Google improves Gmail for feature phones

Smartphones are taking over, but feature phones still matter to Google, which has updated Gmail for the cheap devices with an improved user interface.

People use all sorts of devices to access Gmail: their Web browsers, smartphones, tablets and, in many parts of the world, the browser on their feature phones, and those users can now take advantage of a new user interface that’s faster and easier to use, according to Google product manager Ari Bezman.

The improvements reduce the number of button presses required to read, reply, and compose emails. For example, users can reply directly to a message from the thread view and quickly move between conversations, Bezman said in a blog post.

During the second quarter, smartphones outsold feature phones for the first time. Smartphone sales grew by 46.5 percent to reach 225 million units, while feature phones sales dropped by 21 percent. But with 210 million feature phones sold, that remains an important segment for vendors like Google and Facebook.

In July, Facebook said that there were more than 100 million people using Facebook For Every Phone each month, which works on phones that cost as little as $20. Millions of people in developing markets like India, Indonesia and the Philippines are relying on it to connect with Facebook, without having to purchase a smartphone, Facebook said.

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