I have complained about the built-in Android email app many times before. There is just one word for it – crappy. And only one entity

Why Google Continues to ship the Crappy Android Email App [Updated]

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I have complained about the built-in Android email app many times before. There is just one word for it – crappy. And only one entity is to be held responsible for it – Google. The “do no evil” corporation keeps refusing to live up to the hype. My verdict is that Google is deliberately making any email experience outside of Gmail less than satisfactory on Android.

How else do you explain the fact that Google ships a separate Gmail app apart from the built-in generic app, and ensures that the generic email app is unusable for the most part? In the past, I have complained about the hardships of setting up some email accounts on Android. But, beyond that, should you successfully do so, you will find that the generic email app is so dim that it is almost unreadable even in the best of lighting.

Over the weekend, I thought to set up an alternative email service on the review device that I have with me at the moment. I have been stewing since. Take a look at the following screenshots from the Samsung Galaxy Note II. The upper one is of the built-in Gmail app. The second, and lower, one is of the built-in generic email app.


The screenshot does not do justice to it. In reality, it is much dimmer than what you see below.

How on earth is anyone supposed to be able to use the generic email app when it looks like the Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria (PHCN) is permanently on strike there? I have very good eye-sight, yet can barely read anything in that app. Having a black background is no issue to me, but the preview text isn’t white but grey, making it difficult to read in a number of scenarios, including under daylight.

Update (19th Dec. 2012): I have been corrected that the generic email app interface with the dark background seen in the screenshot above is a skinned version by Samsung. I apologise for the mix up. So, this particular issue is from Sammy and not Google. My other gripes against the generic email app stands though, and Google still needs to fix them.

Don’t tell me that I am cooking up a conspiracy here. That useless email app goes through development and testing by Google and has survived various iterations of Android OS – and it is just as terrible as it was in 2008. Google knows what it is doing. Google wants you using nothing else but Gmail and is being very under-handed about making sure that you do. Google is as evil as it gets.

Until someone provides a better explanation as to why there is such a huge difference in usability between the Gmail app and the generic email app on Android, I shall stand my ground.


  1. Uh, boss, I don’t recognise the “generic Gmail” you have there. Didn’t have it on my HTC Desire, SE Ray or Nexus 7. The top one I have had consistently on each device though.

    This is my first time of seeing it. Maybe it’s for vampires, night workers or a special Naija PHCN limited edition email app?

  2. Noni,

    Ha! I doubt that you have ever set up a non-Gmail email on your droids. This stupid generic email app has been in Android since the garden of Eden 🙂

  3. Mr. Mo! I’m sure you are making a point here.

    To be sincere here, I generally prefer white text on black backgrounds themes where that is possible in most app I use. For example, Quick Bible, Open Bibles, K9 Mail, Cool Reader, FBReader etc. I can say that is better, but if I’m to choose between the two email appose based on there looks as presented in the screenshots, I will go for the generic.

    If the mail app does not allow changing the interfaces or themes, then I consider that a minus. I’ve stopped using the bundled email apps on my device since I realized that I couldn’t configure Yahoo! mail to work with any of the two email apps that came with my phone. I needed first to install the official Yahoo! Mail for Android which gives a poor experience. I’ve been using K9 Mail ever since and I believe it is better than the official Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and the generic mail apps or any other mail app I’ve tried on Android and I have very little to complain about ever since.





  5. Mr Mo, i think you should chech if you have power saver enabled. My galaxy tab only displays black background for the email app if Power Saver is enabled. I think it is samsungs way of reducing the amount of power the screen, especially AMOLED, uses when you read emails. As you may know, white background makes AMOLED consume much more power. I think you would notice the same dark background if the Galaxy Note uses the samsung native browser with power saver turned on. To confirm if its a samsung or android issue, check you other android phones from different OEMs to see if you have the same problem. I use a Sony phone and the generic email app is standard. No dark background.

  6. Efe, I checked. Same dark background and hard-to-read text regardless of whether Power Saving is on or not. Without power saving, it is a wee bit brighter, but still suffers in readability.

    You mentioned “Samsung native browser”. I am not aware that Samsung ships their own browser on their Android smartphones. I have used the Galaxy S II, Galaxy Fit, Galaxy Pocket, and played with the Galaxy S III. None of them have such a browser.

  7. True. The email app on android is not just fresh. Remind one of a half boiled egg. It is like Google began the project then bored down, then forced itself to finish it. The email app is life an anachronism to an otherwise nice OS and UI, despite some glaring omission.

    I’ve tried k9, but coming from an iOS background, the ui & ux didn’t doesn’t just cut it.

    I agree with Mr. Mobility, that email app is crapp. Google needs to do something about it.

  8. hello, that generic email app has been modified by samsung. that screenshot has samsung touchwiz written all over it even my HTC ‘s email app isn’t like that. it’s not Google’s fault but Samsung’s that it looks like that.Have u used the genetic email app on a nexus device our any stock android? it’s almost the same as the Gmail app. go and check it out

  9. Hi Tobi,

    I have checked a stock Android ICS smartphone, and it appears that you are correct. The generic email app is different and much easier to read. I shall have to do a retraction. This is Samsung’s fault; not Google’s.


  10. @Mr Mo and Tobi, exactly. Sometimes we forget that the android we play with on different devices is heavily modified. That is what i was referring to when i mentioned the native browser.

  11. Because of my love for dark backgrounds,i kind of like the native email app. Though i must admit i love the gmail app.
    I dont have any problem reading from the mail app though.

  12. belushi,

    Do you have your Note’s brightness cranked all the way up? In natural light, I struggle to read that grey text on the black background that is used for the message preview. Of course, once the email is opened, it is quite readable.

  13. i have had the built in email app mangle my hotmail messges many times, to my friends and family. it changes all apostrophes to a string of symbols and numbers.
    really broke my heart.

    finally realized itwas google’s work.

    i realized then that Google is

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