Annoying Android usability issue – Gmail with multiple accounts

I love my Android phone. It’s a lot of fun, and I think Google has done a lot of good things with the Android platform. There are still some major usability issues, though, that I hope Google will iron out in Android 3.0 (Gingerbread).

Here’s one, for example:
Issue 1664: Gmail should allow choosing the From: address on an account that has multiple addresses
Send As Feature in Gmail

For years, I’ve been using Thunderbird as my email client. I used it on Windows. Then I used it on Ubuntu. Then I used it on Mac OS X. Recently, inspired by my move to an Android phone, I decided to go as Google as possible. Google Voice. Google Docs. Google Maps. Google Reader. Gmail. There were some things that took adjusting to in Gmail (conversations instead of messages, anyone?), but I didn’t miss Thunderbird as much as I thought I would. Google gives you nigh-unlimited email storage (I don’t see meeting the 7 GB limit any time soon the way my emails are going), and the interface is simple and quick, and easy to use. More importantly, I can aggregate with Gmail a bunch of email accounts into one, just as I would with a traditional desktop email client (like Thunderbird, Mail, Eudora, or Outlook).

In the regular Gmail web interface, you can choose which of these accounts is the default email address (meaning if you compose a new message, that message will have the from: address be that email address unless you choose otherwise), and you can also choose to have all replies sent from the email the original message was sent to. That means if someone sends an email to my church account and I hit Reply, the reply will appear to come from my church account; and if someone sends an email to my home account and I hit Reply, the reply will appear to come from my home account.

Pretty nifty feature to have. Too bad it’s missing from Android’s Gmail app. In the Android Gmail app, if you compose a new message, it will always come from your Gmail email address, regardless of what your setting is on the web client. And if you reply to a message, it will also come from your Gmail address. That makes it pretty much useless to me in terms of writing emails, seeing as how I use my Gmail account to aggregrate other email accounts, and I basically never want emails to appear to come from my Gmail account.

Fortunately, there’s a workaround, but it’s not pretty. The workaround is not to use the Gmail app. Just use the Gmail web interface in your favorite Android browser (Browser, Opera, xScope, Dolphin, etc.). If you use the mobile version (which is the default) of the web client, you won’t actually get to see your from: address, but it’ll still operate the way it’s supposed to (I tested it on both a reply and a new email). You can switch to the desktop (or “classic”) mode of the web client if you actually want to see the from: address.

Now, Google, how difficult would it really be to fix this problem?


  1. I just tried K9. It does not solve the problem. It does not allow you to pick various email addresses to send from through GMail. You would have to configure each email account separately as an IMAP account. That doesn’t jive with using GMail to aggregate accounts.

  2. No, unfortunately. I’m still using my workaround, which is just checking GMail through the web browser. It works, it’s just slightly slower to load than the GMail app.

  3. Actually K9 does support this but not in an intuitive way.

    1- You will need to log into your main GMail account. Goto Settings/Accounts and add the other emails addresses you own. (will need to reply to confirmation emails etc…)
    2- On K9 go into your account settings. Scroll down to ‘Manage Identities’. Menu button and ‘New Identity’ add your new identities (Quite redundant since you just did it at gmail :( )
    3- When replying or composing an email click the menu button then the ‘More’ and ‘Choose identity’.

    I don’t mind steps 1 and 2 since you only have to do them once. But why is the From field not displayed as a combo box when you are composing the email? Might have a look at the source code and provide a patch.

  4. I moved from Androids gmail client to K9 but for different reasons. The gmail client doesn’t allow you to edit/select text from a received email.

    K9 doesn’t exactly let you do this either, but if you fw/reply then you can… however I have since found an even better way.

    K9 let’s you forward to a third party app, so now if I need to select text from an email I’ll just forward to 3Banana.

    I’m surprised the email clients in general are so limited – However I’ve found K9 to be pretty reliable.

  5. Yes, Gmail app doesn’t let you choose your ‘From:’ address from a pull-down menu (like you can in Gmail on a computer), but you can turn on a setting in your main Gmail settings so that when you receive any message sent to one of your other addresses, it will automatically change your ‘From:’ address when replying — whether you’re in the app or not.

    To access this setting:

    1. Sign into your main personal Gmail on a computer and click Settings at the top.
    2. Click the Accounts and Import tab.
    3. Under ‘When receiving a message:’ select “Reply from the same address to which the message was sent”


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