Category Archives: Email
On November 22, 2011, Google discontinued support for mobile Java and BlackBerry versions of its Gmail app and removed the download links for these apps from their sites. The Gmail apps still work and are the best way I've found to access Gmail on non-touchscreen feature phones. I haven't used a BlackBerry in years but when I did I used the Google app because it worked better with Gmail than BlackBerry Mail did.
As these apps still work I'm posting them here for anyone that wants them. These are all official versions that I downloaded from the Google servers over a period of years. They are unmodified other than changing the URLs in the .jad files to point at the .jar or .cod files on my servers.
These apps work best on non-touchscreen phones. I've run the Gmail app on a N0kia N8 touchscreen phone and it works but it's frustratingly difficult to accurately tap the correct items in the tiny hierarchical menus
There's also a link to Gmail V. 2.0.7 for touchscreen BlackBerrys posted in this CrackBerry Forum thread.
A word about the various versions. V 2.0.6, which was released in 2009, was the last Gmail mobile Java version. It includes the following new features compared with previous releases
- Support for multiple Gmail accounts including Google Apps accounts.
- Offline capability. You can launch Gmail even when you have no signal to read emails that you previously downloaded and to compose new emails. When you hit "Send", instead of complaining about the lack of connectivity, Gmail will hold the newly composed email and send it when you move back into a area with coverage.
- Polling, Gmail will check for new email periodically, approximately every 5 minutes when it's in the foreground and every 20 minutes when running in the background.
- Alerts, when new mail arrives Gmail will alert you. The Java app vibrates once when a new email arrives, which is easy to miss. With the BlackBerry app the Gmail icon on the home screen changes to indicate you have unread mail. Gmail also hooks into the Blackberry OS's profile based notification system allowing you to configure the phone to do any combination of vibrating, ringing or flashing the message waiting LED continuously to indicate new mail.
Unfortunately, 2.0.6 doesn't work for everyone. There are two main problems:
- Size: Gmail 2.0.6 is a relatively big download, the generic Java version is 257 KB and is too large to run on some older and very low end current phones. Version 1.5 was significantly smaller at 156 KB and 1.0 smaller yet at only 113 KB. (The BlackBerry version of Gmail that is even larger, but even older BlackBerries seem to have sufficient resources to load and run it without problems.)
- Data and battery consumption: The constant polling uses data and battery power and there is no way to disable polling or change the interval. This is an obvious issue for anyone who pays for data by the KB or who needs to make their battery last as long as possible. The only way to stop Gmail from polling is the exit the app which means you have to restart it every time you want to check you mail. Gmail's start up time is quite long compared with the time required to do an on demand poll with 1.5.
For most Java phones the easiest way to install Gmail is to point your phone's browser at the mobile version of this post on wapreview.mobi and click on one of the JAD file links.
JAD (Java Application Descriptor) files are small text files that contain meta data about the actual application which is the JAR file. Loading the JAD file is the recommended way to install Java apps. The phone will read the JAD, which contains a link to the JAR, and then automatically download and install the JAR. Occasionally a phone will have trouble understanding the JAD but will be able to download and install the JAR directly. So if you get an error with the JAD link, try clicking the JAR file link.
Originally posted 1-Feb-2009. Updated 14-Dec-2011 with 2.0.6 versions added and links modified to point to copies of apps on my servers.
Email is not a secure service. Even if you use a secure transport like HTTPS or SSL to access your mail, once your messages leave your email provider's mail server they travel unencrypted over the Internet to the recipient's mail server. For this reason you really should not use regular email to send credit card numbers, SSNs or confidential personal or business information. Messages can be intercepted and read by employers, ISPs, government agencies and hackers. Fax or even a voice phone call is significantly safer but still subject to eavesdropping particularly by telephone service providers and the government.
Secure email is possible only if messages are encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the recipient using something like OpenPGP, BouncyCastle or GNU Privacy Guard. These tools are somewhat cumbersome to use and require both sender and recipient to have the encryption package installed on their PC. These tools are also not available for most mobile phones. However there is an alternative that's relatively easy to use, secure web mail. The oldest (since 1997) and largest secure web mail provider Hushmail.com, recently launched a mobile web based version of their product at m.hushmail.com.
In order to use HushMail's mobile email you first have to sign up for their regular web mail at hushmail.com. Sign up is fast and easy. There are three HushMail plans, Free, Premium and Business.
The free account is limited to 2MB of email storage and must be accessed at least every three weeks or they will be deleted. Every time you log into a free account on the full web you have to dismiss a prompt to sign up for the Premium Plan before you can reach your inbox. Thankfully, the free mobile web version doesn't do that.
The Premium account is $34.95/year and raises the storage limit to 250MB, lets you use HushMail from OutLook, Mac OS Mail and Thunderbird and removes the every three week log in restriction.
