In October Google began supporting IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) for Gmail, which means that when mobile users send and receive Gmail e-mail on their mobile phones, their changes are synched, appearing the next time the user accesses Gmail from any device. With POP3, previously the only e-mail protocol supported by Gmail, if a user deleted a Gmail message from their inbox using their cell phone, the message would still appear in the inbox the next time the user logged on to Gmail from their computer.
However, shortly after the IMAP capability was activated, users of Windows Mobile phones began complaining in online forums about problems. Some of them said that HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) e-mails showed up blank on their phones. Others said that message headers appeared on their phones but not the messages themselves.
The problem appears to affect mainly Windows Mobile users. In late October, one user complained to Google about the problem with Windows Mobile and got a reply saying that Google hadn't had the chance to test the Windows Mobile mail client.
"Why would google make this work with the iPhone and not WM devices," another user wrote in the forum after reading the letter that was purportedly from Google. "I would think the WM community is much larger than the iPhone community, and I find it difficult to believe that no one at Google owns or uses a WM device."
On Nov. 16, a Google employee posted a note acknowledging the problem. Google has added the issue on its Gmail known issues page, where users can report their experiences. Google says it is working to address the issue.
But by Nov. 27, users were beginning to run out of patience. "Google people! The listing on the known issues page hasn't changed in
days ... weeks. At least let us know you are working on this. Do you realize, that Gmail IMAP on Windows Mobile in its current state is
unusable?" one person wrote.
Google did not reply to a question about when the fix might be released.
Solving this issue may not be the end of Google's Windows Mobile problems. One blogger says that the Gmail IMAP service dramatically drains the battery on Windows Mobile phones. Todd Ogasawara, a blogger and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in mobile devices, ran an informal test on his T-Mobile Dash, a Windows Mobile phone. He watched his battery life drop 4 percent after instructing the phone to synch with the Gmail IMAP server just once. He began looking at the effect of Gmail IMAP on his battery after noticing a dramatic decrease in battery life once he signed up for the Gmail service.
Another tech enthusiast and blogger, Josh Smith, said he has noticed that the Gmail IMAP servers are quite slow and the amount of time it takes to check them from a phone could lead to a drained battery. However, since the messages are coming through blank, he hasn't been using the service enough to notice an impact on battery life on his Windows Mobile phone, he said.
The issues highlight the challenges that Google has complained about in working with the mobile industry. Application developers must tweak or write new applications for each handset operating system and often even for different handsets running the same software. Google hopes to solve the problem with its Android mobile platform, which it plans to make available for free and open source. Some mobile experts, however, have suggested that Android may only exacerbate the problem by adding one more platform that developers will have to address.