How do you use Gmail on your iPhone or iPad?

So how do you access your Gmail on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad? Do you use the built-in iOS Mail app? Using Apple's Mail app has several advantages. It's the (unchangeable) default mail client on iOS, and it has full background multitasking permissions, so unless you've turned everything to manual, your messages are usually ready and waiting for you the moment you launch the app. No App Store app is allowed any of that. However, it doesn't support Gmail's Stars or Labels, and Flags and Folders aren't the same.

If you use Apple's Mail app, do you set up Gmail as Gmail, which is the obvious way to do it, given the giant logo label? It uses IMAP so it isn't push, but does that really matter to you? Or do you set up Gmail as Exchange ActiveSync (Google Sync) in Apple Mail instead? Does the combination of push as well as Contacts sync win you over?

What about those of you for whom Apple Mail just isn't the right solution? Do you use the website? It has the advantage of fast access to your mail and local storage, but because it's locked in Safari you don't get to do attachments or access your iOS Contacts, and you don't get push notifications. Do you use the Gmail app, so you can add attachments and access your Contacts? Or is the lack of background email processing just too annoying for you?

If neither Apple nor Google's solutions are good enough for you, is Sparrow your go to Gmail app? It has a great interface, but like any App Store app it can't keep an internet connection open in the background, so you can't download email as it comes in -- you have to wait until you launch the app. It doesn't have push notifications yet either, and when they come, they'll require a subscription. Is it worth it?

Or do you not use Gmail at all? And if not, why not?

Give me your vote in the poll up top and your reasons why in the comments below. Here's the question again: How do you use Gmail on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad?


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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There are 39 comments. Add yours.

Bujin says:

I recently switched to my account as my main, so I just forward all of my gmail to that address.

Steve Olson says:

I use a combo... I use the native iOS mail app for most uses of Gmail - it's just the quickest way to check emails in the inbox and to attach files, etc.
HOWEVER, I also use the gmail app. It allows me quicker access to anything I have as labels (instead of having to wait for Exchange to download all my emails I have in a folder every time I check it) and it allows me to do any special stars or labeling I need. I basically go back and forth between the two depending on what I need to do.

SockRolid says:

Built-in Mail app. I only use Google Mail for spam anyway. Appropriately.

David says:

I use the "Push Gmail" app for notifications and then just open my mail app. Mail app is on manual to save battery life

Eddie says:

I've switched to Sparrow. I use Boxcar for the audible notification (that's all I need, even w/ the Mail app) and while I don't ahve the email waiting for me when I open the app, Sparrow is way more functional than Mail. One of the things I frequently do when replying is reply to myself to add on any additonal thoughts or comments to the thread. Mail does not allow you to do that since it hides MY response. I think you can get it by navigating all the way into All Mail or the Label I apply but that's no good for me. Instead Sparrow mimics Gmail on the web and you can keep up with all the thread responses, including my own.
The swipe to access additional options in the mailbox view is very Tweetie-esque (or Twitter app-esque, if you still use that awful app).
I'd switch back to Mail if Apple adds the necessary features to hang with Sparrow but if not, I think I found my app.

Walt says:

I use both. The default mail app is better for reading messages and sending messages. But I switch to the Gmail app when I'm doing anything else (starring, deleting, archiving, reporting spam, searching, etc)

myPhone says:

I use Gmail through the native IOS mail app as an Exchange account. I can't think of any good reason why you wouldn't set up as an Exchange account if using Gmail. You get push email as well as full syncing with Google Calendar and Google Contacts. It works mostly flawlessly.
If I'm missing something, someone please let me know.

ThePenguin says:

Exactly - set up as Exchange so that I can sync multiple calendars, plus the email comes in almost instantly (push). I thought this was the best way to do it. Are there advantages to doing it any other way?

Inappropriate Response says:

Yeah. You're missing the silence from being constantly alerted to every single email that arrives. Why would you want your concentration broken with an email about a new apple offer ? I use gmail to filter important emails and boxcar to notify me of them when they come in. That way youre only distracted when it's important and you pick up the rest of the rubbish when you log in. That's what you're missing.

ELWmusic says:

You can't delete, only archive.

Harry says:

You absolutely can delete using exchange. Just change it in the settings for the account.

Dev says:

You miss the full benefits of tagging, bulk operations, a decent conversation view, quick mailbox (and tag) switching and operations, and good searching. Sparrow has a much better experience for all of these features. If weigh them as more important than the Sparrow/JB or Sparrow/Boxcar workarounds for push, then give it a try. If not, built-in mail is adequate.

Chris says:

I use the Sparrow app with the Sparrow Push jailbreak. I still have gmail setup in the native app as an Exchange account to sync my contacts and calendars.

Inappropriate response says:

Yeah. You're missing the silence from being constantly alerted to every single email that arrives. Why would you want your concentration broken with an email about a new apple offer ?
I use gmail to filter important emails and boxcar to notify me of them when they come in. That way youre only distracted when it's important and you pick up the rest of the rubbish when you log in.
That's what you're missing.

