Daily Tip: How to get a better Gmail experience on iPhone

Daily Tip: How to get a better Gmail experience on iPhone

Big Google user and interested in getting a better Gmail experience on the iPhone? You can use IMAP or set up Gmail as Exchange via GoogleSync in the Mail app to cover the basics, but you won't get stars and labels. You can use Gmail.com to get stars and labels, but you won't get iPhone Contacts integration, attachment viewing, or easy access to multiple accounts. For that you have to get a little more... creative. We'll show you how after the break.

[Thanks to The Keith Newman for this tip!]

Putting Gmail.com in an app

Gmail.com is a great web app and, of course, really nails the Gmail experience. Since it's not a native app, however, it can't do everything a native app can. Enter Mailroom [iTunes link]. It wraps the iPhone-optimized version of Gmail in a native App Store app, creating a hybrid that's almost the best of both worlds. It does cost $2.99 but for hardcore Gmail users it's well worth the price.

While it does provide iPhone Contacts integration, attachment viewing, multiple account support, offline mode, labels, stars, threaded conversations, badging of total unread and new message counts, and everything else you'd expect, it doesn't -- yet -- support push notifications.

Getting Push Notifications

Google Mobile App

Google Mobile app [iTunes link] is free and does provide push notifications for your Gmail account (and Google Calendar), including the ability to turn off sound notifications during certain times (like when you're sleeping).

You can't make Mailroom your default mail client but you can see the badge on Google Mobile and then tap Mailroom instead.


Or you can use Boxcar [iTunes link] instead, also free and a push notification powerhouse, and set it to open Mailroom when you get a Gmail alert.

What would be better?

Sure, it's not the most straightforward or elegant solution, but until Apple provides more functionality in iOS Mail (like flags and mapping stars to flags!), or Google makes a native iOS Gmail app, it can be just the compromise you need to get more productive on your iPhone.

If you have any questions or any other Gmail tips to share, leave them in the comments!

Tips of the day will range from beginner-level 101 to advanced-level ninjary. If you already know this tip, keep the link handy as a quick way to help a friend. If you have a tip of your own you’d like to suggest, add them to the comments or send them in to dailytips@tipb.com. (If it’s especially awesome and previously unknown to us, we’ll even give ya a reward…)

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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+.

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Reader comments

Daily Tip: How to get a better Gmail experience on iPhone


Thanks for the tips. I'm a little confused between all of these options. So, here's what I'm trying to solve and maybe someone can help. I have multiple email accounts coming in to my google account. On the laptop, when I respond to an email it automatically sends from whichever address the original email was received. Of course, I have the option to change it. Using my iPhone, I only have the option to send from the main address associated with my google account. Do any of these options above solve that problem for me? Thanks, in advance.

If you click on the from field in the mail app, you can pick who it comes from. In settings you can also change the default mail account.

That's the problem, the "from" field isn't accessible/visible on my iPhone now that i am using google instead of MobileMe. I've tried setting up the google account as gmail and as microsoft exchange. Neither have allowed me to access the "from" field. Any help is appreciated.

Confusing to me too steve. I'm guessing that the sole? purpose of Mailroom is to send out emails from different accounts?. And you only need Google Mobile or Boxcar if you want push notifications?

@Steve I have a pretty similar setup (and similar needs) with my laptop and iphone. Like you said, on the laptop I'm setup to send from whichever account I received an email on. On my iphone, I'm using the built-in mail app, and have it mostly setup to do the same thing. The only difference was that I had to setup each of my other mail accounts as separate mailboxes (even though I have all of those forwarding to a primary gmail account). By having those accounts also known to the iPhone, I can reply to or compose new mail via any of my accounts. It does require that I take the extra step of tapping on the "from" field and choosing which email account I want my message sent from, though (as the poster above mentioned). That part is annoying, especially when I forget to do that. I'm strongly considering switching to Mailroom in hopes that it's use of the web app on the back end will alleviate this problem.

