Gmail 4.3 recently hit the streets, bringing with it a long-awaited (by me, at least) ability to archive email directly from the notification panel. It's awesome. But what else did Google sneak into our phones and tablets with this update? Let's find out.

Fair warning: this is going to be one of those teardown sessions that raises more questions than answers, so bring your speculation hat.

Experimental Preferences

Gmail has always had this wacky file in it called "experimental_preferences.xml." I've mostly ignored it, because it has only ever had two relatively-boring things in it: "full text search," which works already; and "Enable drag and drop contact chip," which would let you type a name into the "To:" field and move it to something like "CC:" by dragging it. See? Boring.

4.3 is out now, though, and two new entries have appeared in this list:

<CheckBoxPreference android:title="Enable sender contact photos" android:key="enable-convlist-photos" android:summary="Show sender contact photos in conversation list" android:defaultValue="false" />

<CheckBoxPreference android:title="Enable single-message zoom" android:key="enable-whoosh-zoom" android:summary="Zoom into individual messages using a single-message view" android:defaultValue="false" />

"Enable sender contact photos" is a weird "new" feature to add, isn't it? There are already sender photos in Gmail; the person just has to be in your contacts. The summary says it will "Show sender contact photos in conversation list," but that already happens, too. I'm not sure what this is or why it's "Experimental." The only new thing I can imagine them doing with contact photos is pulling down public Google+ profile pictures for people that aren't in your contacts. There is no evidence that this is in any way related to G+, though, so I'm stumped.

"Enable single-message zoom" - actually, I'm going to call it by its much cooler internal name, "enable-whoosh-zoom" - is another head scratcher. The summary says it will "Zoom into individual messages using a single-message view." Is a "single-message view" an alternative to the normal, threaded view? Your guess is as good as mine. Something that "whooshes" sounds fun though. I want my email to whoosh.

Pieces of Google Maps

For some reason, all of this has been added to attrs.xml:

<attr name="mapType">
    <enum name="none" value="0" />
    <enum name="normal" value="1" />
    <enum name="satellite" value="2" />
    <enum name="terrain" value="3" />
    <enum name="hybrid" value="4" />
<attr name="cameraBearing" format="float" />
<attr name="cameraTargetLat" format="float" />
<attr name="cameraTargetLng" format="float" />
<attr name="cameraTilt" format="float" />
<attr name="cameraZoom" format="float" />
<attr name="uiCompass" format="boolean" />
<attr name="uiRotateGestures" format="boolean" />
<attr name="uiScrollGestures" format="boolean" />
<attr name="uiTiltGestures" format="boolean" />
<attr name="uiZoomControls" format="boolean" />
<attr name="uiZoomGestures" format="boolean" />
<attr name="useViewLifecycle" format="boolean" />
<attr name="zOrderOnTop" format="boolean" />

Now, clearly, this is Google Maps stuff.

In Gmail.

My only theory is that maybe the aforementioned experimental "whoosh zoom" feature needed some fancy gesture or graphics effect that was already in Google Maps, and someone got a little overzealous with the copy/paste button and accidentally brought along the "mapType" stuff. It must be an accident, I can't think of a single legitimate reason for Gmail to have a satellite view. The rest of the items, camera zoom, tilt, and a bunch of gestures, are possibly justifiable things for whoosh zoom.

Seven More Notification Actions & Preferences


The biggest new feature of Gmail 4.3 is the notification actions. Currently you can archive (or delete) and reply directly from the notification. Swapping out archive for delete is a currently pretty unintuitive; it chooses whatever you've picked for your swipe preferences.

There are strings that suggest a much better method of doing this. Notification actions has some text for its own settings:

<string name="preferences_notification_actions_title">Notification actions</string>
<string name="prefDialogTitle_notificationActions">Select up to %1$d notification actions</string>

Hmm... There's some very interesting stuff going on here. 1) The number of notifications is a variable (%1$d) suggesting that it could, at some point, be more than "two." and 2) "Select"? You'd be selecting from 3 options.

Oh, no, wait, look at these:

<string name="notification_action_reply">Reply</string>
<string name="notification_action_reply_all">Reply all</string>
<string name="notification_action_forward">Forward</string>
<string name="notification_action_archive">Archive</string>
<string name="notification_action_remove_label">Remove label</string>
<string name="notification_action_delete">Delete</string>
<string name="notification_action_mark_read">Mark read</string>
<string name="notification_action_undo_archive">Archived</string>
<string name="notification_action_undo_remove_label">Label Removed</string>
<string name="notification_action_undo_delete">Deleted</string>
<string name="notification_action_preference_summary_not_set">Not set</string>

There are actually 10 notification actions in the strings file, not 3. There is everything you could want here, and along with the preferences, a decent sounding method for selecting them. The only question is, is this an upcoming feature, or a scrapped one?

