoft uses, and Gmail also supports multiple accounts. All you see at first glance in Gmail for Android is a list of your messages with a box on the top right showing you which account you're viewing messages for and a box on the top left indicating which folder you're in such as the inbox. To add or manage accounts, you just tap on the account name in the upper-right corner. If you need to view a different folder, just tap the box in the top left and select the folder or label in Gmail speak from a list. Unlike, Gmail for Android focuses on providing a simple list of your latest e-mail messages and nothing more.

The menus

As any Android user knows, to find an app's settings and other functions you typically tap the menu icon on your phone. For Gmail on Android, the menu icon brings up a number of features including the ability to refresh your inbox, compose a new message, manage accounts, manage Gmail labels, search, settings and help.

Using the menu icon in the app, however, is more complicated since the options change based on which tab you're viewing. If you're on the Home tab, you can manage the app's general settings such as managing notifications and alerts and the ability to add a PIN lock. The menu icon from the "All Emails" tab gives you the option to compose a new message or sort messages alphabetically. Each account tab contains the bulk of the menu options you're most likely to use such as refresh, pause, compose, individual account settings, alphabetical message sorting, and the ability to sync other folders such as a Hotmail alias or your Sent items folder.

Contacts and Calendar

Both Google and Microsoft let you sync online contacts and calendars from their respective services with your Android phone. Google's sync method is baked into the phone's OS, while Microsoft's happens through the app.

Quiet Time

One nice feature has is the ability to stop syncing e-mail at certain times of the day or week, giving you some much needed time off from the daily e-mail grind. You can, for example, tell not to notify you of new messages between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m., or whatever time period works best for you. You can also tell not to sync new messages during the weekend or on other specific days during the week. Quiet Time is managed on a per account basis so you can turn off your work account on Saturdays while still receiving messages sent to your personal e-mail address. To try Quiet Time, tap on one of your account tabs then tap menu icon>Account Settings>Quiet Time.You can still grab new messages by syncing manually during specified quiet times.


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