Google’s Gmail navigation interface on Android tablets has recently undergone a significant update, with the previous bottom bar being replaced by a left-aligned navigation rail. This change brings the Android tablet version of Gmail in line with the navigation interface that has been present on foldable devices for some time. As of January 18, 2024, the updated Gmail navigation rail has been widely implemented following a server-side update, aiming to provide a more consistent user experience across different device formats.
The revamped interface on the Pixel Tablet showcases a left-hand column housing a hamburger button, a compose button, and up to four tabs including Gmail, Chat, Spaces, and Meet. When users engage in a specific section, a circular tab indicator replaces the previous pill-shaped highlight. Although the new navigation rail slightly reduces the size of the inbox/message list, the impact is not overly pronounced, and there is no alteration to the message body. The navigation rail and compose button remain persistent, unlike the previous bottom bar, which could be hidden while scrolling.
This change aligns Gmail with other first-party apps like Google Photos, TV, and Drive, all of which have maintained a navigation rail on tablets. The rollout of the Gmail navigation rail on Android tablets is still ongoing, with version 2023.11.12.x being one of the recent releases incorporating this update. However, users should be aware that there is a server-side component involved in the deployment process, indicating that the update may not yet be available to all users.
In an opinion on the topic, some users may welcome the updated navigation interface as it brings a more consistent experience across different devices, making it easier to navigate and use Gmail on an Android tablet. However, others may find the slight reduction in the size of the inbox/message list to be a drawback, as well as the persistent nature of the new navigation rail and compose button. Overall, the update aims to enhance the user experience on Android tablets, but it will be interesting to see how users adapt to the changes over time.