Veiled Addresses - Some Kind Of Strange Google+ Integration

This new bit of text showed up in strings.xml:

<string name="veiled_address">reply-[0-9][email protected]</string>
<string name="veiled_alternate_text">(Google+)</string>
<string name="veiled_alternate_text_unknown_person">Google+ User</string>
<string name="veiled_summary_unknown_person">Google+ User</string>

It's... some kind of Google+ integration. As far as I can tell, "veiled address" is this weird bit of functionality in Gmail that will let you email someone based on their Google+ ID number. Check this out:

My Google+ profile address is http://plus.google.com/104025431341062052230/; we'll call the big, long number my Google+ ID. Take the "veiled address" string, "reply-[0-9][email protected]" and replace "[0-9]+" with my G+ ID, and you'll get "[email protected]."

This address sort-of works. I emailed it, and this showed up in my inbox:


Main page simply says "to me," keep in mind I actually emailed [email protected], yet Gmail recognizes this as "me". If you click the down arrow, it says "To: Unknown (Google+)." Mousing over it will show my G+ contact card, and clicking on it will load my G+ profile. Crazy.

If you try to email someone else with the "reply-[G+ID]@profiles.google.com" method, Gmail will even suggest that you add that person to your Circles.


This is what it looks like on Android:

wm_2013-03-19 15.52.09

It says "To: Google+ User," so I'm pretty sure I've triggered the string "<string name="veiled_alternate_text_unknown_person">Google+ User</string>."

Right now, you can only email yourself with this method. If you try to email someone else's Google+ ID, the email won't bounce, but it will never get delivered. I tried email other members of AP and no one received anything. I guess the messages just hang out on Google's servers in some kind of email purgatory. This makes me think this is a future feature of some kind, but, because it hasn't launched, no one has any privacy options set yet, so emails to other G+ accounts are blocked. Emailing yourself works, because you would never need a privacy option to block yourself.

It's also important to mention that this is not the same thing as the "email this user" button that is currently on Google+ profiles. That's just a web form, the headers are totally different, and none of the address replacement stuff happens when you use that.

So. I've figured what this does; I just have no idea why it exists. Is there anything out that there in Google land uses an email like "[email protected]"? Why does it say "reply?" Reply to what? If you drop the "reply-" and just email "[email protected]," delivery fails and none of this works.

Why would you add special logic to your email app to swap out the "To:" field with information from Google+ for one specific style of email address? Is Google just pushing G+ integration really hard, and they're going to start matching email addresses against Google+, like some sort of super address book? Will Gmail one day display "+Ron Amadeo" instead of my email address? Is this some part of the fabled unified messenger?

Ron Amadeo
Ron loves everything related to technology, design, and Google. He always wants to talk about "the big picture" and what's next for Android, and he's not afraid to get knee-deep in an APK for some details. Expect a good eye for detail, lots of research, and some lamenting about how something isn't designed well enough.
  • http://www.facebook.com/fleteJimmy Jimmy Flete

    loving it !

    • http://twitter.com/mobilephonesfan Mobile Phones Fan

      Yep -- looks like we can expect some nice Android goodies to come out of I/O. :-)

  • https://twitter.com/#!/psycho_maniac_ Jerry Lange

    I really REALLY want mark as read in the notification bar

    • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

      +1, just wanted to write this.
      And by the way, good job Ron, as always. I like your way of writing!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Pratik-Holla/1041154510 Pratik Holla

      Would prefer three options: Delete, Mark as read and reply.

    • Sergio

      Seems like we REALLY need options customization settings... :)

    • itznfb

      I'd rather have a Delete instead of Archive. Typically when I'm archiving it's something I've read and want to keep. There are tons of emails I delete without even reading.

  • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

    "Will Gmail one day display "+Ron Amadeo" instead of my email address?"

    I believe it will. Imagine being able to email a circle, or mute emails from a circle, or share a doc with a circle. It makes complete sense that 'Contacts' in Android, Gmail, the whole Google ecosystem, will be scrapped and replaced with Circles.

    I bet you the next version of Android will have circular profile pictures, and at some point in the next few weeks, a Google+ update will be official that refreshes the Stream with circular profile pictures, among other things.

    • The_Chlero

      It would be marvelous if all the email adresses in the world would be in gmail. But since there are so many domains that's very unlikely.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      Sounds totally plausible. Google+ integrates perfectly with email (just throw an email address in the circle field), so the reverse coming true would make perfect sense.

      I like this idea.

      • http://twitter.com/mobilephonesfan Mobile Phones Fan

        Google+ integrates perfectly with email (just throw an email address in the circle field)

        Conversely, you can (in Chrome, anyway) login to your Google account via the display name, alone...no need to type the longer email address version.

        As noted, the most likely explanation is that it's part of a grand plan to unify our Google identities, using the carrot of simplifying accounts management.


