Advertisement Yesterday, I had a most disappointing experience with Gmail for Android on the Samsung Galaxy S II. It was a very simple task that I needed…

Gmail for Android Sucks for Business



Yesterday, I had a most disappointing experience with Gmail for Android on the Samsung Galaxy S II. It was a very simple task that I needed done – one that millions of people do everyday: attach a PDF file to a reply that I was sending in response to a business enquiry.

How difficult could that be?


Here’s the process that everyone I know on this planet is used to:

  1. Mail arrives. You receive notification. Check.
  2. You open email and read. Check.
  3. You click “Reply” and compose menu is launched. Check.
  4. You type out your response. Check.
  5. Select “Attach file/s” (or equivalent) in menu. Check.
  6. You browse file system to pick the file that you want. Bzzzzt!

The Gmail app wouldn’t let me choose the file I wanted. It gave me only the option to pick a media file from the Gallery. I retried and retried, and got the same destination: Gallery. Ladies and gentlemen, this is April 2012, mind you.


Gmail for Android: Not Ready For Business

I had typed out a detailed response and now could not attach a business document. I had to work around it by going to the File Manager on the phone, find the file, and select the option to send it via email, then manually fill out the “To” and “Subject” fields, then go back to the earlier material I had typed out to copy it and paste in this new interface.

That is like Apple telling people that they were holding the iPhone wrong. Silly. This is how everybody sends an attachment in an email reply. Why should anyone ever have to launch a file manager to send an attachment?

Kludgy. Time-wasting. Frustrating. In 2012.

So much for user-friendliness.

Nokia Belle and BlackBerry Get It Right

To be sure that I had my head screwed on right, I later picked up my Nokia E7 and the BlackBerry 9380 that I am currently reviewing, found the mail and clicked “Reply”. In minutes and without any fuss, I had the PDF file attached to my reply – right from inside the Compose menu of the mail applications of those devices. Duhhhh.

No; Gmail for Android is simply not ready for business.

Generic Email client for Android


While the generic email client for Android is said to take care of thiss, it has its own different set of issues. I won’t go into all that, but suffice it to know that after configuring the generic email client for Microsoft Exchange, it has been in a state of loading my mails since yesterday – and has not quite succeeded yet.


Fancy UIs Versus Functionality

You guys hug and kiss and caress those fancy user interfaces all you like. Yesterday’s event was a reminder of why I love my Nokia Belle and BlackBerry devices – they do the simple basic stuff that everyone expects them to do. They may not look and feel as dandy as Android and iOS.

But what do I care? They do what I need them to do. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

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Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi's journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.

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This Post Has 43 Comments

  1. Hmmm… do you have Astro file manager installed? On my phone after clicking on “Attach File”, I get a pop-up showing all third party file managers i have installed and gallery. Choosing Astro allows me to browse to and attach any file type to the mail, I am replying. Note that not all third party file managers allow this, some like AnTek and X-plore [yep,same one from the late Symbian60] will only show you media files.
    So install Astro and gmail for android is ready for business. 😉

  2. When i got my android phone this was the exact problem i had with sending non media attachments, the work around i used is to go through file expert get the attachment and share via email, while recopying the contents of the old email i into new.
    This approach is what you have describe Mr. Mobility and i am sure everyone else uses this method as well but whats the solution, For me it is obvious Google should implement a native file browser or buy file expert (my opinion) and make it part of andriod.

  3. Jakigaga is sooo funny ooo. Abradacabra appear harry!!!!!!!!! appear


    Well- there u have it.

    Garish meretriciouness…
    Or practical functionality?

    Your choice- folks

    jide, imagine the kind of attack i have had from mindless ROBOTs on the ills of using 3rd party apps for BASIC functionaries? Hmm..

  4. More like extending the functionality of the base apps. That’s one of the beauties of open OSes like Android and the late Symbian ;), if Google or Nokia didn’t think it was important enough to include in the base app, then build an app that extends the functionality. Unlike certain “fruity” OSes i wont mention by name, where nothing and i do mean nothing touches the base apps.

  5. I have androzip installed so i can attached multiple files in the gmail app before sending

  6. Guys please do not always expect me to respond to some of these posts. There are things that happen behind the scene you will never know and I will not change my identity so I can comment on this site.

  7. “The official Gmail client for Android is perhaps the most complete one out there, which is why most Android users don’t find the need to look for third-party Gmail clients. However, one thing that doesn’t sit well with the app’s users is its incapacity to let them download mail attachments of all formats, which is a big disappointment considering the flexibility that defines the platform.”

    Those were the opening lines i just read online from an article.

    Ummh, well, quite a number of android users have never noticed this shortcoming, myself inclusive. Why? Aside from a few manufacturers that customize their stock OSes by adding a few FUNCTIONAL apps , it is almost a fact that many of us expect to install some basic apps immediately we purchase any of these devices because we have come to accept the fact that many of these devices come with bloatwares and crippled “would-have-been” functional apps . In fact, before i make any purchase, i research the “must have apps” on that platform, usually based on recommendations.

    The reason why most go for ASTRO file manager or any of the other thousands (literally) of file manager in the android market.

    One other common limitation or restriction is for file managers not to have access to the OS file system, another reason why stock apps have never been an attraction to me.

    The default Gmail application on your Android mobile phone allows attaching only pictures. With any of these file managers, the restriction on your device is broken and allows you to use your Email like you would do on a PC. Even going further by allowing you to share files, compress them and a whole lot more.

    Once you install any of these applications, you don’t need to do anything more. Visit Gmail on your Android device and compose a mail like you would do anywhere else. To attach file to a mail, click on Menu and among the options select ‘Attach‘.

  8. Jide, of course i was being sakastik.

    Of course i am a strong proponent of using 3rd party apps to the highest level possible.

    If there is Any deficiency on any platform, as long as their is a third party solution, the case is settled.

    No OS can do it all. 3rd apps are written to address those deficiencies.

    One of the things considered basic on any platform is abikity to edit ‘Word Documents’. But not having that embedded out_of_the_box is not a weakness.

    A writer / Author would consider having a full_fledged english dictionary baked in as ‘basic functionality’. An engineering student may consider a top_grade scientific calculator as basic.

    My point is- there is no ‘basic functionality’. Depends on your point of view.

    As long as there is ‘an app for that’, it is not an earth_shattering issue.

  9. The limitations in mail attachment as noted by Mr. Mobility is not really a limitation as such. I can only fault Google and/or manufacturers knowing that these mail apps bundled with their devices depend on other applications to be able to attach files to outgoing emails and that Gallery app that comes with every Android device can only handle media files and fail to include proper file managers.

    Normally if you have a file manager installed on your device, your are presented with both option of Gallery and the file manager(s) for completing the task of file attachment when tap the attachment button, except if you at one time or another ticked the use by fault for this action option, in which case you will lose this feature and always be presented with the app you select at that point. This is what I believe is the case in Mr. Mobility’s case as it is obvious he has a proper file manager.

    This is not such a big deal since most new devices out there now come with file managers and even where that is not the case, a minute or two is all it takes to install one and the problem of file attachment would be solved.

  10. Harry Echemco® Says:
    April 12th, 2012 at 9:44 am Browsing with Opera Mini 7.29474 on Android
    Guys please do not always expect me to respond to some of these posts. There are things that happen behind the scene you will never know and I will not change my identity so I can comment on this site.

    hmmm i smell a rat!!!!! harry and yomi are now cosy after a lunch meeting?.it cant happen we have enjoyed your heated exchanges for our amusement for so long,you guys cannot disappoint us now.oya oya oya get your acts together.

  11. I guess it depends on your work flow sha because I think Gmail for Android is the best mail app on any platform – provided you’re a Google Apps for business user. As many have said I’ve always seen the 3rd party file manager option when adding attachments to email so no problems there. The key Gmail features for me are the label management, contact management, us and – most importantly – search. It’s good to have choices sha so everybody can find their own way!

  12. I was waiting for this subject to be posted!

    Not quite sure what the problem was, but as others have pointed out, 3rd party apps tend to address the shortcomings.

    After I read about it on Twitter I tried typing an email and adding an attachment. As I have QuickOffice on my phone, that popped up along with the photo gallery.

    Likewise for attachments – I have never had a problem opening attachments (which are usually PDF or some kind of MS Office document).

    I prefer K-9 Mail, that way I can open attachments and attach files to emails all from one place.

  13. I don’t know if any of this 3rd party applications have taken care of downloading attachments from emails.
    I received some mails containing pdf documents as attachments. When I open the mails on my Samsung galaxy tab 8.9, I do not see the pdf attachments. However, opening the same mails on my Nokia N8, I am able to view and download the pdf attachments. By the way, I also tried yahoo mail for Android and it still did not show the attachment. My galaxy tab is rooted and runs on stock honeycomb 3.2.

  14. @Austine Ezemelue: For stock 3.2, you need to get Adobe Reader from the Play Store [Android Market] to be able to be view PDF files.

  15. @Noni: HTC doesn’t use stock Android unfortunately, just that horrible Sense thingy. In fact Stock doesn’t even come with Google apps [gmail, market, maps, talk,etc]. Rooting pure stock Android usually means you have to install the Google apps as a separate package.

  16. @Jide: I know and Sense UI was replaced from the beginning. But I was referring to where Austine said he couldn’t see PDFs on his tablet when he opened his mail.

    Despite the bloatware that comes with my unrooted phone, I still have a PDF viewer as standard and didn’t have to download a PDF app.

  17. End of work!!!
    Its time to go and get a life elsewhere.
    Thanks guys for the stimulating comments, I learnt a thing or two.
    And that’s why this is one of the few tech sites where I actually read and participate in the comments section, its also got nice helpful people and almost no trolls.
    See you all around.

