Mobility

Lollipop kills stock Email app in favor of Gmail

Google has given the axe to the stock Android Email app. Jack Wallen takes on the future of email on the Android platform and what options users have.

Email

In a move that might not surprise anyone, Google has made it clear they want you using Gmail for all your email needs. This happened when Google upgraded the Gmail app to make it easier for users to switch between multiple accounts. Now, when you either upgrade to Lollipop or purchase a new Lollipop-powered device and you attempt to access email with the stock Email app, you'll see a friendly notification warning you that Email has moved (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

The new Email warning on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.

There are many users who'll look at this and wonder if Google is attempting to turn Android into just another iOS, where there's one app to rule them all. After all, as it stands, Android is very much like Linux. How? Choice. One of the many reasons people migrate to Android is the ability to pick and choose what they want on their devices. But does this move away from separate email apps herald a shift in ideology?

In a word... no.

It does, however, make it clear that Google is trying to narrow the scope of the platform. For years, Google has dealt with a number of redundancies—the stock Email app being one of the biggest. This migration serves as more of a clean up than anything. With the new Gmail app able to handle multiple accounts with a modicum of grace, it only makes sense to kill the old standby Email.

However, the Email app remains—you just can't use it. To make matters more confusing, you can't uninstall the Email app. So, the app is there, but it can't be used and can't be uninstalled. Okay, Google, you're confusing me. Outside of using the app as a warning flag to point users to the Gmail app, what's the purpose with keeping the stock Email app on board? At this point, the Email app is nothing but bloatware. Get rid of it.

One issue that might have some users in an understandable uproar is the separation of business and personal email. This was always such a simple feat with the one-two punch of Gmail and Email. Exchange email functioned to perfection with Email, and personal email was handled easily with Gmail. Now, however, Google wants you to house them all in one app. Fortunately, Exchange and Gmail now play very well together, so that's not really an issue.

There are still users who prefer separate fiefdoms for their email accounts. Fortunately, there are still plenty of options within the Google Play Store:

One or more of the above should be able to handle all of your email needs.

No matter how you feel about one or two email applications, from Google's perspective, this is about not duplicating efforts. I certainly get that. What I don't get, however, is Google retaining the app on Lollipop devices. Yes, they need to instruct their users where to go. But instead of retaining Email and Gmail, why not just jettison the Email app and rename Gmail the more generic Email and be done with it.

A rose by any other name, after all.

Not only that, but if you head over to Settings | Apps | All | Email, you'll find the Email app still present and running (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

The stock Email app is there there, running in the background.

I would recommend doing the following (for the stock Email app):

  • Disable notifications
  • Tap FORCE STOP
  • Tap DISABLE
  • Tap CLEAR DATA

Once this is complete, the Email app will no longer have a chance to run in the background (not that it is... this is just a safeguard).

When I first came across this new world order on Android, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed. I was fond of the Email app and used it as a sanctuary for my personal email. However, after careful consideration (and using Gmail to switch between my personal and work accounts), I've realized that Google got it right. Even though many users will balk at having one app for multiple accounts, the latest iteration of Gmail is hard to beat. The interface is tops, and the app works with an efficiency and speed most other apps can't match.

There is, however, one question I have. What about Inbox? This take on the Google email app looked like it was going to be the future of Gmail. However, Google didn't enable multiple accounts in Inbox. This begs the question: If they're trying to reduce redundancies, why does Inbox even exit? Is it a sandbox for Gmail features? Inbox brings a sort of material design to the desktop—something the standard Gmail can't do. But that's neither here nor there. No one seems to know what will happen with Inbox. If Google were smart, they'd add multiple account support in Inbox and do away with the Gmail app all together.

In the end, this is all in the hands of Google. Whatever their vision for the Android email client, it seems to be falling very slowly into place. What would your preference be for email on the Android ecosystem? Gmail? Gmail and Email? Inbox? Gmail and a third-party app? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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