Beta Test – Metro Mail Beta for Windows Phone 8 App Review

Written by on November 4, 2013 in Blog, Review, Windows Phone 8

Intro

“This is a test. This is only a test.”

Although still in the beta phase of its lifecycle, I think Metro Mail deserves some attention. It is after all from the makers of Metro Talk, arguably the premier Google Voice app on the Windows Phone platform. After signing up to the Google Group, I have been using the app since early October. It is getting closer and closer to a final release. Is it what Gmail users need when using a Windows Phone 8 device?

The App

Start Screen

Why  someone will use this app over the native client, per the developers…

First-class support for archiving, starred emails, and labels
No more broken threads when replying to emails
Proper search functionality
Support for multiple From addresses
Select a specific label (e.g. Primary) to display on tile of each account
Select a specific label for all configured accounts, or for a specific account, for displaying on the main tile and on the lock screen
Properly display long HTML emails

Since the initial release, they have added…

Download/view attachments
Proper live tile support
Push notifications
Added ability to enable toast notifications, in addition to the live tile updates
Added ability to cancel downloading attachments
Added support for non-GDR2 devices
Another attempt to fix scrolling when typing a new email (still not perfect!)
Various bug fixes

Microsoft and Google aren’t exactly best friends. Windows Phone 8 devices do offer the ability to sync a Gmail account and leverage email, contacts and calendars. However, there is no push support for Gmail within the stock client. There are also some key Gmail features missing. Metro Mail hopes to bring to life the things Gmail users love.

For more, you can find the Google Group here.

The Experience

Starting the app yields tabbed screens that you can swipe between using left and right gestures. I set it up so I can switch between my Inbox and Sent Mail. However, you can add tabs for everything from All Mail, to Chats, Circles, Deleted Items, personal folders and more. It is really nice to have this kind of control over labels. Besides being able to Manage Labels, hitting the three dots also allows you to Switch Accounts. Yes, you can have multiple Gmail accounts setup with one app. Separate tiles can be pinned to start for each account. Settings gives users options to enable and disable both Live Tiles and Toast Notifications. A Signature can be edited and enabled or disabled as well. One last nice setting is the ability to control the behavior of the back button. If left off, the back button will eventually exit the app. However, you can enable an option to keep the back from only navigating within the app. If enabled, you have to leave the app using the three dots and tap Exit (or the multitasking button). I leave it disabled so the app behaves like every other Windows Phone app, but it is nice to have options.

The email list is simple. Sender name, subject and part of the first line of each email can all be found left justified. The date received along with the ability to Star an email are on the right. Clicking an email adds additional details, and displays the message in a web based view. It seems to work very well, and images are disabled on a per email basis unless you chose to show them. The top right has a quick reply button, with an option to included selected text. There are also three vertical dots that allow quick access to Reply All and Forward. At the bottom of an email, you can change the label, delete or archive it. There is also a mark unread option.

Back on the email listing (home screen) you can create a new email, trigger the ability to mass select emails via checkboxes, change your view (labels) and search. New emails can be created easily, with an option to show CC & BCC on command. Selecting emails via checkboxes has become standard fare. Search works well as it searches emails stored on the Gmail servers, and not just on your phone. Many apps seem to lack this ability from my experience. Everything is fast, responsive and pleasant to use.

The Verdict

I don’t know what Metro Mail will cost when it comes out of beta and hits the Windows Phone Store. But I know I will buy it. It is one of the best email experiences I have had on the platform. Gmail is a great service, and Metro Mail gives it a nice home on Windows Phone. Although the stock experience is fine, it is nice that power users can some of the options they have been longing for. Labels are very important to power users. Image heavy emails seems to render better with Metro Mail as well. Hopefully, everyone will be able to give it a try soon!

New Email

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