Google Announces Google Sync for iPhone - Exchangify your Google Data

Here's a welcome surprise for you: Google has now created Google Sync for iPhone so that you can sync up your Google Contacts and Google Calendar. They are doing it by making their data look like an Exchange server -- meaning that if you're not already using Exchange on your iPhone for work, you can point it at Google's servers (see full instructions here) to get your contacts and calendars pushed out to you. Nice? Nice.

Of course, if you're already using Exchange for work but still want to get your Google data on your iPhone, you'd going to need to get a solution to sync your Google data down to your desktop and then get it from your desktop to your iPhone either via USB tether or via MobileMe. You can learn more about how the two work together in Rene's excellent article on that very subject.

Now, Google, just get Gmail to look like Exchange and we'll be happy campers. Actually, you know what, just fix IMAP, that'll be enough.

Quick Update: As I just noted over at WMExperts, Google licensed Exchange Active Sync (EAS) from Microsoft, which is a shot at RIM but also, maybe, a shot at Apple. Rene just pointed out to me that given all of Google's recent moves with the CalDAV/iCal system, they might have kept on pushing to make the stuff that Mac uses the industry standard. Instead, Google and Microsoft are suddenly working together on using EAS.

Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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There are 49 comments. Add yours.

melwan says:

I wonder if they benefited from NuevaSync's experience. Either way, it's a huge move.

Steve says:

There are still people out there who don't know about AddressBook/iCal/Mail for Mac and Outlook for Windows?
Good luck with this mess. :roll:

iphonemilk says:

OH
MY
GOD
Awesome !!!!!!!

Victor says:

There is a jailbreak app that let's you sync more than one Exchange mailbox. It's available via Cydia.

Deven says:

So maybe in future we'll see push mail from google??

Jeffdc5 says:

God people are obsessed with the cloud my mac and iTunes sync everything I do but maybe not everybody lives in the apple world

sting7k says:

Ouch for RIM. Exchange ActiveSync is taking over and if google is going to offer this for free with their stuff that is a major blow in the mobile market. I'll have to try it out later. Looking for exchange Gmail now!

Johnny Knoxville says:

Too bad Google Contacts is such a crappy effort. Cleary an after thought...ugg. Yahoo and NemusSync (jailbreak) are my "apps" of choice!

Matt Sawyers says:

While I've have a exchange account with my college, it's nice to have an option. I however use SaiSuke for my calendar as I can sync it with Google Calendar and thus with any calendar that supports CalDAV (I think thar's what it's called) - basically Sunbird/lightning is what i use on my computers (on both mac and pc).

BenGillam says:

This would be great if you could do more than one exchange account. Don't want to jailbreak to do it and wouldn't mind betting it won't work with push properly. Hint to apple. Miltople exchange accounts!

Brad Zimmerman says:

NemusSync. I've been syncing my Google Calendar data that way for about four months now and syncing contacts with Google just through iTunes.
I guess it's nice to have an "official" client to do this stuff with, though. All hail Google.

part2346 says:

This would be very exciting, if either a) Google Contacts didn't suck so unbelievably hard or b) I could opt to only sync Google Calendar (which sucks only slightly less hard).

rich47 says:

If I already have nuevasync, should I disable it if I want to use the Google sync?

Frog says:

Google calander was awful last time I used it. Gmail would be great. This change seems like a non-event.

Topper says:

@Rich
You'll need to reconfigure your Exchange info if you want to set this up on your iPhone as you can only use one Exchange account at a time. I'm going to change over to hit google's servers directly since I was only using NuevaSync to reach their servers in the first place.

Topper says:

Also, be aware those of you using NuevaSync, it looks like if you switch over to Google Sync you will lose the ability to use multiple calendars...c'mon google!!! Learn from other's mistakes!

