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Finally, iPhone users could soon get access to the rich Gmail experience that Android users have had since the beginning.

Google is close to launching a native Gmail app for the iPhone, MG Siegler reports. The app may already have been submitted to Apple for approval, and if so we could see it very soon.

This is big news for several reasons: Up until now, iPhone users who rely on Gmail have had a subpar mail experience on the device. You can set up Gmail as an Exchange server (this is my preferred method), which gives you access to Google Calendar on the iPhone as well, but you don’t get access to useful Gmail features like Priority Inbox. Google also updated its mobile web version of Gmail in 2009, which has been steadily upgraded but still lacks the speed and features of a native app.

A full-fledged Gmail iPhone app won’t be able to take the place of the iPhone’s built-in mail application (thanks a lot, Apple), but it could still offer a lot of useful features for Gmail addicts like myself. As Siegler points out, the app will likely offer push notifications, which can alert you whenever you get a new email. But for me, the real killer feature would be Priority Inbox support, as well as the ability to easily flag and access my email labels.

The app could also get some Google+ integration, since Google is now trying to push its new social network into all of its services. Siegler also notes that, while Google hasn’t had the best track record with its iPhone apps (though I still give the company credit for supporting other platforms, unlike Apple), this one is shaping up to be killer.

And when the native Gmail app is released, Android users will have one less feature they can lord over iPhone owners (strangely, Gmail is still separate from the native mail app on Android). Together with Apple’s recent acquisition of C3 Technologies — which will allow the company to overhaul its mobile maps apps to feature cool 3D buildings like the Google Maps app on Android — it seems like Apple is making some big strides towards filling in the few gaps where it lags behind Google.


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