Got "Fetch"? POP/IMAP Email Broken in iPhone 2.1?

As opposed to "push" style ActiveSynch, MobileMe, or Yahoo! iPhone mail, traditional POP or IMAP accounts, like Gmail or ISP mail, needs to "fetch", or check the server on a certain schedule to see if there are new messages.

Reader Mike wrote in pointing us to a thread on the Apple Discussion Forums about "fetch" email being broken with iPhone 2.1. I only fetch mail from Gmail, and Gmail IMAP is a strange and buggy implementation which gives me considerable problems beyond the iPhone, so I can't say whether anything is really broken or not in 2.1.

Reader Steffen, however, after thinking the problem could just be undocumented IMAP IDLE behavior, decided to run some tests:

Finally, I had some time to look into this thorougly. I dumped IP traffic all night to see what iPhone does. My iPhone is set to retrieve data every hour. Here's when the iPhone actually connected to my IMAP server:

09:36 PM, 10:44 PM, 11:02 PM, 12:36 AM, 06:36 AM, 09:38 AM, 09:45 AM, 09:57 AM

Looks like everything but an hour to me... Oh yeah, forgot to mention... I've turned off everything except for GSM radio do be sure to get all traffic. The last three connections occurred when I started to play around with the iPhone this morning. So, the effect that lead me to the assumption of IMAP-IDLE on the iPhone seems to be something else. It appears that the iPhone will contact IMAP more often while using it and somehow random while idling... So, no IMAP at this time, but maybe interesting as well...

Definitely interesting! Thanks Steffen!

Any other readers out there got "fetch" problems? Wacky behavior? Please let us know!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

PdaNet Now Available -- via Jailbreak

Next up →

Week in Review for September 29, 2008

Reader comments

Got "Fetch"? POP/IMAP Email Broken in iPhone 2.1?


I must say... My fetch has been significantly less reliable since 2.1
Nice to know I'm not the only one.

I have the same random behaviour. Extremely annoying. E-mail is one of the most important features and it should work.

I have had problems with mail since I got the iPhone. Sometimes it doesn't want to connect.
My question is this:
Sometimes I download the mail to Outlook then if I try to open it on the phone says "This message has been downloaded from the server". If it knows this then why doesn't it clear it off my phone so I don't have to?
My BB would clear them off, not as fast as I would like, but it would.

I have problems with IMAP/POP3 fetch since I upgraded to 2.1. My schedule is every 15 minutes and it only fetches mail when I actually use the phone for mail, web or other. If I leave the phone then no mail is retrieved. Very annoying!

same problem here... iphone will not fetch the emails every 15 hours.
it fetch the mails when itselfe wants or if i use the phone.

@pichel, I get the exact same problem as you. All was fine till 2.1 came out. I am set at 15mins as well and it worked great till after the update.

Lots of the complaints seem to be about Gmail. I should note again, Gmail gives me problems on my laptop, desktop (OS X), and right now the guy working next to me on Ubuntu is getting locked out... Might be problems on both ends, so to isolate the apple issues, anyone getting this with non-Gmail "fetch'?

iPhone fetch worked fine before 2.1 - after 2.1 I rarely get my email unless I open the mail application... or, randomly, as Steffen suggests. Sometimes just using other apps on the phone will make it check my mail. But it's definately NOT doing it every 30mins as programmed. Sometimes I can go more than 6 hours without it checking for new mail.

I have 5 different email accounts (Gmail and 4 IMAP accounts) and too have noticed that fetch (set every 15 minutes) only follows that schedule whenever I am using the phone. When I have it locked - I get no emails. Before 2.1, everything worked great ...

It's this kind of unreliability that led me to abandon my Windows Mobile PDA phone and buy an iPhone. I don't feel like I'm much better off lately on the iPhone. I'm glad I switched for other reasons, but I've been very dissappointed in Apple, and this is my first experience buying one of their products.

Fetch mail on interval seem to only work in sleep mode if it is charging. Otherwise, it will fetch only if you wake up the phone from its slumper.

Another time interval fetch will work while in sleep mode is when you cross over from one cell tower to the next :) Guess the switch temporary wakes it up to poll for new emails.

I have received this error message before, about 3 times in the last 2 months. i have the latest and greatest updates, I think i have gotten this message with all the firmware updates. i have actually had many problems with gmail on my i have 4 gmail accounts (2 accounts and 2 domain accts).

