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Push alternatives for your Gmail messages on iOS

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You may have noticed towards the end of 2012, Google(s GOOG) started cleaning house and turning off some services many of us have come to depend on. One such service was Google’s Sync Services for Gmail, which allowed iOS users to access their Gmail accounts via the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol, which enables “push” email. Its removal didn’t go into effect for existing users right away, but the manner in which Google pulled support for Google Sync was a ticking time bomb for iOS users.

The effect is that the next major Apple release, like an iOS 7 or the debut of a new iPad or iPhone, will mean existing Google mail users will no longer have access to Google Sync. However, there are three ways iOS users can continue to use Google’s email solution, and still be kept up to date with your messages.

No longer grandfathered in

The main advantage that an EAS-configured Gmail account on iOS has over using the regular Gmail account setting is that it can be set up as a “Push” service rather than a “Fetch” service. Push is where Google will tell the email client on the device every time a new mail item is sent to your inbox. Fetch is where the mail client must ask Google to see if a new mail item has arrived in your inbox. With fetch, you can only ask the mail server every 15, 30 or 60 minutes if you have a new message.

The good news back in December was that any iOS configured Gmail accounts that were already connected to Gmail via the EAS configuration remained grandfathered in. This allowed Gmail account users to continue using the EAS configuration for as long as the device remained connected.  However, whenever an iOS device that was once configured to use Gmail as an EAS client is either restored, updated to a major new iOS version, or upgraded to a new device entirely, the EAS connectivity setting will be lost.

While this may not be affecting the vast majority of iOS users so far this year, there is an upcoming event this fall that will. Upgrading to iOS 7 or purchasing a new model iPhone will likely end your ability to configure your Gmail account using the EAS settings. That means no more Push for Gmail on your iOS device.

Google Apps for Business does push

With a Google Apps for Business account, you will be able to use a Google mail account from your iOS device configured using Exchange ActiveSync configured as a Push service. At just $50 per year per user, it is cheaper than Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription.

The downside of this solution is that you will not be able to keep your existing Google mail account. In the process of setting up your business account, you will create a new unique domain for your business and each user of the business account will need a separate email address. At this point, there is no way to transition your existing Google account associated with your Gmail and Google+ services over to a Google Apps for Business Account.

Forward your Gmail to another push account

Forwarding your Gmail messages to any other service that can be configured on your iOS device as a push service is another option. It is actually quite easy to set up email forwarding on your Gmail account.  Google allows you to keep the original message, automatically mark it as read, archive it or even just delete the email entirely from your Gmail account the moment it has been forwarded. Unlike manually forwarding email, configuring email forwarding on your Gmail account will preserve the original From email address, and will not alter the subject line.

Setting up forwarding

When you reply to an email that was sent to your Gmail account, it will come from the account that you forwarded your Gmail to, not from your Gmail account.  The solution is to configure the outgoing SMPT settings to use Gmail’s servers instead of your alternate email providers SMPT servers.

One minor annoyance with this solution is that it will not keep the “mark message as read” status in sync between the two inboxes.  This solution works best if you only check your Gmail from your iOS device, and use Gmail on the internet as a sort of email backup service.

Use Google’s Gmail app with iOS notifications

Google has implemented Push notifications in its standalone Gmail app for iOS. Using this app, you get a notification when a new email is sent to your account. The speed at which you are notified is equal to that when using the Push notifications on an Exchange ActiveSync account.

Gmail app for iOS

The downside here is that the Gmail app for iOS suffers the same fate as Google’s iOS Maps app: it’s not baked into iOS. There is no single view of your Gmail messages alongside your other email account messages like there is in the “All Inboxes” view of Apple’s stock Mail app. Third-party apps will not use the Gmail app as the mail app to send emails from. And iOS’s own share mechanism will not recognize the Gmail app when choosing to share an item with your contacts via email.