  18. @ Jide & Noni
    You both got me wrong. I did not say I cannot view pdf files on my Android tablet. I have adobe reader installed, and I can view pdf files. The problem is that pdf files attached to received mails appear not to be attached to the mail. So I cannot even download them.

  19. Correction.
    Some emails do not display the pdf files attached to them. Specifically, I get my bank statement as pdf files attached to emails. If I view the mails on my galaxy tab, the files are no where to be seen. If I view the same mails on my N8, the pdf files are there, and I can download them. However pdf attached to mails from other sources show up on both my tablet and N8. This is very puzzling to me. I cannot explain it.

  20. @Austine Ezemelue: I am guessing your bank is that bank that passwords the PDF file with the last 4 digits of your account number. If it is, your problem might be a variant of a known issue of downloading pdf files from passworded websites in HC3.2 with the stock browser.
    If its not then you might want to report your issue as a new issue.
    Oh, the link to the known issue I described is:

  21. @ Jide
    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Though one is a password protected pdf file, but the other is not. Thank you.

  22. This Gmail problem addressed by Mr mobility has an extremely simple solution for Android users. Surprisingly I came across it last year. Just search the Google play store for attachments [Gmail Attach]. After installing, when ur trying to reply mails thru d gmail app, the attachments icon comes up and u can attach anything in ur Android, that simple. I luv my Android, so
    You browse file system to
    pick the file that you want. Check.

  23. Very surprised when I saw this post. Been using Gmail for Android app for all my mails. I send anything, pdf, jpg, docx and even apk files with it. If I want to attach a file, it gives me the option of choosing from the gallery or file system with the stock file manager. I download attachments with ease. I av neva had any problem with the app. Works well for me.

  24. @ Chuks – the way I see it, when there’s a “problem”, something your phone may not be able to do…there’s an app for it! 🙂

  25. This article is painting android wrongly. Gmail is a Google app. The galaxy s2, which I also use, has its own stock email with which you can attach files to your email easily. The email has even been updated with ICS and better too. I don’t see the need for comparing blackberry and symbian wih android on this. My sgs2 delivers exceptionally on emails. If you want to attach pdf on Gmail just go ahead and download any of the several free file managers from play store. I don’t use Gmail that often, but just like someone mentioned earlier here, I think the Gmail app on android is one of the bests. The way it tags your mails, attachments, contacts, display is just beautiful.

    On the microsoft exchange, I didn’t have problem setting up my office exchange mail on the sgs2. Once you have the correct domain name, input your username and password, you will be done in less than a min. I have all my exchange contacts, calendar and office emails sync to my phone effortlessly. I even have more options to play with after updating to ICS.

  26. Chukwudi

    @Noni: simple things such as this should not require an extra app na!

    My point exactly. The problem here has to do with something that is a universal way of handling email that it should work straight out of the box.

    How does the average non-tech/geek person respond to this? They should never have to look for a fix for an issue like this. Not that many of them will look for a fix. They’d just end up frustrated.

  27. Simple things should not require a 3rd party app. Agree.

    But- why use a smartphone if you are not smart enough to realize that 3rd apps exist SPECIFICALLY to augment OS (non) functionalities?

  28. The point of a smartphone is so people can get tasks done easilly without being stumped like in this case. Many non-smartphones do the email attachment thingie right.

    This isn’t smart. Its retrogression. It shouldn’t happen. Its not smart to have to look for fixes for basic stuff like this.

    The Android fans here know this fix because they are geeky types. Average users – even the smartest of them – will get stumped and then spend precious time searching Google for a fix that should never have been.

  29. (
    The Android fans here
    know this fix because they
    are geeky types.

    I guess the moral of this story is – stay away from Android (or geeky things (like smartphones) if you are not the geeky type!

  30. Androids problem is the lack of a native file manager. Its a gross oversight that cannot be forgiven. If android doesnt do something well, its file management.

  31. I disagree with Mr mobility on this, you must be doing something wrong, I av tried it over and over again, you can attach a document without a third party app on SGS II. Besides, apart from the standalone Gmail app, you can use the default email, you can attach any file with that, I av also tried this.

  32. @Efe, Samsung phones do come with a default file manager. That is why I am surprised cos Mr Mobility said SGS II.

  33. @belushi
    was your SGS2 ICS upgrade via kies???
    i downloaded a new version of kies and the ICS was absent… is it available now??

  34. @forte spy, mine wasn’t through samsung kies. I just downloaded the official firmware and flashed it through odin. It’s just as good as having it through kies.

    This comparison is not objective and wrong like I mentioned earlier. You can do a comparison of Gmail apps on android and other platforms. But to say android doesn’t deliver on emails as a result of your experience with Gmail app on android is misleading. You can set up any email(yahoo, hotmail, exchange, Gmail e.t.c) on your stock email app and easily attach Whatever you want to your mail. The problem Mr Mobility mentioned here is with the Gmail app, which is a Google app that you have on other platforms. You don’t have to be a geek to use the email on android. Yomi knows this.

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