How-To: Fake a Unified Email Inbox on the iPhone

Many people have been asking for a unified email inbox on their iPhone, rather than having to switch between accounts. While there isn’t an official Apple way to do this, you can fake it yourself using Gmail and its ability to check email from other accounts.

The Setup

  1. First off, you’re going to need a Gmail account. You can either use an existing one or set up a new one. If you want an existing Gmail account to be part of your new universal inbox, I’d suggest using that one instead of setting up new one and having to fetch mail from there as well. If you need to set up a new account, you can do it by going to the Gmail homepage and clicking ‘Create an account’.
  2. Once you’ve logged into your account, locate the Settings page, the link to which can be found in the top right corner, next to your email address. When it has loaded, open up the Accounts and Import tab.
  3. Set up your first email account for Gmail to check for you by clicking ‘Add POP3 email account’, which is the third white button from the top. This opens a new window for you to input the details of the email account you want to be checked.

Getting Gmail to Check Other Accounts

  1. The first thing you need to enter is the email address for the account you want to be checked. Then click ‘Next Step’.
  2. Another screen will appear asking for specific details such as username, password and server settings. If you are unsure about any of these options, your service provider will most likely have a help page. It will most likely be a page explaining how to access your emails from a desktop client, however you can use this information as well. Once you have added your information, click ‘Add account’.
  3. You’ll be taken to another screen asking if you want to send mail from the account you’ve just set up. Whether you want to or not is up to you (you can always change this later). If you decide not to do this, any emails you send from your iPhone will have a From line as your Gmail account.
  4. If you do decide to do it, you’ll be prompted to enter a few more details about your email account. This is not crucial to this technique, however, so I won’t be going through this.

Your Gmail account will now check your email account and pull in any emails that come through. You can add up to five accounts for Gmail to check, so this will accommodate almost everyone’s needs.

Access on Your iPhone

Now that you’ve got Gmail putting emails from other accounts in its inbox, you’re mostly there. All you need to do now is set up Gmail on your iPhone so that you can check it from there.

  1. Go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars under the Settings app.
  2. Tap ‘Add account’ to add the Gmail account.
  3. Tap the Gmail logo to have your iPhone automatically set up the server settings that always stay the same for Gmail accounts.
  4. Enter your details and tap Save.

Your Gmail account is now all ready to go on your iPhone and you can access it through the Mail app. If you check your emails then Gmail should have imported some of your recent emails from the other accounts, and any new emails you receive will be in the same inbox.

Conclusion

Obviously this isn’t the same as a proper unified inbox — Gmail only checks other email accounts for new mail every hour. This is the next best thing though, and it’ll get you by until Apple announces the official feature in the next iPhone OS. The upside is it doesn’t cost anything and you can get it now.

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