I have my gmail acount configured for imap.
I've also noticed that my connections are a bit random although configured for hourly, but i think i've found a "pattern".
It seems that there is no e-mail fetch if the iphone is idle. From my log files, there seems to be an access to the imap server every time I interact with the iphone after a long idle.
It doesn't access at all when i'm asleep, but as soon as i wake up and disable the alarm it accesses the e-mail (i thought it was wierd to hear the "you got e-mail" alarm everytime i wake up.)
Anyone having a "déjà vu" feeling about this?

Since I updated to the 2.1, the email doesn't even open on my phone. I tap the icon, it opens to a white screen, then in about 2 seconds, I am returned to the phone's home screen. I am ready to restore it and reinstall stuff!

Someone asked if this was happening outside of gmail... I've been having problems with getting my outlook emails since I got this phone a couple weeks ago. First of all it took forever to input my account information correctly (it would say "verifying pop info" indefinitely), and since then email retrieval has been very on and off.. some days they all come through, some days none. I actually got a gmail account becuase I thought it would be better supported be the iphone, but lately my gmail has stopped retrieving email from outlook server for some reason.... what a mess

Same here, all fine before 2.1 but now my iPhone 3G will only 'fetch' when I poke it. Using a linux based IMAP server which used to be faster than MobileMe, which never pushed at all for me. Booooo.

Even worse than scheduled fetching failing, my iPhone won't even collect from POP or IMAP servers manually.
The server settings are definitely correct. tailing the server logs I can see, for example, that the iphone is initiating an imap(s) connection, but then nothing. I tried with and without SSL. On the iPhone itself it just says it's checking for messages and sits there until I force quit the mail app.
I purchased my iPhone 3G this weekend and it had 2.1 on so can't comment on previous firmware but something is definitely broken.
Unusable POP/IMAP is a deal breaker for me. If only Apple would state if they're aware of this, and if a fix is scheduled for the 2.2 firmware. Knowing my luck the release date will be after I can no longer return my phone and still won't fix the issue.

Rather than saying I also have the same problem ! Has anyone been in contact with apple on this and got a definitive answer as to the problem and the solution?

Are you kidding??? Apple denies everything, admits nothing, and makes counter-accusations. They won't even acknowledge that we should be able to change our own email alert tones. What makes you think they acknowledge new problem created by their "update"???
I can only speculate that they are introducing such problems intentionally. I can't imagine why, but the reaches of the glaring incompetence of their programmers along with their deafening silence on the problems makes the mind boggle.

My Gmail 15-minute fetch stopped working 24 hours ago, for some unknown reason. I've tried reinstalling the account and all the usuals but it still doesn't work. I use Gmail for work so it's a huge pain.

Here's the scoop:
Apple decided it was better to preserve iPhone battery charge by checking mail only when a user wakes the iPhone up or a "network event" wakes it up (e.g. changing cells towers).
There is a known bug in Apple's POP3 Fetch where the iPhone doesn't close the POP3 session properly on the mail server. This leaves the session open until the server session times out. POP3 does not allow more than one session, so until it times out the iPhone (or any desktop or laptop client trying to access the same mailbox) cannot connect to that same mailbox.

Why can't apple just fix this Fetch problem... I'm about ready to go back to my trusty Blackberry, in which I always, always, always got me email... Even before they showed up on my computer when I sitting in front of it. I already know the battery life sucks, but I want the email. It seems even after 2 days of this new iphone 2.2 update, I still don't get email, unless I hit refresh - then presto emails that are hours old...

My iphine pop won't connect to server. This just started randomly a couple days ago. Running 2.2.1
So annoying.
Anybody got any more info on this promblem?

I have the same problem, I havent received emails for about 4 days? wont connect to server is one message but i checked my settings and noticed that the server options for my yahoo account were all turned off and also other email accounts so i turned them on
i'm not sure yet if this works??? not sure if i shouldve turned them on or not
any help will be appreciated.

I'm really disappointed in my iphone. Some days I get all my email and some days for no reason it doesn't fetch for HOURS!! What good is it if you can'trely on it?

I just don't like this preblem IMAP pls help me I love to see my email all the time 2.1 y .is had now I don't no wthat to du


I just got my IPhone at the end of January, and I HATE IT. I used to get my e-mail, now it tells me "cannot get mail. The connection to the server "pop3" failed" Does anybody know how to fix this. I have my fetch set at 15 minutes.
Another unrelated question. Does anybody know how to reply to tweets with this phone?
I never had a problem with my Blackberry.