Google kill-off native email app: A sign of the times for BlackBerry

Using a 3rd party mail application on a BlackBerry feels odd. Messaging is still RIM's forte (apparently). However, I chose - for over a year - to use Google's own mail application... switching off the BlackBerry native one. Two things drove me to this:

  • I move from 'desktop' to mobile frequently, but BIS (the email service BlackBerry offers consumers via network operators) is painfully slow to synchronise anything other than new mail, when it did it at all.
  • To use Gmail's 'extra' features like labelling, conversation threading and archiving Blackberry offers a plug-in. It's a poor, confusing and click-intensive experience.

As a 'power user' (although I'd argue I'm not really - other platforms don't have these problems) I could have switched to an enterprise (BES) solution - either via a hosting provider or a connector service into my Google Apps account, but this has an additional subscription and still doesn't address the second point.

So Google's native application, with it's excellent search facility, good UI and 'better than BlackBerry' keyboard shortcuts won out.

Today Google announced that they're withdrawing the app from the 22nd of November. The alternative solution proposed is - laughably - the mobile web interface. There were warning signs though... the app has been broken (and un-fixed) since OS6 was released.

Fellow 361-er Ewan at Mobile Industry Review wonders what he can do to fill the gap. To me  it's clear - there are now (as we discussed in the most recent podcast) only 3 smartphone eco-systems for consumers: Apple, Android and the emerging Windows Phone. BlackBerry is losing support - bit by bit - from 3rd parties and the resulting experience is poor unless you are a business user on a 'standard' Microsoft Exchange-based mail service.

Even the much touted Office 365 (Microsoft's cloud offering) Blackberry tie-up is still in beta... As many firms make their moves to cloud email solutions it hasn't arrived in time and firms will leave Blackberry behind as they swtich.

In short: there is no 'gap filler'. This is a symptom of a wider problem and Blackberry either needs a Nokia-esque turnaround or to be broken-up for parts. It's now looking cheap enough.