The Android Email client on the G1, possibly the worst app on an “Internet” phone ever.

The G1 has been around a few weeks, it’s billed as “The phone that’s built for the internet”, but it would appear that the G1 isn’t built for email which many people consider as being one of the most useful things on the internet for over 35 years.

The G1 has two in-built Email clients; one is for Googles’ GMail, the other is for accounts with whichever ISP you’re with. Personally after seeing several stories of problems with Google locking accounts (see here, here, and here for a few) I’d prefer to stay with my ISP, but that leaves me with an Email client which is being described by other G1 users as the most pathetic attempt I’ve ever seen and “frustrating”, views which I wholeheartedly agree with.

My email account is hosted on an IMAP server, is around 300MB in size, and has a couple of hundred folders in about 4 or 5 levels. Over the years it’s been handled very well by everything from Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Nokia and Sony Ericsson Mobile phones, Windows Mobile PDAs and PalmOS devices, but when I open my account on the G1 mail client all I see is one long list with names like “Company”, “Company\Invoices”, “Company\Invoices\Paid”. There appears to be no concept of folders within folders, just an attempt to force the GMail concept of tags onto the rest of the internet.

My experience of the email client have been so painful I actually prefer using my Sony Ericsson c702 with it’s numeric keyboard an far smaller screen just because I find it more productive. On the G1 I’ve been unable to delete an account which is no longer valid, unable to read PDF files people have sent because the G1 does not have a PDF reader, and when I try to access a mail account which doesn’t exist I don’t get an error; just get a button which says “Retry loading more messages”, which is not the best way I’ve seen of indicating a major problem.

So if you’re looking for a phone thats “built for the internet”, email is a big part of your ‘phones life, and your email isn’t GMail, you might want to think again.


Some third-party developers are working on better Email clients (k9 being one such example), my problem is that this is billed as an “internet phone” so surely should support one of the oldest uses of the internet straight out of the box.

27 thoughts on “The Android Email client on the G1, possibly the worst app on an “Internet” phone ever.

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  1. I agree with Al, the email client does not work. As of now, more than eight moths after launch, the G1 still has no working email client. K9 is in beta, and not a working beta at that. I can’t see Android moving to new phones or lasting out the year at this rate with this kind of core functionality lacking. They don’t take criticism. When I pointed out that K9 was full of known defects, they deleted my posts and kicked me off the forum.

  2. I’d have to agree with you on this. The reason I happened upon your blog is because I did a search on G1 email client issues.

    After setting up a single IMAP account, it’s getting wierd on me when I try to setup another account.

    Overall, I like the phone a lot, but you’re correct that the email client really does leave some to be desired.

  3. probably just an attempt to get you to use gmail ( they make money each time someone uses gmail ). for google email is a ‘legacy’ old world technology, well anything that isn’t based on HTTP is bad news for them really. even their new ‘wave’ collaboration thing is mostly web based, and you can bet the consumer version of it will have a pane of targeted google ads on the side

  4. Well I have an HTC Dream running Android G1.5 up here in Canada on Rogers network. The Exchange Client – built by Rogers? – worked out of the box without any problem at all.

    The regular email client (and for that matter K9) which should collect my IMAP mail is a significant problem. While it collects mail, neither client sends. And the “included” client doesn’t flush emails no longer held on the IMAP server. On my WinMo phone, this works flawlessly – mail downloaded to my POP3 client on my PC is deleted from the IMAP server and no longer appears on WinMo. Neither K9 nor the Android client do this. And neither will send…..yet.

  5. It amazes me that Google, who has arguably written some pretty slick pieces of software, including the Gmail client, which is almost seamless integration, could be satisfied with such a ineffective product.
    We are now in second generation with the recent update having been pushed, and it’s still as usless as before.
    Still can’t delete messages, or manage my accounts (which are SMPT, and one is a Yahoo account) from the phone. Email comes in sometimes, and not others. I mark an email as read, and the next time I open the account it’s marked unread.
    It’s the most frustrating program I have ever used, and that’s saying something. We see RIM and others do it right. The examples are there. Google’s own client is fine, yet they don’t do this even close to right. I can only think that Google is intentionally funneling people into using Gmail exclusively.

  6. Ditto to all. Google Android’s email app is an utter piece of $#%t

    They should be embarrased to have released the app in its state, and even more embarassed to have it broken for this many months. If RIM / Blackberry can get this right, what the heck is wrong with Google?

  7. I personally bough a G1 because I am using many google services including gmail. Android is designed around gmail and google contacts. I think It’s obvious that one should use android only to uses google services.
    If I agree with your critics on the facts, I have to say that you guys are little bit naives. Why would you use an android phone if you don’t use gmail. How do you manage your contacts? Do you sync everything throw outlook? If you really need to connect to an IMAP email account, seriously, what are you doing with an android phone??? –> RIM!!!
    The G1 is not the internet phone, the G1 is the google phone!!!!!!