@devonair. Thanks, I also have tried that but then I get all the mail from the non primary accounts more than once which is a hassle. Right now it's showing that I have over 200 unread emails because of the duplication. I have read articles that say you have to delete the incoming mail server, but if I do that for those accounts, mail doesn't let me save/exit out of the setup. Any tips you have would be greatly appreciated.

I do something like this, using Mailroom as my email app and MailTones (also not free) to handle which emails I want notifications for.

i just use gmail setup as exchange, in the event that i need something special i just open up the google app and go to webmail. simple.

Interesting, but I'm not at all comfortable allowing a third party access to my gmail account. Thats just not going to happen.

If you are a "power" gmail user won't you just have your contacts loaded into gmail already anyways? If you just have Google Mobile doing Push and have Gmail loaded to Exchange sync wouldn't the Gmail.com site be all that you need anyways?

Considering how many people use the iPhone, effectively doubling Google's mobile presence, I'm really perplexed as to why Google does not just create a Gmail app. Some people will say that they want Android to compete with iOS but all Google needs is "the cloud" to datamine people and thus generate revenue. Moreover, considering that Mobile Safari does not allow you to upload things like attachments, it would only make sense to compete with iOS's email client by providing a Gmail app that will allow iPhone users to send photos, etc.
If anybody from TIPB is reading this, you should consider trying to get a statement from Google as to why they don't do a Gmail app. Getting that kind of information would really increase readership when it gets linked to on other sites.

Actually there is another convinent setup for gmail exchange, which also can get push email, even you can sync your contacts and calendar with Gmail.
Select "Microsoft Exchange" icon when you setup email account, and enter your gmail address in the first column, and also your gmail address and password in the "user name" and "password" column. Click "next" that you would be asked to enter "server address", type in:" m.google.com", and then "next", select what you want to sync, inc calendar and contact. If you select them, pls keep the local contacts, otherwise all of your name card will be ereased, and you cannot get back anymore.
Take this way, you can forget "Mobile me", it is same function.

This is how I set up my Gmail access on the iPhone and it works really well. It never takes more than a few seconds for me to get an email notification after it arrives in my Gmail account.

I'm a new Iphone user (got in on the $99 refurb deal on ATT) and am getting used to email, etc. I'm coming from a Verizon Blackberry Curve.
I have my gmail folders IMAP'd and they are synchronized from Gmail to my Iphone and also to Outlook. I'm confused about people complaining that they don't have folder support on the Iphone 4 in Gmail?
I'm interested, John, in your push solution. So do you have push set to on, and manually check for messages? Or do you have the 15 minute option? Obviously, the biggest difference for me coming from Blackberry is the lack of constant push to the phone without suffering in the battery life.

I use the web to access mail. I can see my folders, and have better control. Apple's mail app is too basic. The lack of folders is bad. You would think apple would at least give you a better mail experience.

The way people talk on this place, you'd think iphone doesn't natively support Gmail - which it DOES.
Oh boy, stars. Oh great, I have to use the web app? It's nice but totally unnecessary

it may support gmail but it doesn't really support google mail, especially with multiple accounts

Unfortunately Mailroom doesn't allow me to emulate the multiple accounts I have set up in my (desktop) Gmail.com interface.
I like being able to have all my various (non Gmail) email accounts forwarded to my one and only Gmail.com account, and from there, send out emails under the name of my external (non Gmail) addresses. This turns my (desktop) GMail.com account into a central email hub which is perfect for managing my various business entity emails from the one location.
The downside to this strategy is that the iPhone Mail app or the iPhone Gmail app do not allow me to send emails from one of my external email addresses like I can on my desktop Gmail.com ... if I can find a way to do this from my iPhone then I'd be no longer contrained to my desktop Gmail.com
Can anyone help with this ambition?

Set all of your emails in the native iPhone app and you can send from any one of them. Just check the main gmail account and adjust the "reply from" account .