Google decouples Gmail app from Android OS

The company has rolled out a stand-alone Gmail app in the Android Market, meaning the email application can be updated more regularly than before
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Google has for the first time released a version of its Gmail application in the Android Market, in a move that will see the app being updated more frequently than before.

The email application has been a key feature of Android since the mobile operating system became available in 2008. However, as Gmail was integrated into the OS rather than available as stand-alone software, it was only updated with each new version of Android. The stand-alone Gmail app announced in a blog post on Tuesday changes that, while immediately adding new functionality such as Gmail's Priority Inbox.

"Gmail updates aren't tied to Android version releases anymore. Now you can get new Gmail stuff faster without having to wait for system updates," Gmail for Android team members Simon Arscott and Paul Westbrook wrote in the post. "To start you off, we've improved message replies, access to quoted text and more."

Despite now being no longer tied to the core OS, the Gmail app released on Tuesday requires Android 2.2 — the latest version, also known as Froyo — to work. In addition, the the Gmail team noted in an update to their post that HTC phones running Android 2.2 are experiencing a glitch with notifications of important Gmail actions, and the team is working to fix this.

Arscott and Westbrook also pointed out that the Android implementation of Priority Inbox, an email sorting system introduced for desktop Gmail at the end of August, is "limited" for now.

"If you've enabled Priority Inbox via the desktop version of Gmail, you'll see an 'important' label that shows all messages flagged as important. You can even add a shortcut to important to your home screen," they wrote.

Also on Tuesday, Google switched on support for web fonts in Google Docs, the company's cloud-based word processor. Previously, people would only be able to see fonts they already had installed on their computer when viewing documents in a browser. That led to web designers being restricted to a "limited" set of widely used fonts when building a site, according to the company.

The move, which follows Google's adoption of the standard in its Chrome browser back in April, covers most Latin and Western European character sets, with other languages such as Hebrew and Greek due to get web fonts "soon", software engineer Jeremie Lenfant-Engelmann wrote in a blog post.

"This is just the beginning of fonts in Google Docs," Lenfant-Engelmann wrote. "We added six new fonts today and we're already testing our next batch. You'll see many more new fonts over the next few months. And because Google Docs uses web fonts, you'll never need to install a new font: when you load your document, the latest set of fonts will always be there, ready to use."

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