Inappropriate Response says:

sorry wrong rply - please delete.

tape_ says:

I have my own mail server.

Dev says:

ActiveSync to sync everything (mail+contacts+calendar), Sparrow for most actual mail usage.

krsgdlw says:

Built in Mail app. I forward gmail to my @me address.

Tom says:

I use both the apple mails sever and the gmail app. What I've found is every once in a while apple mail will make some of my emails just disapper. That's when I use the gmail app.

thebrain2u says:

I use the built-in Mail app with Gmail set up as an Exchange account. Push Email, contacts and calendar sync won me over when it was first supported and I've been doing it this way since.

Casey says:

For this exact reason I just caved and setup a rule to forward all mail to my iCloud account and then marked each email as read. This way I get push notifications.

vanadiumdroid says:

Recent Iphone convert and I was upset when I though GMail couldn´t get pushed. Considered changing to the .me account but my gmail account is pretty important to me as it is what I use for just about everything. Found out the Exchange sync work, and it most certainly does, my calender, contacts and mail sync perfectly. I originally did it in case I decide to return to Android, but I am not sure I would be doing that.. Nevertheless I dont plan on using something other than Google services.

Mike reiser says:

I use the built-in mail app. it's the easiest to use with voiceover on the iPhone. Gmail is usable, but it feels very clunky.

bkDJ says:

iOS Mail app with exchange activesync for push and contacts.
My only annoyance is that contact fields are different between what google allows, what apple allows, and what even goes through the Exchange protocol. This means that I can't have custom labels for phone numbers in a single contact (say, "Mobile Verizon" and "Mobile AT&T" for business contacts with multiple phones, or "Mobile" and "Mobile - outgoing" for Mexican cell numbers that can only be called with +521blahblah but when they call you, it's via +52blahblah) because the next time the contact is synced, the label will just be "other" in my google account (and by extension, my android phone) and the phone number will just be missing from my iPad. Also nicknames and phonetic pronunciations get screwed up as well.
That aside, I still haven't found a better way to have my contacts in one place working on android and iOS.

Inappropriate Response says:

i have this problem as well. if it wasn't for this I would be able to sync contacts using exchange. I've so many custom fields that I loose half my numbers when I sync. :(

Mikel says:

I use both the IMAP and Exchange setup at the same time. The only thing turned on in the IMAP account setup is Note syncing. That way I get all the available sync services.

Mikel says:

Oh yes. On rare occasion I use the GoodReader app to download attachments; if they are not immediately compatible with a destination app.

Chris says:

Exchange for contacts/calendar (though this sucks because the Exchange protocol only allows Manager and Spouse relationships, and it constantly mangles phone number tags like "Google Voice").
Plain old IMAP for mail, so I can use multiple sending addresses.
I tried the GMail app but finally decided it was easier to deal with Mail's shortcomings and have all my mail in one place than have to switch back and forth between multiple mail applications.
But mostly I use my phone/ipad for new message notifications, and then walk to a computer to actually read/reply -- typing on mobile devices still sucks.

Hans Voss says:

Have the same setup. You can however also create the same contact in iCloud and then add any other relationship items. The iPhone will merge them into single contact.

barstep says:

I use Sparrow on OSX and iPhone. I use labels extensively and Sparrow allows access to multiple accounts and labels. Worth every penny.

SolublePeter says:

Connecting to Gmail with Exchange allows 500 contacts per email, compared to the limit of 100 when you connect with "Gmail/IMAP".
This is how we advise our MailShot Pro users to connect, as it means they can send email to up to 500 people at once directly from their favourite apps.

JD says:

I use the native mail app as in my experience IMAP is more reliable with Gmail than ActiveSync. Fetch is set to 15 minutes, which is good enough for me and I don't find it too hard on the battery (I've seen little difference between 15 and 30 minutes intervals).
I sync my contacts through iTunes, so every time I plug in my phone they get updated automatically, both ways. I tend to charge my phone via USB from my computer, so that's almost every day.

isuquinndog says:

I use Gmail app because I have to have my labels. I wish the supported this.

Gaby says:

Gmail app is the best to do searches and more in depth functions, mail app
is good for general surfing and mail, sparrow needs to still step up a bit

Donald Nagy says:

well .... i use logmein to access my laptop running windows 7 therefore
I have all Google features. Got the app through the iTunes store.

Ari Goldstein says:

@Donald Nagy - Actually, from a security standpoint, this is a great idea, especially if you have a password on your ios device that offers 'wipe after ten incorrect tries' and you don't allow logmein to stay logged in forever. Logmein remote access - with a pair of reading glasses like 1.00 or 1.25 works amazingly easily - better than Moca RDP and better than VNC derivative apps. Good suggestion!

ChaosShadow says:

Coming from Android, setting it up as Exchange was a no brainer. I had all my contacts saved with Google, so once it synced up, I was good to go... and got push email too! :)

Eugenie Doremus says:

Damn it 44! You beat me to it!

last minute says:

You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the work you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart.