Quick tip: Setting up Google mail on iOS and OS X

Google Mail on iOS

The confusion for users of Apple’s products when it comes to Google’s online services is not just about Maps and YouTube.  When it comes to using Google’s online services with Apple’s built-in apps, the confusion extends beyond iOS too.  No, you are not crazy, and your Google contacts are not somehow missing. It just so happens that there is more than one way to set up your Google Mail service on your iOS and OS X devices. And if you want to utilize all of Google’s services using Apple’s built-in capabilities, you will have to set up two account setting on each device.  Here’s how:

Google Mail services for iOS devices

When using the included GMail profile on iOS, you can quickly connect to your Google Mail, Calendars and Notes, but not your Contacts. To set this up on your iOS devices, all you do is the following:

  • Launch iOS Settings app, select “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” and tap on “Add Account…”.
  • Choose GMail and enter in your Google Account’s name, email password and description.
  • Once your account is verified, select the services you want to enable with this configuration.

Google Mail on iOS

If on the other hand you use the Exchange profile on iOS to connect to Google Mail, you will only be able to access your Mail, Contacts and Calendars, not your Notes. To set things this up this way on your iOS devices all you need to do is the following:

  • Launch iOS Settings app, select “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” and tap on “Add Account…”
  • Choose Exchange and enter in your Google account’s email, password and description.
  • Once your account is verified, enter m.google.com as the server name, leave the Domain blank, and set the username as your full Google email address.

If you really do not use Notes with your Google account on your iOS device, then consider just using the Exchange profile configuration instead of the more obvious GMail profile.

Google Mail services for Macs

Unfortunately, the Exchange interface that works so well for mobile devices does not work at all when using the same configuration settings on Mac OS X.  Similar to iOS, OS X also has two different configurations that need to be used in order to access all of the same Google Mail services on OS X.

Just like on iOS, using the included GMail configuration, you can get to your Mail, Calendars and Notes, but not your Contacts. To set this up on your OS X devices, you need to do the following:

  • Launch OS X System Preferences application and select “Mail, Contacts & Calendars”.
  • Choose GMail and enter in your Google account’s name, email address and password.
  • Once your account is verified, select the services you want to enable with this configuration.

Google Mail on OS X

In order to access your Google Contacts on OS X, you will need to configure the Preferences in the Contact application directly. To set this up on your OS X devices, you need to do the following:

  • Launch the OS X Contacts application and select “Preferences” from the main menu.
  • Select “On My Mac” and check “Synchronize with Google” under the Account Information.
  • Enter in your Google account’s full email address and password.

On OS X, this configuration is using Google’s IMAP interface to access your email.  When using your Mac, you will often notice that your iOS devices that have been configured using the Exchange configuration are notified much faster than the OS X Mail application that is forced to use the IMAP configuration.

Everything else Google

One additional feature that Apple supports on OS X that is not supported on iOS is Google’s instant messaging service, Google Talk. What may surprise you is that neither iOS nor OS X enables Apple’s Reminders to access your Google Tasks. This is odd as it does work with Yahoo, Hotmail or other Exchange Servers that support the particular interface that Apple is looking for.  To access your Google Tasks and additional online services provided by Google, like Voice and Docs, you will have to install additional apps that Google has made available for iOS. On OS X, chances are you will just use the Safari web browser and access the web version of each service.

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