Android Expert Profiles

How I Use Android: Gmail app product manager Matthew Izatt

A leader from Google's Gmail Android app team reveals some surprising details about his own Android-using habits.

How I Ise Android: Matthew Izatt

Android Expert Profiles

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If there's one app practically every Android user knows, it's Gmail. Gmail for Android has been the platform's de facto email client from the get-go -- and while some of us have shifted our habits to Inbox in recent months, the traditional Gmail app is showing no signs of slowing down.

The biggest change for the app came last fall, when Google introduced a new Material Design interface along with full support for external accounts. Smaller tweaks have shown up since then, like the ability to easily block senders or unsubscribe from mailing lists through a native app menu.

With as big of a role as Gmail has played in the lives of Android users, I thought it'd be interesting to see how the people behind it use Android themselves -- both during the work day and off the clock. I caught up with Gmail for Android's product manager, Matthew Izatt, to find out.

In his own words, this is how Matthew Izatt uses Android.

The basics

Your current primary phone: Asus Zenfone 2. I rotate phones on a regular basis to try and get a feel for the variety of hardware and software flavors of Android. It’s is a very nice phone for the $200 price point. While I can see where compromises were made to hit the price point, I can say that I (and many people) would be quite happy with devices in this price range as a daily driver.

What case is on your phone (if any): None. I don’t like cases, and I switch phones too often to take the time to chase down the best case for any given device.

Your current tablet (if any): Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 (and a Logitech Pro keyboard). I love big screens. It’s better for watching movies. It’s better for working and as a laptop replacement. I come pretty close to being able to do my job completely on a tablet with this one. We also built a tablet optimized Gmail experience, and I find it to be even more efficient (and enjoyable) than any comparable experience on a desktop. (Of course, I’m biased, but I’d better be!)

Your current smartwatch (if any): Samsung Gear Live. The quality of voice recognition has really improved to the point where I feel confident in doing quick queries and IM replies straight from my watch when I’m on the move. That said, I’m still waiting for the perfect marriage of smartwatch and running watch.

What face you're using on your watch right now: InstaWeather Hourly Forecast. I do some outdoors activities and therefore check the weather often enough that I like having weather available at a glance.

InstaWeather Watch Face Android Wear

The home screen

A quick walk-through of your phone's home screen setup: As part of my effort to experience many phones, I tend to leave my home screen closer to default than most power users. The top half of the screen is stock configuration (weather/time/search), and the bottom has my most frequently accessed apps -- obviously a strong Google bias, since I use Gmail, Calendar, and Chrome for both personal and work purposes. The other Google apps, notably the editors, are also commonly used and in a folder.

Matthew Izatt Home Screen

What launcher you're using: Stock (Asus) launcher -- again, as part of my desire to experience the device the way most people will. On some devices, the stock launcher was so awful that I’d try a new launcher. Typically, I’d end up on the Google Now Launcher, since I’m a big Now fan.

What wallpaper you're using: Pictures of the kids (in Google Wear, of course) -- it’s the modern equivalent of keeping a picture in your wallet.

Anything else of note (interesting customizations, special icons, etc): For someone on the advanced/power user end of the spectrum, I leave my devices very vanilla!

The experience and the apps

What's one of your favorite Android-related tips or tricks?

I do a lot of work via my phone (and tablet), so making efficient use of notifications is important to me. Some key notifications tips:

"Hide sensitive notification content" is a great compromise when you want to know whether it’s a personal or work notification but don’t want to leave private info on the lock screen.

Getting a "look at me" notification from an app you don’t want to hear from? Long press on the notification, and you’ll see which app generated the notification and you can block that app. Some devices preload a lot of apps which harass you to interact with them, and I find it vital to get rid of that clutter. Then I know the remaining notifications are ones I really care about.

Beyond the obvious stock Google programs, a few apps you can't live without right now (and a quick word about why):

  • At Bat: The real-time gameday live experience is really nice. Go Jays Go.
  • Strava: Best way to keep track of past runs, stats, and answer the question "Where’s a good place to go for a run?"
  • Weather Network: Good detailed local weather (count the number of ways I have to check the weather :)).
  • An entire collection of loyalty apps (hotel, airline, grocery stores, etc). It beats carrying around cards and is faster for checking than remembering how to login on each website. If only the apps would pop up their member card automatically on the lock screen when I’m at the right location and I’m asked "Are you a [something] member?"

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