How to use Mail: The ultimate guide

Everything you need to know about settings up and using email on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad

Mail is one of the core apps of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Rich, HTML email was shown off by Steve Jobs in 2007 when he first introduced the iPhone, and again in 2010 when he introduced the iPad. It was and is so important, he put it in the iPhone and iPad Dock, and by default there it still remains. Whether you use the free iCloud account that comes with your Apple device, or Yahoo!, Google's Gmail, Microsoft's Hotmail, Live, or Outlook.com, your local ISP email or something else entirely, whether you have an IMAP, ActiveSync, or POP account, your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad can keep you connected to it wherever you go, and whatever you're doing.

Bookmark this page and check back often, because we'll be updating it regularly. And f you already know everything there is to know about email on iOS, then forward it on to friends and family who need it. We'll do the heavy support lifting for you!

How to set up Apple iCloud Mail on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad

The free iCloud account that comes with your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad includes equally free push email. That means whenever you get an email, it's immediately made available on all your devices. Typically you set up iCloud email, and other services, when you first setup your device. If you didn't, however, you can still set it up at any time via the iOS Settings app, and access the service via the iOS Mail app. You can also access your iCloud.com email via the website from any desktop browser, or through popular mail, calendar, and contacts apps on your Mac or Windows PC.

How to setup Google Gmail on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad

How Google went iOS

As of January 30, 2013, Google will no longer allow new iPhones, iPod touches, iPads, or other devices to be setup using Google Sync (their implementation of Microsoft's excellent ActiveSync protocol). While existing Google Sync setups will keep working, the next time you want to add Gmail to a device, you'll have to use something else -- namely Google's eccentric IMAP service, which works with Apple's Mail app and allows for a unifed inbox with other, non-Gmail accounts, and the Gmail app, which is excellent but is a silo unto itself.

How to set up Microsoft Exchange, Hotmail, Live Mail, or Outlook.com email on your iPhone or iPad

How to set up Outlook.com email on your iPhone or iPad

Microsoft originally bought Hotmail (née HoTMaiL after HTML, get it?) and turned it into their web-based email service, a complement to their corporate Exchange service, which came to use ActiveSync. Eventually Hotmail kinda-sorta became Live Mail. More recently, Microsoft has released Outlook.com, what they consider to be the next-generation of email. And much to their credit, Microsoft have gone above and beyond to make sure you can access all their mail services not only on the web, but from any and all of your devices, including the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Note: While setting up Exchange on iOS is straight forward, the exact settings can vary depending on whether you're using Microsoft 360 or a server run by your employer. When in doubt, check with your IT administrator.

How to delete or disable an email account on your iPhone and iPad

How to delete or disable an email account on your iPhone and iPad

If you no longer need an email account on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, say if you changed schools, jobs, or service providers, you can easily delete. If you're simply going out of town, on vacation, or otherwise off-the-grid and you don't want the distraction or data demands that might go with mail, you can also temporarily turn it off and give yourself a break.

How to create and use email signatures on your iPhone and iPad

Thanks to iOS 6, not only can you have multiple email signatures -- one per account -- but you can also include rich HTML content like links and images in the signature. If you've got more than one email account on your iPhone or iPad, for example, an iCloud account, Gmail account, and/or a Hotmail/Outlook/Exchange account, or a work, school, and/or personal account, you'll probably want and need separate email signatures for each account. And once you've got them, you might even want to jazz them up!

How to change which email account you send from on your iPhone and iPad

How to change email accounts when composing mail on your iPhone and iPad

If you've got multiple email accounts set up on your iPhone or iPad, the Mail app will automatically send a new message from your default account, or a reply from whichever account received the email. However, you can not only change you default account, but you can also quickly and easily change which account you're sending emails from at any time.

How to use the VIP Inbox on your iPhone and iPad

How to use the VIP inbox on your iPhone and iPad

iOS 6,lets you favorite specific Contacts and have their messages filtered into a special VIP Inbox so they're always easy to find. You can also set up specific tones and alerts for your VIP contacts, which makes knowing who is contacting you easier than ever. For your significant other, your boss, or anyone you can't afford to miss a message from, VIP Inbox has your back.

How to mark an email as read or unread on your iPhone and iPad

How to mark an email as unread on your iPhone and iPad

If you come back to your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad only to find a ton of new emails you really don't want to go through, or if you opened an email by accident and don't want to forget about it later, you can easily mark one or more messages as read or unread right in the built-in Mail app.

How to flag an email message on iPhone and iPad

How to flag an email message on iPhone and iPad

If you get an email that you want to easily find again later, maybe to follow up, maybe just to keep handy, you can flag it right in your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad Mail app. Flagged messages are easy to spot, thanks to an icon, and even easier to find, thanks to a dedicated smart mailbox that keeps them all handy.

How to add new mailboxes to your email account right from your iPhone and iPad

How to add new mailboxes to your email account right from your iPhone and iPad

If you got a lot of email, you might want to start managing it better by filing it away into specific mailboxes. You can have separate mailboxes for certain people, for projects at school or at work, for sorting important messages you want to deal with immediate, from things you want to keep handy to reference later. Best of all, you can create new mailboxes right on your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

How to move messages to different mailboxes on your iPhone and iPad

How to move messages on your iPhone and iPad

The iPhone and iPad are great for quickly handling email. However, if something is important, or requires a lengthy reply, or you can only get to it later, or you simply want to keep your inbox close to zero, the iPhone and iPad are also great for quickly sorting and filing your mail into well organized mailboxes.

How to email your contacts using Siri

Siri isn't just another voice control system, it remembers context and it can understand relationships. That means, for example, you can tell Siri to email any of your friends, family, or co-workers. No matter how you like to communicate, Siri makes it incredibly easy to stay in touch.

How to insert a photo or video into an email on iPhone and iPad

How to insert a photo or video into an email on iPhone and iPad

While older versions of iOS required you to email pictures and videos using the Photos app, or more recently, tediously copy and paste them into a Mail app email, iOS 6 adds the ability to insert them directly into an email.

How to quickly access draft emails on the iPhone and iPad

How to quickly access draft emails on the iPhone and iPad

If you're writing an email on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad and you don't have time to finish, or you're simply not sure you're ready to send it yet, you can always save it as a draft and come back to it later. However, it can take a lot of hunting and tapping to actually get back to it. Luckily, iOS contains a gesture shortcut that can make tracking down all your draft emails a little bit faster.

How to get more help with email

If you need more help with using email on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, check out iCloud, Gmail, and other discussions on the iMore forums.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How to use Mail: The ultimate guide

5 Comments

Great writing, thanks. Please also tell us how to attach Word, Excel, PDF documents in reply to email messages?

To do that you must open the desired document and use the app's "Share via email" option. The location of the option depends on the app the file is stored in.

Nice review Rene.
I need to express one frustration I have with Mail (the desktop version). IMAP emails work erratically with it while SMTP (outgoing) configurations don't work at all. I checked with my email provider and we troubleshot the issue numerous times to no avail. I've decided to try a different email app -- MailMate, and IMAP emails work like a charm with it. Interestingly enough, I don't experience that same issue with Mail for iPhone.