One day there may be an official phobia related to fear of e-mail in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. An obvious moniker would be "e-mailophobia." Or maybe it will be swept broadly into a more general fear of the Internet and the exponential growth of information online — a kind of digital equivalent of agoraphobia. Maybe that fear will be called "informationoverloadophobia" or it will be diagnosed as "acute digititis."
Why do I say all this? Because, these days, when I open my e-mail in the early a.m., I do so with a mixture of fear and anticipation of yet another Google product announcement. And, indeed, today was no exception. The company has launched Gmail access via mobile phones.
Here are the details about the service from Google:
Because every mobile device is different, Gmail Mobile automatically optimizes the interface based on the phone. Users can also view attached photos and documents from their phone, and reply-by-call to people whose phone number is stored in their Gmail account. Gmail messages are automatically synchronized, regardless of whether Gmail is accessed from Gmail Mobile or the web. Gmail Mobile is currently available for free for mobile phone users in the U.S. The service works with most web-enabled mobile phones.
Of course, users have long been able to access Gmail from a Web browser (only those with "smartphones" or larger screens are having a reasonable experience, however). This is mobile e-mail "for the rest of us," who have normal/tiny screens.
Just in time for the holidays, Google has also released a bunch of new Gmail features more generally:
- Quick links that identify addresses and package tracking numbers in e-mails and displays them to the right of users' inbox so they can more easily access maps, directions or tracking information with a single click.
- Gmail Web Clips, which appear at the top of the Gmail inbox and enable users to read Google News, a friend's blog, or any RSS or Atom feed from their Gmail account.
- Anti-virus protection that automatically scans messages with attachments.
- The ability to view attachments in HTML instead of downloading to the desktop or mobile phone.
- A vacation auto-responder, which enables users to automatically notify people when they're away from e-mail or unable to respond.
- The option to create contact groups (one of the most highly requested Gmail features)
Gmail Mobile is of course about serving user demand for mobile e-mail access. But it's also about increasing wireless usage (the next frontier in Local) and growing the e-mail user base for Google more generally (by offering a more comprehensive and useful service).
Gmail is now a kind of hub for Google. Google Talk and a range of personalized services (homepage, search) are all tied together through Google registration, for which e-mail is the motivating factor. The more registration data collected by Google, the more relevant search results (and ads) can potentially be.
Here's general comScore data (U.S., August) on e-mail marketshare:
Yahoo! — 30%
Hotmail/MSN — 25%
AOL — 23.4%
Gmail — 1.8%
Related: Here's a piece in USAToday about e-mail and online software trends.