Workable but not the best experience.
Using Google Apps on the iPad is far from seamless. The only native Google applications on the world’s most popular tablet are Maps, Search, Earth, and YouTube. An iPad app for Google’s social media platform, Google+, is reportedly under review by Apple.
Below is a list of the limitations of using Google Apps’ main applications on the iPad through the Safari browser, which display by default in Google’s mobile interface.
Pros: The browser interface for Gmail is customised for the iPad and lets you write, read and send emails, move them to folders and apply labels, star and unstar, archive and delete.
Cons: You can’t create labels, add to tasks, add events or create filter rules.
Pros: Calendar can add and delete events, and view the calendar by day or month.
Cons: No view by week, five days or agenda (a chronological list of events). Can’t add repeating or all-day events.
Note: Calendar can be viewed on an iPad in Desktop mode rather than the more limited Mobile version. The desktop version comparatively has almost no limitations, though the screen is a little more crowded.
Pros: Can create documents and spreadsheets. Can cut, copy and paste.
Cons: Can’t create presentations. Can’t select text in more than one line at a time, which is very limiting for copy and paste. No formatting at all; italics, bold, bullets, etc. No ability to insert content, eg images, links, graphs. Can’t share the document with others.
Note: The desktop version gives access to the full Google Docs interface but it is not totally stable. Users can write text in any Google font, insert bullet points and images so on. Sharing is restricted to granting access to the document – you can’t email it as an attachment or publish to the web.
Pros: Analytics displays the total number of visitors, pageviews, etc for the selected period.
Cons: Graphs in Analytics are written in Flash which means they won’t display on an iPad.
Google Sync will synchronise emails, calendar events and contacts between a Google account and the native iPad apps Mail, iCal and Address Book respectively. One benefit is that you can access your information offline rather than needing to connect through the browser.
The native applications are fast, easy to use and have good interfaces. There are some shortcomings, however.
Mail: Gmail can be used on an iPad by setting up an account in the iPad’s native email application, Mail.
You can send and receive emails with your Gmail account and have access to all your Gmail folders (or labels, as Gmail calls them). But it isn’t possible to create labels or sub-labels or apply multiple labels to one email.
Also, HTML emails are sometimes displayed incorrectly. Deleting an email in Mail will archive it in Gmail. There is no integration with Google Calendar and little co-operation with Google Contacts.
Reader: Third-party RSS reader applications for the iPad such as Early Edition and Reeder can access feeds saved in a Google Reader account.
Given that Google Apps is meant to operate through a browser one might think the experience would be pretty similar to that on a desktop. However, there are two major differences.
Adding data on a touchscreen tablet is very different to the conventional mouse-and-keyboard interface, and web applications designed for use on a desktop need some modification. From the looks of it, the task is not particularly easy, as neither Microsoft Office 365 nor Google Apps work particularly well on the iPad’s browser.
Secondly, Google Apps is optimised to work with Google’s own browser, Chrome. Any other browser that isn’t Chrome misses out on excellent features such as the recently released ability to work offline. And it is not possible to load another mainstream browser such as Chrome on the iPad.
Google has made a tablet app for Gmail, but it only works on approved tablets running Google’s mobile operating system, Android. When a Gmail Android app user switches between Gmail accounts, the associated calendars, tasks and documents change too.
Google hasn’t submitted a version of the Gmail Android app to Apple’s App Store to run on the iPad. And Apple has given no indications that it is interested in improving the compatibility of its native applications such as Mail with Google’s cloud-based suite.
It looks like both vendors will leave it to third-party software developers to bridge the gap between Google Apps on the iPad.