Business accounts let you use you own domain for secure email and start at $2/month/user after a $9.95 setup fee. There are additional optional charges for Outlook/Thunderbird/Mac OS Mail access, increased storage and various administrative services.
Using Hushmail is as easy as any web mail product. Sending an encrypted email to another Hushmail is simply a matter of checking an "Encrypted" box when composing the message. As both sender and recipient log into Hushmail to access their mail, encryption and decryption happens behind the scenes with no user intervention. Sending and receiving unencrypted emails with anyone requires no extra steps either. If you want to sent an encrypted email to a non Hushmail user, you are prompted to enter a challenge question and response. When the recipient opens the encrypted email they actually see a place holder message informing them that there is an encrypted email from you waiting for them at Hushmail along with a message specific URL. When they visit that URL, they are prompted with the challenge question, if they answer it correctly they see the message and can send an encrypted reply without any additional log in.
The mobile Hushmail interface is clean and lean and loads rapidly in even the most basic mobile browsers. It's fairly full-featured too with mass tag and delete and the ability to move individual emails to folders, although you can't create new folders with the mobile version. Attachments are supported on mobile, however, unlike with mobile gMail, Word and PDF documents aren't converted to plain text to be readable on any phone. If your phone has a PDF or Word reader that's fine, otherwise you are out of luck. Usability is fairly good, the main drawback is the need to enter your full Hushmail email address including the '@' sign along with your passphrase every time you visit Hushmail mobile. Hushmail does not set a persistent cookie so you have to log in every time. It doesn't help that when you sign up for Hushmail you are urged to make your passphrase much longer and more complex than an ordinary password. I understand that the lack of persistent log in and the long ID and passphrase enhance security but they also make logging in much harder than with other mobile web mail services like gMail. The other thing I don't like about Mobile Hushmail is that it turns URLs in messages into plain text so they aren't click-able. This is a pet peeve of mine although it may not be an issue for most people.
Hushmail and it's mobile version are a great way to do secure email with a minimum of inconvenience. While I'm sure none of my readers would do anything illegal, Hushmail warns that you may not be protected if you use HushMail for email related to any activity which is illegal in either your home country, your recipient's country or Canada, where Hushmail is based. Hushmail must respond to valid Canadian court orders including international court orders from countries that have a mutual assistance treaty with Canada. In fact HushMail cooperated recently with US authorities to turn over decrypted emails in a case involving the sale of illegal anabolic steroid drugs.
Via: Mobile Mammoth
Mobile Link: m.hushmail.com
Ratings: Content: Usability:
As for Yahoo Go!, I tried version 2.0 but didn't like it. I prefer doing everything in the browser, It takes longer to start Go! and have it retrieve the latest email headers than to just load mail.yahoo.com in Opera Mini. Plus when you follow a link in an e-mail, Go! uses it's built-in mini-browser to show a transcoded copy with no way to open the original in a real browser. Go! 3.0 is out now. Maybe it's better. I haven't tried it yet, I've you have please leave a comment with your experiences.
I've also used gMail's "Basic HTML" version on the phone and it works perfectly with Opera Mini. I'd switch everything to gMail but for one thing. In an effort to reduce SPAM, I try to keep my primary email address somewhat hidden and use alternate addresses that I can delete when they start getting too much junk mail. In gMail, when I reply with an alternate address, Google still shows my primary gMail address in the
Return Path: headers. Yahoo doesn't do this. Google says this to "help prevent your mail from being marked as spam." No one's ever complained about my email being "marked as spam", but I do know that by revealing my "real" address, Google is subjecting it to SPAM.
I think I've finally found a better way to do Yahoo Mail on my phone. It's the mail client that is part of Yahoo's Beta personalized mobile portal at beta.m.yahoo.com. I've written about the Beta before but never used it much. It was just too buggy, especially the e-mail portion. It seemed like at least half the time I tried to open or send an an e-mail, I'd see:
"We Have run into a problem processing your last request! Please try again later.
Well, I started using the Beta again last week, read dozens of emails and sent a few and so far I haven't seen that or any other errors. Finally, a single Y!Mail client where I can move mail to folders and follow links and have them open right in Opera Mini. The Beta is my new preferred way to use Y!Mail on my phone. There are some nice touches in the Beta, I like that when I get to the bottom of a message there's a menu (2nd image) with choices for disposition of the message; Delete, Move, Reply, etc. I've also started using the Beta's personalized home page to check news headlines, local weather and (falling) stock market. The portal (bottom image) is pretty slick with lots of predefined content modules to chose from, even a WapReview snippet :). Plus you can add your own links to any sites.
Not that the Y! Mobile Beta is perfect. I wish the end of message menu had a Next link for those times when I want to leave a message in my inbox (so I can reply later from a PC) and go on to the next one. True, there is a Next link at the top of the page but it would be nice to have one at the bottom too. And there is an annoying bug in the display of both mail headers and news headlins. The text wraps at 160 pixels instead of using the full width of the screen. You can see this in the first and last images on this page. It looks ugly and is harder to read. This doesn't happen with all browsers, the full screen width is used in S60WebKit for example. I looked at the markup and Yahoo is using a layout table with a cell width of 160px for Opera Mini. I guess this is meant to be a compromise as Mini runs on devices with varying screen sizes. I wonder why they don't just set width to 100% and let Mini deal with fitting it to the screen?
