When Responsive Design Fails on Gmail Messages for Android

Alex Gorton

In November of 2014, Google released their newest iteration of their mobile Operating System, Android 5.0 “Lollipop.”  The new OS launched on Motorola’s Nexus 6 and HTC’s Nexus 9. “Lollipop” rolled out to other Nexus devices in December 2014 and updates for other Android devices are being released per their manufacturer’s prerogative as of March 2015.

If you have an Android device running the Android 5.0 OS, then you may have noticed something when trying to access the native Email app on your phone or tablet: the app is redirecting you to download and use the Gmail app for all of your email.


While quite a number of individuals use the Gmail app, or another 3rd party, already (myself included), the biggest downfall is that they do not support responsive design properly by way of stripping out media queries. That means that when your emails are sent out, Gmail app users will only see the desktop version of the email on their phone.  The email app that comes pre-installed on your android device was one of the few email apps available to Android users that DID support responsive design. There are a few apps around that support media queries, but the major players on Android (Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo!) do not, as of yet.

Currently, the majority of the Android population is still on a previous iteration of the OS (only 9.7% of users are running “Lollipop” as of May 2015) and are not affected by this change, but the roll-outs are coming. This is where stressing that an email template be mobile-optimized comes into play.  Designing your emails with a width of 650px or less will help mitigate the issue of an app not supporting the media queries required for the responsive design. Be sure to look at your analytics to understand your user base and who is using Desktop vs. Mobile and Android vs. Apple.

About the Author
Alex Gorton

As a Digital Marketing Designer, Alex is tasked with the creation of client templates, educating clients on design best-practices and assisting with internal marketing needs. Out of the office, Alex is an self-proclaimed adventurer, snowboarder and tinkers on his custom-built computer.