Time has passed. More info has trickled out. Pre-orders are in. There has been much to mull.
Over time I have become increasingly comfortable with my decision to use my iPad as my primary computer. But there’s one aspect that continues to gnaw at me: email.
In general, I consider the email app on the iPhone to be pretty good. Sure, I’d really like a unified inbox. But in the grand scheme of things I feel like I can cope without one.
So what’s the problem? Search.
I am an email pack rat. I have something on the order of 80,000 messages and several gigs of attachments stored on IMAP servers, in a series of nested folders for sorting (and searching). This was a system I put in place prior to the emergence of excellent, spotlight/gmail style search tools for email.
Nonetheless it’s a system I find incredibly useful. Sometimes I find it easier to simply scan a list of emails within a given folder. Sometimes I like to use spotlight within a given folder. And sometimes I have to search the whole magilla to find the message(s) I’m looking for. And therein lies the problem.
Unlike Mail on the MBP desktop, on the iPhone at least, Mail only pulls in the most recent 200 messages (max). And considering I have some project-specfic folders with over 10,000 email messages stored in them, I’d describe the finite limit as “very finite.”
Spotlight on the iPhone 3GS is pretty fast on those 200 local messages. But when selecting to “Continue Search on Server,” something almost always necessary for me, it can get pretty bogged down. I’d call it spinning-beachball territory if it were on the mac.
I understand that resources are tight on a smartphone. Processor, memory, bandwidth, etc. are all understandably less robust than on a desktop, so tough choices – like limiting local messages to 200 – have to be made. It’s workable, but not great. I want the experience to be great 🙂 Hopefully the iPad, with its beefier CPU and higher memory, will allow a (much) higher number of messages to be stored locally.
There’s another problem: nested folders. On the mac, you can search in All Mailboxes. Not so on the iPhone. There’s no option to do so. On the iPhone, searches are limited to the folder you are currently in, even if folders are nested within. Again, I understand that resource limitations have forced these kind of choices. Hopefully though Apple will open things up a bit on the iPad.
Is any of this calamitous? Not so much. As I said though, with the passage of time I’ve been able to ponder certain usage requirements more thoroughly. As with all such things, generally speaking I find that there are workable, if imperfect, solutions.
At the very least I hope that Apple releases (much) more detailed descriptions of the built-in apps like Mail prior to shipping…