Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

Evaluating Google Apps for iOS

A lot of interesting things happened this week at Google's developer conference. The most significant thing for me was the announcement of Chrome and Drive for iOS devices. Chrome is Google's web browser, but it's pretty far beyond what we might typically consider as a browser. Chrome is closer to an operating system than it is a simple web browsing tool. With an extensive applications store, Chrome  offers it's users the ability to sync tabs, bookmarks, applications, and login credentials across computers by logging in with a Google account. Of course Drive is Google's new cloud based storage system. If you've been following me on social media or reading my blog than you probably know I'm a huge fan of Google Drive and it's Google Docs feature.

I'm also an avid Mac user meaning I've gravitated towards an iOS tablet instead of an Android tablet (I use an Android phone). I've been pretty outspoken about my frustrations with using Google applications on an iOS device. Until this week the only way to use many Google applications on an iOS device was through a web interface and this is a bit clunky and glitchy. You can imagine my excitement than when I found out Google was launching my favorite products as native iOS applications. Would this finally change my life? Would I finally be able to fully integrate Google with my iOS device? I installed and evaluated three applications today: Gmail, Drive, and Chrome. Let me briefly tell you about my experience with each.

CHROME: As far as web browsing is concerned, I was happy with my Chrome experience on iOS. Apparently many others are as well because Chrome quickly rocketed to the top of the "free applications" list in the App store. Much has been made about the fact that Chrome is simply a wrapper for the native Apple browser, Safari. It has been well reported that Chrome doesn't have access to some features that Safari does, which might slow it down. These are all true, but my experience was that Chrome was pretty quick. It allowed me to view the tabs open on all of my other devices such as my work computer and my home computer. That was very slick. It syncs my bookmarks and credentials, which is very handy. It's a much better UI than Safari and will definitely be my default browser on my iPad. I was very disappointed that, because it's based on safari, you don't get the ability to sync and run all of your Chrome applications and extensions. Because of that major missing piece, the Chrome launch gets a "B+" from me.

GMAIL: The native Gmail application has been around for just a little longer. It actually launched iwth a lot of controversy in November and was pulled after only two days. Before downloading this application I was simply running my Gmail through the default iOS mail application. That was working just fine for me. I do use Gmail exclusively for both my own company and my personal e-mail. I'm really happy with the stability and familiar "Google" type look and feel of the Gmail application. Google added the notifications ability to the app which was a big win. I get access to a lot more of my Google features like tags, folders, and mailing lists. I was disappointed it didn't have stronger support for Google chat built in and it doesn't allow you to sign in with multiple accounts within the app. This is a great feature of the Gmail application on Android devices. Overall the Gmail app gets an "B-" from me.

DRIVE: I love Google Drive. I think Google really got this product right and stuck it to Drop Box,, and Apple. I've been a Google docs user for some time now, ever since they massively updated their features and interface. Editing Google Docs on an iOS device is incredibly difficult and frustrating. There is not currently a single application on the market that addresses this issue well. Not one. My hope was that Google Drive would finally solve this problem - boy was I disappointed!  The new app does allow for a very clean and stable way to view docs, read docs, and download any of your files you've stored on Drive. Unfortunately it's basically a read only type app. You can make some minor changes to files such as title or sharing settings, but that's about it. You can't upload any files to Drive from the app and you can't edit any files within the app. If you download a file to your iOS device and edit in another application like Pages, there is no way to get that edited file back onto Drive. You can open a Google Doc in Safari using the web editor but, as mentioned before, the web editor is a terrible experience. Overall I give the iOS Drive app a "C-".

Google has made a few intriguing company acquisitions recently. I'm really hoping they launch an update to Drive that will significantly increase it's ability. Though these applications are a great step in the right direction, using Google products on an iOS device still remains a difficult and clunky experience. I'll admit I'm getting close to jumping ship on iOS and getting one those fancy Galaxy tabs... anyone want to buy an iPad 2?

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