  • http://profiles.google.com/scott.strool Scott Strool

    I would like to see swipe be directional, swipe left =Action 1 and swipe right=Action 2

    • Brad Martin

      It would be great if swipe left deleted and swipe right would mark it as read

      • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

        I've never ever used "archived" option. How is it different from "Delete"? GMail app on my phone allows only archiving by swiping.

        • Julio M

          Deleting puts a message in trash, which means the message could disappear after some time, let's say 30 days. Meanwhile archiving removes the message from inbox but leaves it in all mail, which means the message remains indefinitely available, simply archived.

          I do inbox zero but I search thru emails a lot, so I personally find archive better than delete.

          • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

            Thanks. But an archived msg will still count towards your 'used space' right? In GMail, once I'm done reading a mail, it automatically moves to "everything else" section. That's pretty much out of inbox. Why would I want to archive?

            I'm really trying to understand this.

          • Julio M

            Once you are done reading a mail in Gmail, it remains in the inbox. Note that the "everything else" section is also part of the inbox. The more emails (un/read, stared, important or not) you have under inbox, the longer it takes to load the inbox or the more space and time it takes to sync the inbox in a mail client.

            My philosophy is using inbox as a todo-list. So anything that remains in there is awaiting a follow-up or works as a reminder.

            If you really think you will never need your emails again, then deleting them is fine. Otherwise, archiving does get them out of your way (i.e. inbox).

            Also, this http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2008/04/9-reasons-to-archive.html

          • http://geniousatplay.blogspot.com/ Bikram Agarwal

            "The more emails you have under inbox, the longer it takes to load the inbox or the more space and time it takes to sync the inbox in a mail client." -

            Didn't ever quite think of this. But makes sense. I'll archive all my app support mails after replying to them from now on. :)

            I use a "To-Do" label to mark emails which I need to take care of later.

            Thanks for explaining this to me.

          • Julio M

            I've just read and archived the notification email for your reply :D

  • Кристијан Ристовски

    CSI: Android Police.

  • http://george.merloc.co George Merlocco

    Did Britney get back to you yet? xD

    • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

      According to what Ron explained, she did not even receive the message.

    • Guest

      Haha I'll tell you if T-Swift replies to me :)

      • Freak4Dell

        She'll have a song out about you next Tuesday.

  • http://twitter.com/Kourou59 Guillaume

    lol at "email purgatory" :)

  • TheWhiteLotus

    I love you Ron.

  • Brandon Price

    You can use Google+ to send an email. Just type the email address instead of selecting circles you want to share your post with, and then share it as usual. I wonder if the reply[0-9] thing has anything to do with that. And maybe, just maybe there will be popup maps if you get an email with an address in it?

  • Jays2Kings

    for people on 4.2.2, the new version also allows you to click on the action bar text to go "up" in the app, like all other holo apps on 4.2.2 (which didn't work before because the action bar text took up two lines instead of the regualar single line). The whole bar can be used to go up too if the message is double lined.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1023336189 Andrew Graceffa

    I think some of these are preps for Babble. "single message zoom?" Gmail integration with Babble that can pull email threads into conversations. Just a hunch.

  • nsnsmj

    I really love these teardown articles. Android Police <3

  • http://twitter.com/gasdocscott Simon Scott

    I just wish gmail let you email named groups - biggest failing of the app compared to it's web-based counterpart.

    • skeeterfood


  • http://www.facebook.com/Shad0wguy Chris Jutting

    I've been waiting for the notification actions in gmail since notification actions were first implemented. This made my day.

  • Brian Menius

    Fantastic as always, Ron.

  • Josh Brown

    The Sender Contact photo could be referring to the Inbox and other lists like that. It refers to the "Conversation list" i.e. a list of conversations, not a list of emails in a particular conversation. Look at the Google Voice inbox to see what I mean. Purely speculation, of course.

    Also I can think of plenty of reasons to have a map in an email document. Calendar invites with locations attached, addresses in-line with the email, a link to Google Maps in-line...

    • Alex Curran

      That's what I thought re: Conversation List - in the settings, the swipe-to-archive setting is called "Swiping Conversation list"

  • http://thedangerbrain.com/ Alfonso Surroca

    With the buzz about the "Babble" unified messaging last night, I think that the first and last items in this post may be some groundwork for Gmail tying into that new service. "Show sender contact photos in conversation list" and the hidden Google+ email address sound to me like they could be related to somehow merging G+ and Gmail messaging.

    If sending an email in Gmail, or a Google+ message, or Hangout request, or a Google Talk instant message all merge into the same thing on Google's end, then the Gmail being able to handle this kind of integration with G+ would make perfect sense.

    I'm really excited for I/O, when all of these mysteries will likely be uncovered. Well, unless AP figures it out first!

  • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

    Bearing in mind that at the moment the XMPP address to talk to someone on Google Talk that is in your circles but not on your Google Talk contacts is via an equally long XMPP address based on their Google+ profile number - it's quite likely that this is groundwork for tying all the various chat service together. It's also quite likely that sending a message to someone from for example Google+ Messenger will likely send it as an email if the person has not signed up to Google yet - and the ability to reply to the message via email which would appear as a reply in whatever this unified messaging service turns out to be - would be a pretty quick way to ensure users can use the new service to chat to anyone regardless of what service they are using - for example - you could in theory send a message to someone via their Facebook email address and if they reply to the reply address you would receive it in your unified messaging service.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      "the moment the XMPP address to talk to someone on Google Talk that is in your circles but not on your Google Talk contacts is via an equally long XMPP address based on their Google+ profile number"

      That's interesting, is there anywhere I can read about that or look at it?

      • http://www.bordersweather.co.uk/ Andy J

        Yes, though I just checked again and its not the G+ profile I'd but a random collection of letters and numbers - but it's probably a hash of some kind otherwise how would the system know who is allowed to communicate and who isn't. The address looks like @public.talk.google.com and you can see for yourself by opening Google talk on your Android device, opening a conversation with someone who is in your G+ circles but not on your Google talk contacts, press the menu button (or 3 dots) and select "Friend info"

  • Eric Liou

    @AP staffs: why there's no +1 button on mobile version?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/ron-amadeo/ Ron Amadeo

      The mobile version right now is a crappy wordpress plugin that we have very little control over.

      Artem assures us a redesign of AP is coming... someday.

      • Abhigyan

        Please make this happen Ron, please!

  • cameron charles

    i doubt anyone will know the answer to this but, in gmail if you delete emails from a sender enough without ever opening them eventually emails from that sender will be funnelled to spam, fair enough, does anyone have an idea if deleting from the notification counts as an unread delete, you can see the message body in the notification but then you can from in gmail itself so yeaaa

  • Justin Swanson

    I haven't read the whole comment thread, so don't kill me if it's been said before...

    Perhaps the mapping references in Gmail are to see addresses/locations like you do in the Desktop version? That would eliminate the need to open Maps, just to go, "oh yeah, i know where that is"

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000003999549 Mike Harris

    "you would never need a privacy option to block yourself"

    Speak for yourself. I've done some stupid shit in my life.

  • http://twitter.com/mobilephonesfan Mobile Phones Fan

    Ron Amadeo wrote:

    Right now, you can only email yourself with this method. If you try to email someone else's Google+ ID, the email won't bounce, but it will never get delivered. I tried email other members of AP and no one received anything.

    Going on the theory that this email string is yet another step in unifying our Google identities...

    Have you tried this experiment to/from an account that's been blessed with an official 'vanity' URL? After all, those users are one step closer to the state of Google singularity ('Googlarity'?) -- perhaps the system already includes hooks to treat custom profile URLs differently from those of mere mortals?

  • DeadSOL

    If I don't have my speculation hat with me, can I still read this? :p

  • Serge

    I think Gmap stuff is the result of linking with GMS library. Look at this page: http://developer.android.com/reference/com/google/android/gms/R.attr.html All strings except mapType are even listed in the same order. Gmail links with this library most likely to use Google+ APIs provided by the library.

    As for veiled addresses, it looks like they are implementing unified messaging according to this http://www.google.com/patents/US20120331405 patent application: "The posted messages can be formatted as text messages (e.g., SMS, MMS messages), email messages, instant messages, or other message formats for communication between electronic devices 102-106."

    • daveloft

      Yes, except that 4.3.1 was release quite a while ago and everyone already has it so it doesn't quite match up with the OS version.

  • Xpgamer7

    Single message view? Maps and google +? Maybe Google's adding in windows 8 esque support of in-app integration between their apps. (Get Google map info on an address within your email). Also furthering the whole Google single experience/G+ thing like with store reviews.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jastonas Iasonas Matsoukas

    Is there a way to delete from notification? I couldn't find anything in settings to change Archive to Delete.

  • Bantu

    Thinking the Veiled address may allow developers to respond to reviews directly to the reviewers inbox, without ever needing the reviewers email.

  • http://twitter.com/fueledbygin Andrew

    Mark as Spam and Mark as Read are kind of must haves for me, far more than Archive. Archive is pretty much the last thing I care about being readily accessible.

  • Samsung Fanboy

    I don't get the pop up notification on my wife's S3 with 4.1.1 anybody else having this issue?

  • Larizard

    fabled unified messenger

  • Ronald Morasse

    The g+ integration seems like it might be tied to the ability in g+ to let someone email you from your profile page without actually knowing your email address. As for why it only works for you, it might be because you are the only one the enabled this feature on your g+ profile.

  • paleh0rse

    I desperately need a "Mark as read AND Archive" button, damnit! lol...