Google’s relationship with Apple may be best characterised as ‘difficult’, but the company is certainly throwing its weight behind its downloadable iOS apps.

That’s shown by this week’s updates for Gmail and YouTube on the App Store, with Gmail getting a thorough makeover, while YouTube is now available as a native iPad version alongside the existing iPhone client.

In a blog post about version 2.0 of the Gmail app, product manager Matthew Izatt says the company’s team spent six months on a complete rebuild of the app – probably a good thing, as version 1.0 copped plenty of criticism.

“With version 2.0 of the app, you’ll get a totally new look and feel, plus a bunch of improvements like profile pictures in messages, numerous new animations from swivels to transitions and infinite scrolling in the message lists,” he explains, while also pointing to new time-saving features and the ability to log in to up to five Google accounts and easily switch between them.

The app will go head to head with Sparrow, the third-party iPhone mail client that was acquired by Google in July this year, but which remains available on the App Store.

It’s unclear how much input the Sparrow team had on Gmail version 2.0, nor is there any news on how long Sparrow will remain available, now the official Gmail app has smartened up its act.

Meanwhile, the new iPad version of YouTube is big news, since Google’s embedded YouTube app had been removed from Apple’s iOS software. YouTube got a downloadable app for iPhone in September, but now it’s universal.

The new version also sports “enhanced AirPlay support, videos that start faster and play more smoothly, and improved accessibility with VoiceOver” according to software engineer Horia Ciurdar, in another blog post.