Which solution is best for you?

iCloud, Hotmail, Outlook, AOL, Yahoo and any Exchange Server-based mail provider you use can each be set up as a Push service on your iOS device.  Gmail is the only popular email solution that no longer supports push on iOS.  Each of the above workarounds that try to bring push back to Gmail on iOS has its own shortcomings.

While Google Apps for Business has all of the features you are looking for, you will need to change your email address.  Forwarding may work best if you only access your Gmail from your iOS device.  Using the native Gmail app will also work if you don’t care about being fully integrated with iOS’s sharing features.

One thing is certain: as Apple and Google keep battling it out, trying to use Google’s services on your Apple hardware keeps getting more and more challenging.

17 Responses to “Push alternatives for your Gmail messages on iOS”

  1. liteshow

    I can think of another reason why Google got rid of Exchange Active sync – Efficiency.

    Push notifications using Exchange protocol is very chatty. Apple Ios always uses cellular data for push even if you are still connected to wifi. That combination means an average user easily consumes 1 – 2 MB of cellular data per day just for using push notifications on exchange. What a waste!

    Gmail app uses the efficient imap-idle for push notifications. I’ve noticed an average of between 100 – 200 kb of cellular data a day for push notifications.

    If you have unlimited cellular data, then who cares. However, there are those with small or limited cellular data plans that would benefit from the efficient gmail app.

    The efficient Imap-idle protocol has been around for quite sometime now. Question is, why doesn’t apple build that into their stock mail app? People are upset with Google for getting rid of exchange support. They should be upset with Apple for not adopting the imap-idle protocol standard too.

  2. Great article. Only one missing info is: that WebOS (Palm smartphones) receive GMails instantly…

    I am in process of switching from Palm Pre 2 (and Palm Pixi) to iPhone 4 and I have to shake my head… Even WebOS is not popular platform and it looks like is passing-bye to history, it has sooo many modern features which are now presented as “great improvement” not only in iOS 7 but also Blackerry Q series – I mean cards as an items for visual interpretation of application for minimizing, loading or discarding.

    I know it is for other discussion… but I had to drop few of my tears over loosing WebOS which also allows instant gMail receiving with no extra setup – just regular IMAP…

  3. It’s great article. But I have to ad probably surprising info:

    My Palm Pre 2 (phone I used few years and recently I am struggling to left behind and replace with an iPhone 4) IS RECEIVING G-MAILS INSTANTLY!
    It looks like WebOS is the winner :(

    I did many tests, adjustments and research again to solve the mystery of iPhone’s Push for Google problem, Still I am left with Feed option once per 15 minutes…

    If my Palm Pre 2 have no ability to receive emails instantly I would believe that it is Google’s fault… Based on facts I have to blame iPhone… Sorry Apple.

  4. Hi Geoffrey,

    I have a question… I have an iPhone 5 and I upgraded to the iOS7 earlier today (9/26/13). I use a Google Apps for Business Gmail account for my email, and had been using this account with the Mail app on my iPhone with no trouble before I upgraded. Once iOS7 got on my phone, however, I am now no longer able to SEND email messages. When I try, I get this message: “Cannot Send Mail: The connection to the outgoing server “” failed.” Can you help me figure out how to correct my SMTP settings so that my Google Apps for business email account can send messages in Mail now?


  5. Greg Soravilla

    Google’s asinine handling of email on Android is one of the things that keeps me on iOS in the first place. I can’t get push from my main email account (Yahoo) on anything Android unless I fragment my mail clients. Now Google wants me to use a separate app on iOS just to receive push email? They have been so petty lately it’s ridiculous. Recently they created a programming language called Go, stepping all over the creator of the Go! programming language who has PUBLISHED BOOKS. Google’s is blatantly renegging on their “don’t be evil” mantra as fast as a fat man can down a cheeseburger. Screw Google.

  6. Here’s the solution:

    First: what it gives me:

    Push notifications for gmail, outgoing sent from gmail, from native ios 7 mail app.

