The Real Reason Google Released an iOS Gmail App

Last week, Google re-released their much maligned iOS Gmail application. It includes a few features over and above the photostandard iOS email app, but nothing that is really exciting the wide swath of users if “number of stars” is any indicator. To boot, many have argued that the Gmail app actually removes features from standard iOS email platform. So the question is why did Google really launch Gmail application for iOS?  There’s a lot here beneath the surface.

Gmail App for iOS

Gmail for iOS adds the following functionality over the standard iOS email client:

  • Ability to see one entire thread on one screen
  • “Important” and “everything” distinctions similar to the website
  • Report SPAM
  • Full message text search
  • Labels
  • Visual addressing.  See the addressee’s avatar.

Net-net this brings it more in-line with the full desktop client.  One could say it detracts from the experience:

  • Tiny, unreadable text size depending on email source
  • Lose fast access to other email clients like Yahoo or Exchange
  • Slow initialization unless already opened


It’s About a Entry Point to Other Google Services

Sure, Google will improve and tweek the experience to improve the app, but why did they develop it in the first place?  First, imageit’s about Google services and getting user to them from an iOS environment……. and advertisements. Think about this… what are the four most likely places Google could derive revenue from.  And when I ask that, I mean the first entry into the revenue stream or the starting point:

  • Search
  • Maps
  • Email
  • Social media


Once a user reaches this entry point, then Google can “cross-sell” them into:

  • Shopping
  • Books
  • Videos
  • Music


It’s About Micro-Segment Profile Development

Most importantly, mail provides one of the riches data sets from which to build ad profiles.  Google indexes every email you send and receive and from it builds micro-profiles about you. The better the profile, the better the ad targeting, the IMG_0899higher the CPM and CPC.  All of this means more money for Google.  If users get lured away from Gmail, Google loses this.

Wrestling For Inside Control

Google is already the leader in search and maps and has the preferred placement on iOS, but Gmail is just one of a line listing of mail options. This becomes a problem for Google in that now Apple and iOS become the control point for users. Furthermore, what happens if users get more comfortable with iOS mail and even worse, iCloud email? None of these is good for Google and Google will keep wrestling with Apple until they can get the inside edge.

Published by

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.

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