Web giants Google and Yahoo both targeted the mobile space this week with new communications debuts. Yahoo unveiled Yahoo Messenger for the iPhone, while Google brought out a new mobile version if its Gmail e-mail service designed for the iPhone as well as Android-powered devices such as T-Mobile’s G1.
The news come at a time when developers are scrambling to take advantage of the hot selling iPhone and its ever-growing App Store of applications. There have been over 800 million downloads at the App Store since its release last year. The App Store features over 25,000 applications, according to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).
Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) joins other programs like AOL’s AIM instant messenger on the iPhone. The services smooth user interface and easy usability stand out, Kedar Apte, product manager for Yahoo Messenger, told InternetNews.com.
Beyond simple chat instant messaging, Messenger includes the ability to send a variety of emoticons and share pictures. The chat feature itself gets around, to a degree, the iPhone’s inability to multitask or run more than one program at a time.
“The app works around that, you stay logged in to Messenger even if you have to take a call or launch calendar or another application,” said Apte. When you switch to another app or phone call, the service displays your status as idle. When you relaunch Messenger, any messages that came in while you were idle will appear. Also, if you end a chat session to take a call, you can relaunch and continue the session from a desktop computer without losing anything.
Yahool Messenger is also available for RIM Blackberry devices as well as the T-Mobile Sidekick.
Gmail for mobile
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced several improvements to its Gmail for mobile, starting with faster speeds for opening an e-mail, navigation and search. The new features are available now for iPhone users and the Android Web browser.
Google chalked the improvements up to aggressive caching and its use of new browser technologies, like HTML5 and its own Google Gears open source project.
The process of archiving messages has also been improved. A “floaty bar” now appears near the top of the screen when you select a message, displaying options that include archive or delete.
In a blog post, Google confirmed Gmail for mobile continues to offer a limited number of offline features as well. “… if the data network drops out on you, rest assured that Gmail won’t. You’ll still be able to open recently read messages and to compose over a flaky, or non-existent, network connection,” it said in part.
The one other notable improvement is how messages are displayed in Gmail. Google said it has made labels easier to read and are more in-line with what Gmail users are used to seeing in the desktop version. Also, the search menu is now in the top header, making it more accessible.