Yahoo Mail's new Android app supports Wi-Fi, but is painful to use

Yahoo Mail for Android: A year late, and still too slow

About six weeks ago, I took keyboard to blog and blasted the smithereens out of Yahoo for screwing up email on my Motorola Droid. For some reason, the world's most popular webmail service (according to some statistics) was preventing e-mail from working on Wi-Fi-connected Android devices, and had failed to build its own mail application for Google's Android operating system. 

Well, today Yahoo unveiled its mail (and instant messenger) application for Android phones, and the app looks pretty good, at least until you actually start using it.

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I downloaded the new app an hour ago and am going to give my my initial thoughts here. I think the application has some serious problems, but then again, maybe I"m just using it wrong (that's what Steve Jobs told iPhone users anyway). If anything I'm about to write is incorrect, please let me know. If everything I write is correct, I hope Yahoo revamps the app to fix its mistakes.

First, Yahoo Mail for Android works when your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Woo-hoo! Score one for Yahoo! 

Second, the user interface (despite the presence of some advertising) is much nicer-looking than the bland interface available on the basic Android mail app that comes pre-installed on each Android phone. It actually looks like Yahoo Mail, and that's nice.

Third, Yahoo Mail on Android now supports push notifications, meaning your email can be updated every minute, instead of once every five minutes on the stock Android mail app.

But I think that's where the benefits end.

The user interface is nice and shiny, but actually opening an e-mail takes several seconds, an interminably long wait compared to the near-instant loading I'm used to on the stock Android mail client. 

Second, I like having "push" mail, but the push service is too intrusive. when I turn push mail on, I get a buzz and doorbell sound every time I get a new e-mail. Most of the time, I prefer my email to update silently in the background, without a sound or vibration. So, I turned notifications off, but now the email won't update unless I open the application and wait for it to refresh. Why can't the app "push" new mail without distracting me every time a new email pops up? 

Bottom line, the standard Android mail app loads email faster, and gives you the option of updating silently in the background without making a sound or vibrating. As far as I can tell, Yahoo's push mail not only prevents you from turning the sound/vibration off, but it also doesn't let you choose one instead of the other (i.e., sound but no vibration). 

Perhaps the app is more customizable than I am giving it credit for, but when I click "options" I am not seeing anything that would fix the issues I mention above. If anyone has played around with the Yahoo Android app and can give me more insight, or can inform me that I am wrong, I would welcome it. 

This is just the first version - actually, it's Version 1.0.0.2282 according to Yahoo - so hopefully we'll be seeing many improvements over the coming months. But Android phones have been on the market since 2008, and Yahoo has just now gotten its act together and released a mail app of its own. I remain a loyal Yahoo Mail user, but my hopes on this front are not sky high. 

UPDATE: A few hours after posting this blog item, I received an email from a Yahoo spokesperson, who says these issues are being addressed. Specifically, Yahoo tells me "[We] wanted to let you know we're already addressing some of the issues you describe. The first update will be rolled out in the next few days, and as always, we'll continue to innovate with new features and make future versions even better.  Specifically, we're looking to improve loading time by optimizing the performance and improving the speed. We're also looking to update the user interface to indicate when the messaging is loading. On the push notification sound setting, we are looking to roll out an option to keep notifications turned on without the sound."

These are pretty basic issues that probably could have been taken care of before the app was released, but it's good to know Yahoo is aware of the problems and is fixing them.

One commenter points out that "having a separate interface/APP for each different mail provider is complete rubbish," and I agree. The Android does have a mail app that lets you pull in messages from several different providers, and I've been using this one. But I am glad Yahoo built its own application, because the native Android mail app doesn't support push mail and Yahoo seems to have problems running on the native app. If the Yahoo-designed mail app receives the proper updates, it could become the tool of choice for accessing Yahoo Mail on Android phones. 

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