Dear Google: Where's the iPhone's Push Gmail?!


Okay. Fine. Our bestest buddies over at are crowing over the rumor-revelation that the Palm Pre will support "push" Gmail via IMAP IDLE [Wikipedia link]. Not as robust as BlackBerry or Microsoft ActiveSync, they say, but yarly enough. And good for them.

Of course Google's own mobile OS, Android, also enjoys push Gmail. Also fine and good and all that.

But where's ours?

Gmail has been on the iPhone since day one -- when Yahoo! offered push email to the iPhone -- and has trucked along through year 2 -- when Apple offered MobileMe and ActiveSync push in iPhone 2.0, and even Google offered ActiveSync for everything except Gmail (?!).

We've been patient. We've been true. We've used the freebie and the paid Google Accounts version. We've suffered Gmail's ludicrous 10 simultaneous connection limits, its certificate errors, its "unknown email box (Inbox)" shenanigans. We've earned it, Google.

So, how about Apple board member Eric Schmidt stroll up on the WWDC stage -- just like he did at Macworld 2007 -- and announce push Gmail over either ActiveSync or IMAP IDLE (for those of us who already use our only ActiveSync account for a work-related Exchange server). Or put it out in a press release, or one line throw-away from Joz or Forstall. Really, we don't care. Just give it to us.


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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

Dear Google: Where's the iPhone's Push Gmail?!


I do wish that it was native BUT I have Mobile Me so I just forward it through there. I have not had problems with it.
If anything I'm getting mad at yahoos push email service for the iPhone because it doesn't seem to work well for me. On top of that....... in order to forward mail I need to pay 9.99 for year or month or something I don't remember which one.....

I use the active sync to keep my contacts and calendar up to date. I love it! I no longer have to worry if an iPhone update will destroy all of my contacts again, and I can set calendar appointments from the web to be synced with my phone.
As for push, I've turned that off completey, instead opting for 1 hour interval checks. I wish gmail had push. It would be awesome.

IMAP IDLE should have been in there from day one. Why is the IMAP protocol so neglected? I can understand why Microsoft hates is because it competes with Exchange server but why would Apple refuse to do a full implementation.

I'm pretty certain we will get that feature in June. Apple has to provide as much oomph now that the Pre is ready to launch and is promising the sky. Has anyone actually have some real-life experience with that thing? It seems wonderful on paper and spoken of by the makers, but I want to hear real life examples.
Anyway, I am hoping iPhone 3.0 bring all the goodies.

I think that if there is no push Gmail on the iphone this is solely Apple fault because:
- the mail app doesn't support IMAPIDLE
- they added yahoo's proprietary protocol but not gmail's
Would adding perfect support of Google's suite kill MobileMe, its cash cow ? is it the reason ?

Apple's desktop Mac supports IMAP IDLE, does that mean I'm getting true "push" Gmail there? Doesn't feel like it...

IMAP PUSH hasn't been added to the new iPhone 3.0 software as of beta 5. If it hasn't made it into the beta by now I doubt it will in time for the final release.

I would love for this feature to finally show up. Even though my fetch intervals are at 15 minutes, it just doesn't feel as good as push does. Especially because I always have to reopen the mail on my iPhone or in my on my laptop. However, MobileMe is my primary account anyways so it's no other issue than annoying.

I swear to god my gmail account used to push immediately to my iPhone and all my inboxes were synched instantly all the time.. And now it no longer works. Wtf?

Could Gmail be waiting for Notifications?
After all, maintaining 17 million open sockets for imap idle (or activesync for that matter) when you have a server farm as dispersed and massive as Google would still be a technological challenge.
Such a socket connection requires the two ends to be fixed, you can't be handing over a socket to another IP address. If you have ever pointed Wireshark at a Gmail connection you will find that successive gmail mail check requests can terminate at totally different servers with different IP addresses, as Google has a massively redundant network with dynamic routing.
But if Apple could build a fast pipe to Google for notifications they can piggy-back on the network Apple is putting in place to handle Notifications (For a phat fee). This way one single socket connection to Apple handles all sorts of notifications.
Apple is on the right track with its notification system because its silly and unsustainable for the iPhone to maintain open sockets for an ever increasing number of services. Notifications are technologically superior to imap idle and activesync and the next 15 apps that come down the pike.
Yes, the technology of notifications is the same. But its a matter of scale and quantity. 5 or 8 sockets open for mail accounts, calendars, tweets, skype, etc, etc, and your phone would never get a chance to power down transmitters and save battery.
So Apple may actually prefer that Gmail (and others) be handled via Notifications. That way the client inside the iphone can handle "push" via a "Mail check upon Notification". Apple could supply notification service to any number of mail providers, large and small for a fee.
First you have to get this past the Patent Trolls at RIM (Blackberry's patented Push is really just a network notification for the handset to "Pull" mail). This is why they licensed Active Sync. If they can leverage this to things Microsoft never even imagined Apple can skirt these patents with a general purpose notification system and the sky is the limit.


I swear to god my gmail account used to push immediately to my iPhone and all my inboxes were synched instantly all the time.

If the mail app is open and you are looking at it, it may appear that way, because mail check when you are sitting in the Mail App happen frequently.
But if you close out of mail, and send a Gmail from your computer you won't get the Mail bing for up to X minutes, where X is the "Fetch New Data" interval.
Its never been instantaneous for as long as I've had the iPhone.

Gmail supports IMAP IDLE already. It works great on Mac OS X. iPhone 3.0 doesn't support it however.
Google is working to bring ActiveSync to Gmail to later this year. ActiveSync will bring push Gmail to iPhone.

icebike is so right. That's why google have been investing in the gmail web app so much. You get notified via apple os 3.0 an then you go open up your web mail on your iPhone. I'm happy with that!

I don't know how much it will help, but I also blogged about this issue. Actually, I called it an Open Letter To Google.
I just think it's ridiculous that the iPhone can have a friggin' compass on it, but I can't get my email pushed??? Something is very wrong here.

15 Icebike is right on. I recently converted from a blackberry to an iPhone using both GMail and Comcast accounts. I did a serious of tests and concluded the same ... that when you are in your mail programs, the push is instantaneously. When you are out of it (i.e. your phone is at the HOME screen), it will default to the FETCH interval indicated.
Apple being a leader in technology disappoints me that they can't get something like the 'push' implemented properly - in a world where timing is everything.

Gmail iphone push workaround:
1) go to gmail settings, forwarding
2) forward your email to your iphone's sms email address, e.g.,
3) keep your messages in the inbox
Whenever you get a gmail or google apps email, you will instantly receive an SMS message on your iphone. You know you have an email.
The only drawback is that you will have to delete the SMS messages eventually. Also be sure you have unlimited texting.

Why would I want to pay a yearly fee for something that should be free? If Apple would stop playing favorites, and open up the iPhone just a little (never happen, until they get broken up like ATT did years ago, I know), then it would be free

I'd kind of like to see more of the Apple and iPhone specific blogs like this one put the pressure on this issue. I sort of wonder why someone with a voice in the tech world like Mossberg or Pogue doesn't call Google and Apple out on this.
I'm just so tired of the silence from both camps when it is so obviously possible to make push Gmail a reality for iPhone users. I believe that there is an ulterior motive that is linked to the Android platform at play here.
Google, whatever happened to "Don't be Evil"?

If you want proper email, get a blackberry. If you want a toy that's essentially an ipod that makes calls, get an iphone. I'm not trying to say that the iphone isn't good; it does some things very well.... But it's basically a toy/phone. If that's what you want, you'll love it. If you want a real tool, buy a proper smartphone that uses BB, or windows mobile.