October 21, 2013

FastMail introduces mobile web interface that's "faster than native" 

Today FastMail took their mobile web interface out of beta. In the announcement on their blog, they make a pretty bold claim:

But most importantly, the new mobile interface is fast! We’ve gone to great lengths to reduce the number of round trip requests between your phone and our servers, making the interface load and feel fast even over the high latency connections of mobile networks. In many cases, it is faster than a dedicated email app.

FastMail mobile interface screenshot
The new FastMail mobile interface.

I used their mobile web interface as my exclusive email “app” on my iPhone for several weeks during the beta. It is surprisingly good – it is certainly the best web-based mobile “app” I’ve ever used.

However, the fatal flaw for me is that the app does not remember its state between launches: when you leave the “app” and re-enter it, it always goes back to the inbox. Because of this I switched back to the default Mail app, but I do miss the good threading and server-side search support of the FastMail “app”. If they fix this, I’ll consider switching away from Mail for good on my phone.

Despite this issue, it’s worth checking this out just to see what can be done with web app with good design and optimization. It’s impressive.

FastMail also tweaked the design of the desktop version of their web interface.

FastMail desktop interface screenshot
The big change to the desktop interface is removing the menu bar in favor of a dropdown and a bunch of nice visual tweaks. Old design for reference.

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