n Wednesday, techies cheered the release of a Gmail app for iPhone and iPad. Sadly, the good times did not keep on rolling. About an hour after the launch, Google pulled the app because of a bug. Here's what you need to know about "Google's great big Gmail app fail":
What is this Gmail app anyway?
It was supposed to give the world's 190 million Gmail users better, slicker access to their email on the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Sure, Gmailers could already get their email through Apple's native Mail app or a browser. But the hotly anticipated Gmail app was to simplify the process, and add new features like push notifications and a better search function.
So why did it get yanked?
Google said that "unfortunately," the app "contained a bug which broke notifications and caused users to see an error message when first opening the app." The company said it had "pulled the app to fix the problem. Sorry we messed up." The tweet was posted just a couple hours after an earlier tweet announcing the new app.
Did techies freak out?
Right on cue. At Tech Crunch, Sarah Perez called the app "a big disappointment" and an "unusable... mess." On Google+, tech blogger Robert Scoble heralded the effort as "a piece of crud." At Daring Fireball, John Gruber levelled criticism at both the tech team's competence and the app's aesthetic. The user interface "is pretty much just the mobile Gmail web app," he griped.
How did this happen?
It's a real mystery. Commentators are wondering how such a "blatant error" made it through the strict vetting process Apple puts all its apps through. "I think Apple approved this to embarrass Google," says a cynical Scoble. Several other techies also suspect, with varying degrees of earnestness, a conspiracy theory. But in the end, the fault lies with Google higher-ups, Scoble says. "This is what happens when company leaders don't use iPhones and don't really try out products before they are approved. Larry Page, I'm looking at you."
Is this app even necessary?
That's debatable. At PC Mag, Jill Duffy says the Gmail app has "much better search capabilities," while Apple's Mail is "easier on the eyes." Some have questioned Google's wisdom in creating an app for Apple's iOS gadgets, key rivals of its Android devices. "If Google provides too good of a Gmail experience on iOS devices, it actually loses a key advantage over smartphones and tablets that use Android software," says Kevin C. Tofel at GigaOm.
The app has been pulled from the Apple App Store, but people who had already downloaded it can continue to (try to) use it. Google has yet to say when a new version of the app will be available.
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