Gmail ditches icon labels in its navigation bar
Gmail ditches icon labels in its navigation bar

Enjoy a few extra pixels of room to read your email previews

Google has embraced Material You design guidelines in a big way, and Gmail is no exception. We got a taste of the Gmail Android app’s new appearance last year, and in addition to the dynamic color theming, we've seen the bottom bar in the app shrink. Google is now continuing to squeeze all the space it can out of that bar, and is doing away with the icon labels in Gmail.

The bottom bar in Gmail allows you to switch between Gmail, Chat (formerly Hangouts), Spaces, and Google Meet, with icons for each appropriately labeled (though 9to5Google points out that some users never even had those labels). Now, the labels appear to be going away for all Gmail users with the latest app update (version 2022.08.07.x).

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Gmail’s navigation bar, with, and without icon text labels

The icons in Gmail’s navigation bar are suitably unique, and with users well-versed enough with the icons for tools they use frequently, maybe those labels aren't really needed. Still, it's hard to see any meaningful benefit from taking the time to remove these labels. While that frees up a tiny bit of screen real estate, we're talking a few measly pixels on super-tall modern smartphones, and hardly enough to change how you interact with the app. Perhaps this is just the first move in a shift we'll see across Google apps, but so far this is the only place we've noticed it.

This change is already rolling out to Gmail users, but you may not see it immediately, even if you have auto-updates turned on for the app. In our testing, one phone kept its icon labels while another didn’t have them anymore, despite running the same version, so there could be a server-side component to the move.

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