    What I did:

    1. Forward gmail to icloud. Set gmail forwarding to archive the message once it forwards it. Save that.
    2. Set up both icloud and gmail accounts on the native mail app. Keep both enabled for mail.
    3. Under Mail, Contacts, Calendars, set the default account to Gmail. Set that account from fetch to manual (you’ll never actually retrieve, and you don’t want it to drain battery).
    4. (Per Apple support) You might have to manually change the “from” line on responses the first few times to convince the app that you want the gmail server to be the default smtp, but it will be automatic after a few times. Gmail was the default smtp the first time for me.

    You will still have an active Gmail inbox on the app, but it won’t fill up with messages because they’ll be archived at the server level, and you’ll never retrieve the data anyway.

    This gives me push gmail and an outgoing gmail from the native app (which I like). The only downside is that your web gmail inbox is full of archived messages.


  7. Charles

    Someone mentioned this is a similar way, but the clean and nifty solution IMO is:

    1) download the gmail app
    2) set it up like you normally would with badges, etc.
    3) go into your settings on the phone. Turn off all badge notifications for the native email.
    4) set your iphone email to fetch whenever you open it.
    5) done!

    Now put the gmail icon near your iPhone emAil icon. Basically, you are now using the gmail app as a preview and notifier only. It will push and notify if you get an email. As soon as you tap the iPhone email icon, the email is fetched and you do things like usual. We turn off the notifier on the iPhone so there aren’t any annoying double notifications.
    Works flawlessly.

  8. Jamie Diamond

    Minor apologies for only skimming the article and comments – however, is it just me or is there a disconnect between gmail on my laptop via chrome with the new “3 gmail email bucketing system” they just forced on me/us a couple days ago and my iPhone gmail app? Now on Chrome there is: Primary, Social and Promotions presorted email tabs atop gmail and this isn’t represented in my iPhone gmail app – so, this is lame – shouldn’t tech get easier and more synched?

  9. I currently have the Gmail iOS app set up to provide notifications and also to help with Google mail categories, which I find very useful. I have set the iOS Mail app to never send notifications except for my VIP’s – it would drive me crazy with all the notifications for promotions, etc. When I need to send, it goes thru Google on my iOS app. When I want to read, I can use either app. it is a small kludge but it works well. I still have my iCloud mail notifications turned on in the iOS Mail app.

  10. GuestPerson

    Use and use the Stock Email App. syncs everything, including Tasks. That service has better interoperability with desktop systems – especially if you use Windows as most of the GMail-centric cheap email clients seem to be going to the Mac.

    If in the future you move to a platform that doesn’t have 1st party Gmail apps, you may find yourself in the same situation. That will not happen with

    The Gmail app is completely Gmail centric, and even on OEM Android devices the email app tends to have a better integration with things like the Calendar, Memo, Stock File Manager, etc. apps than the Gmail App. The design language is also consistent between all of them.

    I only use Gmail App for stuff Google sends me (like Google Play Store receipts). Everything else goes to my account via Exchange ActiveSync.

    I do keep Calendar and Contacts updated on both (for Google Now to let me know about appointments and upcoming events), but that’s about it.

    I have learned, from my use of 4+ platforms over the past few years (for over a year Windows Phone iOS and Android everyday on 3 different devices I carried everywhere) to decouple services from the actual OS :-)

  11. Simon

    Use the. Gmail app for push, but also set up imap so you can share vi email, but turn off all notifications for imap and fetch never.

    Or get google apps and set it to fetch emails from your old gmail account and set up send as. Keep your old address and no one need know the new one.

    So many ways round this which are not a major hassle. This article had a point to make, facts not to get in its way.

  12. For the majority of iOS users, the Gmail app is a great replacement for the Mail app. The shortcomings you mentioned can and probably will be easily fixed when Gmail makes their URL-hook into their Gmail app public. It already exists as you can share a post from to via’s share settings.