Yahoo has been rolling out the Beta incrementally. It orginally worked on only a handful of phones but support seems to be pretty widspread, It's available with Opera Mini and in the built in browsers of three of my test handsets, the N95-3, Motorola Z8 and Motorola i855, but not on a Nokia 6200. I'm in the US, I don't know about the Beta's availability in other markets.
I spend quite a bit of time in email on my phones and I've come to the conclusion that there are only two things that really matter in the usability of a mobile email application; speed and click distance. Speed, as in the number of seconds it takes to delete or file the current message and load the next. Click distance meaning how many key presses it takes to read and manage my mail. I've been primarily using the gMail Java application to keep up with high volume mailing lists because it's fast and there are hot keys for everything, minimizing clicks. I also occasionally use Yahoo's mobile webmail to manage personal email.
It's been about a year and a half since I did a survey of the mobile web mail landscape so I thought I'd take a fresh look and see if there's anything new. It turns out that not much has changed. Most of the major mobile web email services have gotten face lifts but there has been little gain in performance or features.
I tried AOL, gMail, Hotmail and Yahoo's mobile offerings, counting key presses and timing loads and deletes. The data is summarized in the table below. All testing was done on a Motorola i855 on the Nextel network.
I use Opera Mini for all my mobile browsing. It has no trouble loading full sized websites so I also tested the desktop versions of AOL Mail, Hotmail, gMail and Yahoo mail on the phone as well as the "PDA" edition of Mail2Web and the gMail Java application.
Here's what the numbers mean, Time is how long it takes to delete the current message and load the next, Clicks is how many key presses are required to get from the end of the current message to the first line of the body of the next message. Score is simply the sum of time and clicks, as in golf, lower scores are better.
It should be obvious from the numbers that the gMail Java application is blazingly fast. The PC sites are a bit of a surprise, I expected them to be much slower, less usable and require a lot more clicks than the mobile specific ones. It didn't turn out that way, with Hotmail's PC version tying the mobile web gMail for second fastest and Yahoo beating Mail2Web. Of course, this is ridiculous. The mobile web versions should be much faster, they are loading pages that are between a fifth and a tenth of the size of the PC pages and are specifically designed for devices with small screens and restricted navigation It's obvious that email providers are putting way more resources into making their PC sites fast, efficient and reliable than the mobile ones. None of the mobile web sites are very efficiently designed, there is much that could be done to reduce click distance. For example, when you delete a message in the web versions of both Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the next message loads automatically, but in all the mobile versions after you delete a message you are dumped back in the Inbox and have to find and click on the next message manually, wasting time and clicks. Why?
Note: AOL Mobile Mail didn't work in Opera Mini, presenting a blank screen after login.
Not everyone can run Opera Mini, It's incompatible with some phones and a few carriers block it's use on some or all data plans, so I also tested the mobile web services in the rather limited built in Openwave browser of the Motorola i855.
Notes: gMail Mobile failed to load in the built in browser failing with the error "Bad Request - Error 400". Mail2Web PDA's login form did not work with the built in browser, the correct password wasn't recognized. Yahoo Mobile failed to work reliably with the built in browser returning "Yahoo! error Code: 004 - Can not retrieve source" about 25% of the time off and on over a period of 3 days. AOL's (standard and Beta) login didn't persist across sessions.
The performance of these mobile web services was even more disappointing in the mobile browser. The only one worth using with this browser is Hotmail. gMail and Mail2Web failed to work at all and Yahoo was frustratingly unreliable. AOL required re-logging in every time you used it in spite of the "Save Password" box being checked. The "clicks" results do show the value of accesskeys in reducing click distance, the built in browser supports accesskeys and Opera Mini doesn't.
Conclusions: Use gMail Mobile if you possibly can. It's blazing fast and efficient. The only thing that keeps it from being perfect is that you still can't apply labels to messages. gMail uses labels instead of folders for filing saved mail so I end up leaving email I want to file or reply to in the Inbox and then using the PC web version of gMail to do the labeling.
If you can't or don't want to use the gMail Java client, all four of the major email servies (AOL, gMail, Hotmail and Yahoo) have at least one version that works reasonably well in Opera Mini.
If you can't use gMail or Opera Mini you are likely to find mobile web email somewhat frustrating. Hotmail users are better off than most as the mobile web client works reasonably well as does gMail's (the Error 400 problem supposedly only occurs on the Nextel network). Yahoo seems to be having some server capacity or reliability issues currently with their mobile web platform - I hope they fix them soon as I use Yahoo quite a bit - although not from the phone.
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