The iOS Gmail app is a good alternative to Apple's own Mail app, as long as you're only dealing with Gmail.
When the iPhone was first launched, iPhone developers quickly learned Apple didn't hesitate to enforce its application standards on application store developers. Luckily, over time, Apple loosened up on some of the applications that competed more directly with them, including mail. You can now install Google’s Gmail application directly on the iPhone and other iOS devices.
If you use Mail on your iOS device to mostly read and file email, versus responding and following up on email, the Gmail app has several advantages over the native Mail application. The screen offers instant filing of the message(s) from the inbox view; messages can be starred for follow up / sorting later; and if you use Google’s archive features, then those archived messages can be accessed with two simple clicks. It is also an easy way to share a device between two users and keep the each user's email separate.
Gmail can be downloaded from the Apps store and at this link. After you install the application and start it, you will be prompted for your Gmail account username and password as shown here.
To provision Gmail at this point, enter your Gmail username and password. The username will either be a firstname.lastname@example.org address, or if you use Google Apps it will be your email@example.com. The “Remember me” option can be selected to keep you from having to login to Gmail each time you start and stop the application or device. If you are going to be sharing the device, though, ensure the “Remember me” option is not selected.
Enter your account information as marked here in the red boxes:
Once you enter the information, Gmail will authenticate with Google’s servers and present you your inbox.
The Gmail Mail view shows you what folder you are in (currently Inbox), how many messages are in the Inbox (3321), a button to access the menu, a search icon (magnifying glass), and a compose (pad with a pen) icon. The following annotated iPhone screen grab breaks down the complete mailbox view and what the various fields and options are.
As shown in the following screen, the Menu button will take you to a selection showing you the general Inbox, an unread selection, and those that are marked important by the sender or by you with the star.
When wishing to view individual messages, simply select the particular email, and you’ll be presented a full screen with the message.
Searching for messages works similarly to Apple’s Mail and other applications with search features…simply type the search expression and Gmail will display Mail with the particular search phase:
The true strength of the program is being able to select multiple messages for action on the mailbox screen. As the following screen shot shows, two messages are selected and can be acted on, including common features such as move and marking unread. It also supports the added feature of marking spam with the application.
Gmail is a solid mail application for quickly reviewing and filing email. It does still have a couple of user interface issues, primarily not being able to forward an email without scrolling to the bottom of the message. However, for the majority of the time, Gmail will be faster than the native Mail application from Apple for the most common tasks for many users: sorting, deleting, and marking email for later action. If you’re a Gmail user, check out the application.