  8. Albucian, its great if you feel you can only use GMail and Google services, but guess what, there are other people in the world who need to be able to access other email providers other than GMail. I’m sure that Google would be happy if everyone felt as you do, but that is just not the case. Google’s attitude has been to leave fixing email to other 3rd parties. But this has been a mistake. As has been mentioned, Google’s email app is an abomination, and K9 isn’t much better.

    As I said, however, Google’s attitude is clear:

  9. To be clear, I did agree the email client sucks. But just think it’s not in google interest to make it better so I’m not surprised that they don’t invest in their own client. Also, isn’t it possible to connect all your other email account to gmail with pop3 and imap protocole. Would be a good way around for you to first connect all your accounts to a gmail account and then just use the gmail client on android?

  10. I agree. Google seems to be hoping that people just use GMail. Connecting all your accounts to GMail doesn’t work for many basic reasons, unfortunately.

    Here is one for example:

    You cannot send emails that come FROM any of the linked accounts using anything other than *desktop* browser GMail interface. Google’s mobile GMail site doesn’t allow this, nor does their GMail Android app.

    Again, this is really pathetic.

  11. “You cannot send emails that come FROM any of the linked accounts using anything other than *desktop* browser GMail interface. Google’s mobile GMail site doesn’t allow this, nor does their GMail Android app.”

    Since this is one of the big functionalities of the desktop version, I think we can hope this will come to the android and mobile version of gmail.

  12. Indeed. The G1 has been out for 8 months! When will they get around to adding basic functionality for GMail interoperability and fixing Android’s horribly broken standard email app?

  13. I was looking at Android phones, until I read these posts! I use a non-google web-based e-mail client for non-work e-mails, and leave everything on the server. The UI is pretty simple, so I would hope the browser can handle it. Can the phone handle downloaded attachments?

  14. It is not only the G1 – even the latest G3 e-mail is the worst piece of software junk that I have seen in a long, long time.
    There is no real working alternative that I am aware of, K9 does not live up to the expectations yet and other attempts are as poor as the build in one… Anyone happy with any specific e-mail app on the G1,2 or 3?


  15. Perhaps the whole thing is down to how we like email off-line and how that isn’t ideal for a device with low end CPU (encryption, search and indexing etc.) and limited storage (16GB for all my needs at the moment.

    I use web mail clients on the G1 that give me contacts, calendar etc. syncd back to the desktop. No way I want to sync 3-10GB of mail to my phone. It is only the smallest bit of off-line stuff I might need.

    I also need access to multiple accounts and the idea of having 4 or 5 large mailboxes on a Gx doesn’t make me feel a glow!

    Not sure what the best thing for a mail client is, I would like some off-line action but not a completely off-line one. Perhaps last 100 emails, contacts and calendar events?

    Finally I guess losing a phone with all your email and not being encrypted would be a huge potential risk.

    These days how often I we completely off-line? On the underground? in the wilds of the country? what use is email there anyhow!

    Maybe its because I use Zimbra and Citadel that have good powerful web clients I don’t mind much. Notifications would be nice though!

  16. Re “Perhaps the whole thing is down to how we like email off-line and how that isn’t ideal for a device with low end CPU (encryption, search and indexing etc.) and limited storage (16GB for all my needs at the moment.”

    Proper mobile email clients have the option to only store the last x days worth of mail locally on the device. There is no reason why the cache couldn’t be done on “last x messages” or “last x megabytes” criteria either.

    You can’t say it’s an inherant problem with mobile devices, because email works very well on Windows mobile, and on Symbian devices. It’s just rubbish on Android.

  17. “t is almost useless.”

    No, it is COMPLETELY useless. I couldn’t even send email, because my outbound server requires TLS. Guess what? Android barfed. Google’s “suggestion” was to disable TLS and many of the anti-spam checks. The heck with Google. I sold the phone and got an iPhone 3GS. At the very very least, the email client works just fine. I can send & receive IMAP mail flawlessly.

    You can’t even move messages between folders on Android. That means that if you delete something by accident, it’s GONE. Horrible.

  18. Ahhh, what are you all complaining about?
    Its a phone…. you should be happy you can get email on it… Purchased one last month and have had no such problems, using imap && pop3 accounts, had to use touchdown app for our exchange server, ( which built in function is horrible) but everything else is grand…. read… delete… sync ….. what kind of mail servers are you all using that you are having such problems
    ? ps. to control the deletes …. have your machine delete once a day at the end of the day, and turn off delete messages on the phone…. you end up with the same problem when you have two or three machines checking and trying to delete mail……

  19. You’re missing the point. If I point my Windows mobile or my previous Symbian phone, or Thunderbird, or Outlook, or Apple Mail at my IMAP server they all provide a good fast experience. Androids standard email client does not.

    I’ve started to use K9 for Android now which is a much nicer email client. I still think Android should come with a decent one built in though.

  20. I bought a Nexus One and I am also not pleased with the email client. My sent email is supposed to be stored in “Sent Items”, but I cannot define that on the phone, so it stores the sent messages locally… which makes the whole thing uttterly useless.

    And when looking for a solution I stumble on this 18 monhs old blog which unfortunately still seems applicable.

    I am using K-9 mail for now, which more less does what it is supposed to (not 100% reliable), but has an ugly user interface.

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