New Gmail Contact Images

The new Gmail turned on contact images, but that doesn't mean you have to stick with them

We took a look at the latest update to Gmail the other day in a broad sense, but there are so many small changes in this update that we think a few warrant extra attention. The most noticeable change comes by way of new contact images next to emails, which are turned on by default. The issue is that not everyone has a contact image associated to each person that will send them mail, meaning there are often big, randomly-colored letters next to the emails instead. We wouldn't disagree if you thought this was a waste of space and looked a bit cartoonish, so here's how to turn them off.

From the main Gmail inbox view, head to your settings (via your phone's hardware menu button or the action bar menu), then select "General settings" from the first view and uncheck the box labeled "Sender image". Back out to your inbox view and you'll now get a wider view of your emails without distraction. Unfortunately this means you can no longer hit the images as a way to select multiple messages; you'll now have to initiate that multi-selection with a long-press on any email in the list instead.

Stick around after the break for a video walkthrough of how to turn on and off the new contact images, and a clear explanation of how navigating the interface changes slightly when you do so.


Reader comments

How to turn on and off contact images in the new Gmail


Really what would make this feature great would be if it auto populated name brand senders. Like for example amazon newegg and ebay. That should by default ask you if you would like to use the stock logo for all emails pertaining to that sender. That would just blow this out of the water. Because lets be honest who is going to set all those images for companies like that?

That's a very good idea. Most people likely get a majority of their email from companies/entities that aren't in their contacts list.

exactly, and google should know a few of those companies by logo. seems like an easy question to be asked when you get an email from that person. Would you like to use this image for this company, yes/no done forever!

Totally agree! I work for a marketing company that does a lot of email marketing. Brands would love to have their logos right there in the inbox. Please let me know if anyone figures out how to do this.


I liked the squares as you could multi select emails. But I hated the faces. It was a bitch to replace the images on all my contacts that pulled images from google+.

I realise some people will have updated the gmail app and not understood what was going on with the new contact images, but do you think those people are likely to frequent android blogs/websites such as the fine Android Central?
A lot of the recent posts on here have been very simple things, I'm just wondering if you are trying to go for a broader audience with this stuff rather than the traditional tech enthusiasts

I had the same thought. It's not like this is hidden somewhere or in anyway difficult to find. Hit the menu button, go into settings, uncheck the option. It doesn't get any more standard than that.

Tech enthusiasts have to start somewhere. It was a simple problem that first brought me to many of the tech sites, like Android Central, that I now frequent. I searched for a solution to the problem, found a helpful website and kept returning to learn more.

I completely agree. I had my original Evo for probably 3 or 4 months before I knew that sites like this existed. Looking for a simple fix that I couldn't find turned me onto this site and I've been a faithful reader and contributor ever since.

That's ridiculous. I consider myself an android enthusiast but the reason I knew how to turn this off was by reading about it on another tech blog (Droid-life). I was going to hold of upgrading my GNex after seeing how it looked by my Nexus 7 but thanks to a tip I now know I don't have to worry. It was not immediately obvious that this could be turned off.

I hope android central keeps bringing these tips to users because they are useful, just maybe not to you.

You consider yourself an Android enthusiast, but you didn't even look in the settings menu of the app? Sorry, that doesn't really add up.

Anyone who has used Android even for a week knows that customisations can be found in the settings menu.

Really do not like at least some of the new features of mobile gmail. The images are unnecessary and the new means to delete emails is beyond unhandy, it is down right tedious. I sure hope they fix it fast.

What new means to delete? You just tap the face image to select them, it's no different to having check-boxes. And if you disable the images then you long-press the first one & tap the rest to select, which is standard Android functionality.

You can bring the delete button back to the action bar the settings too, btw.

They should have made so you slide the email one way it gets deleted, slide it the other way and it's archived.

This is literally the things that's driving me crazy - I just want to slide one way to delete and slide the other way to archive and I cannot find a way to do that.

Thank you!

Might seem obvious, but for some reason I kept skipping over the setting and couldn't find it the first time I looked.

I don't know if the letters are random; I think they correspond to the first letter of the sender. The colors chosen seem to be random

thanks....I was long pressing anyway....not much of a difference but im sure my thumb appreciates the tap instead of press :)

Okay, I am easily the dumbest guy I know... but if I turn off the images how do you select multiple items to delete all at one time?

Tap and hold on any message, than you select the other ones you wanna delete. Just like the messaging app. Easy ;)

unfortunately, my inbox still only shows 'P' for myself (first letter of my email) but shows other people's contact images. Yes, i have a contact picture set via Google & Gmail.
hopefully this is some stupid bug that gets squashed in an update.

About 1/3 of the contacts I have received emails from show no picture despite my having contact pictures for them all. I even reapplied the contact picture and rebooted and no picture


First thing I turned off. Made my Gmail app look like a Toys R Us add with all the big colored letter blocks.

Exactly what I did after I sent a couple of tweets to Google asking what 2 year old came up with this.

I like it. It offers helpful information at a glance and separates the emails more, making them easier to hit.

thank you i dont know why i did not notice this item when i originally checked the settings menu.

Aaaaaaaand this is why I am not a blogger. My instructional entry would have been one sentence, not several paragraphs and a video.

No joke. These sorts of entries ought to be titled "A complete moron's guide to finding the settings button". If you can't figure out how to turn something like this off yourself, you probably shouldn't have a smartphone.

Oh I'm not ungrateful for the posts. They do belong here. I just think they're longer than necessary at times.

I'm interested in going back to the old version... wish I hadn't just updated immediately and waited a bit to see what this was about.

I, like others, want an easy way to both archive and delete. Especially now that all my storage is linked, I'm finding I have to delete some e-mails that I used to just archive. I've had to change my habits due to Google's actions, and then they take away the ability to do so easily.

To delete you now have to select the e-mail, hit the ... menu button thing, and then select delete. You used to be able to just hit the "trash can" icon, but that's no where to be found now.

And yes, I know you can slide to archive or change it to slide to delete... but since I want to do both archive and delete at various times, the either/or method is a fail.

Thanks for this post, but I am confused where the hell Google is going...
After two days I have uninstalled new Gmail app and now I am only looking forward to option to remove it from Google Play list as app to update.
I don't like metro interface kind photos or big letters. Especially that they are just first letter of email address. Not helpful at all to sort emails as F for FB and Furnitures will be highlighted.
It is now much harder to delete multiple emails from mailbox as there are no checkbox and delete icon is now on top right corner. In Note 2 it is already hard to go to top and now I need to use opposite corner. For me bottom task bar just above keys was very very useful.
Swipe is now confusing, as you need to swipe from the corner to see new layout and from middle to delete. Why not make another slide from 1/3 of the screen to reply?
Come on google. RTFM about User Experience! Make less clicks not more.
Google is definitely moving into social crap area and this will be likely driver for me to replace GMAIL with different client or perhaps even change email. First GTALK is going away, now GMAIL is becoming social mess, what next? GMAPS?