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Gmail for iOS Enables Background Refresh, Saves Sanity

As a Gmail user, I think the free Gmail app for iPhone and iPad is mostly great. It has push notifications, support for Priority Inbox, access to all of my labels, and full searching across my entire email archive. It even shows my replies in email threads (unlike Apple’s Mail app) and handles multiple email aliases. But there was one big snag: it was dog slow. I’d open a message from Notification Center only to stare at an animated progress dot for what seemed like minutes.

But now that slowness is no more. Gmail 3.0 now fully supports iOS 7’s Background App Refresh feature, so when you open Gmail, you’ll see your email instantly, rather than a multicolored dot. So far, it doesn’t seem to have any adverse effect on my battery life.

To take advantage of the speed boost, you must have Background App Refresh enabled in Settings > General > Background App Refresh, and turned on specifically for the Gmail app.

The Gmail app now also supports single sign-in with Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, and Chrome. Sign into one of the apps, and you’re logged into all of them, without having to re-enter your password or two-step verification code.

There are a few design tweaks too. For example, the back button is no longer a button, but an iOS 7-style text label, named for the label a message is tagged with.

Now if Apple would let me set Gmail as my default email client in iOS, it would be perfect. Until then, The Verge has a guide that explains how to set up a “send only” Gmail account in Apple’s Mail app, so you can still send email without having to store any in Mail on your iPhone.

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