Use Gmail with any IMAP client, including the iPhone

I came across this tip over at Mac OS X Hints. It may help you iPhone users out there.

The big problem with Google’s Gmail (IMO) is that it is POP instead of IMAP. I can understand why, as IMAP creates a much larger server and client overhead. POP is simple: you either get a copy of the email, or not. My solution gets me the benefits of:

1. any email address you already own that allows forwarding (in this example, jshmoe@pobox.com) — pobox.com was one of the first services offering a permanent email address.
2. Gmail spam filtering and archiving
3. all the benefits of an IMAP account on my iPhone

The steps:
1. Get an IMAP account (like dotMac or maybe your ISP has IMAP accounts) [example: jshmoe@mac.com] 2. Get a Gmail account [example: jshmoe@gmail.com] 3. In the Gmail account, under Settings » Accounts, use the Add another Email Address link to add the jshmoe@pobox.com account to the ‘Send mail as’ option.
4. Also in Gmail, under Settings » Forwarding, select the ‘Forward a copy of incoming mail to’ option, and point it to jshmoe@mac.com (and archive).
5. Forward all mail to jshmoe@pobox.com to jshmoe@gmail.com
6. On the iPhone (or any IMAP client software, like Mail.app or Thunderbird.app), create a new IMAP account
7. On the iPhone, set the address to be the address you want email to be sent to/from. In this example, that would be the permanent address from letter “a” above: jshmoe@pobox.com (See also Variation 1 and 2 below)
8. On the iPhone, set the Incoming Mail server to the IMAP account in step one above [hostname: mail.mac.com; user name: jshmoe; password: whatever it is] 9. On the iPhone, set the Outgoing server to the Gmail account in step two [hostname: smtp.gmail.com:587; user name: jshmoe@gmail.com; password: whatever it is]

Please note, the iPhone by default will use secure SSL encrypted ports if they are available, which is always a good idea.

What do you get after all this nonsense:

1. Your incoming email can continue to be sent to your address of choice. In this example, that is jshmoe@pobox.com, which all your friends already have.
2. The email to jshmoe@pobox.com gets sent to jshmoe@gmail.com, where it gets filtered for spam, and it gets archived forever.
3. After filtering, legit copies of email get sent to jshmoe@mac.com.
4. Your iPhone (and all the rest of your IMAP clients) get to look at the one singular copy of email on jshmoe@mac.com.
5. When you reply, your outgoing email gets archived on Gmail, and your return address gets to be jshmoe@pobox.com (or whatever you selected in step 7).
6. Your friends will never really experience your changing your email address, as you continue to be jshmoe@pobox.com while getting all the benefits of Gmail, and of using an IMAP server to get your mail.
7. You can always use Mobile Safari (or any other browser) to login to your Gmail account and search for a historical email.
8. You can always go to your IMAP accounts web interface (ie http://mail.mac.com) to check up on the current status of your email and keep things synchronized, though sending email from here will show up with your .mac.com email address … better to do that from the Gmail web interface.

Variation 1:
If you are happy with having jshmoe@gmail.com as your email address, skip steps three and five, and then in step seven, set your email to jshmoe@gmail.com.

Variation 2:
If you have hosted email with google with user@DOMAIN.TLD as your email address, skip steps three and five, then in step seven, set your email to user@DOMAIN.TLD and in step nine, you use user name as username@DOMAIN.TLD.


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1 comment

  1. Wallace chamon

    Your statement:

    5. When you reply, your outgoing email gets archived on Gmail, and your return address gets to be jshmoe@pobox.com (or whatever you selected in step 7).

    Does not happen on Iphone. It uses local information to send messages and i goes as xxxxx@gmail.com

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