Rene Ritchie says:

This didn't make sense to me before; it's starting to now. Neither Google nor Microsoft nor Apple can own the PIM/Push space. RIM has it.
But, Microsoft making ActiveSync available for license, and Google and Apple swallowing their own initiatives to license it, does what any non-market-leader does:
Fractures the market.
Collectively, everybody wins but RIM.
Microsoft gives up a little in letting others use their tech, Apple and Google give up a little in helping make Microsoft's tech the new "standard", and RIM suddenly has to worry about not only WinMo, but iPhone, Android, Nokia, etc.
Hmmm...

Eric says:

@Topper: The irony is that according to Google it allows up to 5 Calendars.

  • Limited to 5 Calendars
    Syncing more than 5 Calendars to the iPhone's Calendar application often causes all Calendars to appear in the same bright yellow or cyan color, making it impossible to use the Calendar application effectively. Google is working with Apple to resolve this issue.
icebike says:

@Rene:
Astute summary.
I think this also has the earmarks of a camels nose under the tent. Once google has the license in hand what they do with it is sort of up to them.
Reviewing: Active Sync is a one trick pony. Its only claim to fame is the mechanism of maintaining a TCP connection until it times out, (Even with the radios OFF apparently), and waking up every 12 to 18 minutes to re-check status on this connection. If connection is readable (data pending) it calls home to find out what to do. If the connection has dropped, it establishes a new one, checks for data, and goes to sleep.
I doubt this technique could be patented, its just TCP, but be that as it may...
Now that Google licenses this, what else can they hang on it? Gmail sync, Contacts Sync, Calendar sync seem to be the tip of the spear.
What about notifications of changes to Google Docs? (Shared ones)? What about google chat (google talk) requests when you don't have the Google Chat page up? What about notifications to open other apps? (google apps or non-google apps) in the future?
So I wonder, did Google steal a march on Apple's long promised Push for Apps? Has Apple just been Punked?

fassy says:

In Microsoft's press release, they refer specifically to Google licensing Exchange ActiveSync, not any specific protocol. Exchange ActiveSync refers not just to the keep-alive mechanism, but also specific XML schemas for requests and responses. It is not clear (to me, at least) whether EAS license terms would allow the licensee to add their own request/response formats, or even their own namespaces to the XML. I would love to see Google leverage this to enable a vast array of push services that Apple has been unwilling (or unable) to deliver, but the terms of the license itself may restrict what, if any, extra services Google could hang on it.

icebike says:

Thats the beauty of XML. Its extensible, and anything outside the schema is simply ignored.
Wouldn't prohibiting this be like licensing a web browser but forbid looking at pages about puppies.
Google would have to get Apple to honor one more verb in the active sync protocol. But that protocol was meant to be extensible.
Its not unusual to license something just because you want to use a small part of it.
Note: Nasty long link to a GOOGLE cache of a Microsoft Paper on EAS: http://209.85.173.132/search?q=cache:p4T-ulCxq5MJ:download.microsoft.com...

Anthony says:

anyone else having problems when having iCal sync to Google Calendar and then pushed to the iPhone? Events sync but the notification reminders get tossed out in the process.. kind of the point of a calendar is to have it remind you of stuff, isn't it? :-/

fassy says:

I am not trying to argue that Google cannot create their own namespace to enable new functionality. I even mentioned that in my initial comment. Heck, I can and have done that in my development work, and I suspect you have as well.
Microsoft has done enough embracing and extending of licenses or standard protocols (hello, J#, hello KERBEROS) in the past that I would expect them to take every step possible in their licensing agreements to prevent somebody from doing the same to them.
In fact, J# is a better example than your puppy/web browser example. Sun licensed Java to Microsoft, under the conditions that certain libraries be included unchanged, and that a certain set of tests must pass. Microsoft violated that license, and, although they produced an otherwise quite good implementation of Java, they were forced to settle when Sun took them to court. Google may want to license only part of the technology, but, given Microsoft's history on both sides of these issues, I would expect them to them to include explicit protections on the remainder in their contracts.
So yes, anything outside the schema is simply ignored...
...by a parser, but not by lawyers. :)

icebike says:

I thought lawyers WERE parsers... ;-P

fassy says:

Pretty close, a parser handles schemas, while lawyers handle schemes. :)
Back to the topic -- for anybody that has tried it, is there any way/workaround to sync extra contact information (e.g. birthdays)? The information on the google sync pages did not seem promising.

thebrain2u says:

I won't be using it because I sync my calendar and contacts through iTunes and Outlook just fine on my PC. Last time I used Google Cal, it didn't look that great. As for Contacts, does anyone know if it'll try to sync "Suggested Contacts" or something?

icebike says:

I don't sync contacts, but I switched over to it for syncing my Calendar from NuevaSync. (Its just one less party I have to entrust my Google log-in to).
Works well enough for my simple calendaring needs, and quite fast too.

Eric says:

@Topper:
To add the additional Calendars to your Google syncing go to (on your iPhone browser) the m.google.com/sync page. You can select the addition calendars from there. Everything syncs fine after that.

icebike says:

Thanks Eric, that was the missing bit I couldn't find for additional calendars.

Danny Lee says:

I've been waiting for this for a long time. Unfortunately i've just spotted something that may prevent me using it. I've added an appointment for the dentist at 4:15pm and its synced to my iPhone for 8:15am, could this be an issue with Time Zones?

frog says:

Works well. Perhaps a little slow to "push", but done within a minute. Gmail push would be perfect...

frog says:

Eeeep!
It deleted the contents of all contacts with custom tags for phone numbers on the device - data is still on google contacts!

cherryhead25 says:

How far back does it sync your calendar? I just tried nuevasync this weekend and promptly stopped after realizing it only syncs back 2 weeks or so. I want all my calendar appointments from the past synced.

Ryan says:

@Anthony I'm only getting my cal not any of my shared.
Goggle sync if it works will kill mobile me.

Danny Lee says:

Sorted the time issue. If anyone else gets it, make sure that the TimeZone is set correctly in the calendar settings on the iPhone and Google Calendar otherwise you'll have issues with creating appointments and them displaying different times on your phone.
@Ryan - Have you selected All Calendars in the Calendar App? (Top left hand corner when viewing calendar on the phone) Also, see Erics post a few above about going to the m.google.com/sync link in safari and ticking the additional calendars

Topper says:

@Eric
I found that doc after alot of digging on the Google support page. Thanks for the help!

Felicia says:

@Danny Lee - I no longer have the "calendars" option when I'm in my calendar view. Hmmmm!
However, I was able to select the additional calendars from the m.google.com/sync link.
And after I did that, the "calendars" option returned.
Thank you!!

steve says:

Sorry to be dumb, but this syncs google contact ---> iphone NOT iphone contacts ----> google?

Eric says:

@Steve
I haven't had any problems. I've been able to sync iPhone to Google to Outlook and back again. The one thing to keep in mind is that Google is the hub. If I update in one of the three spots it populates to the others in a short amount of time.

steve says:

thx eric ..but
Maybe i didnt explain myself well .. sorry
I meant, i dont use google for contact or anything, they are all in my iphone. I would like to send all my iphone contacts to google.

Eric says:

@Steve:
Yup. Google Sync should do that. It can push everything from your iPhone out to Google. The only caveat is that Google's "Contacts" appears to have been built in the 80's or something because it strips out a lot of fields. (The guys that did the DB for it likely didn't have a lot of friends.)If you have someone's birthday or anniversay listed in a special date field it won't sync to Google and will likely get lost. Basic Name, address, phone, email info is there though.

Jenny says:

For those of you who take big advantage of Facebook events, there's a facebook app called FbCal that will add the URL for the events you're attending (or even the ones you're just thinking of attending) to Google Calendar for you, which will then sync to your iPhone.
It's pretty awesome. It syncs all the details from the "about" area as well. 
Be aware there's a bit of a delay though. An event I set myself as attending yesterday only showed up this morning.

CyKo#CB says:

What is the name of the jailbreak app that allows multiple EAS?

Steeps says:

Any idea when Google will support all contact fields in Outlook/iCal/iPhone?
I uploaded my contacts but lost the ones that did not have email & the extra field info was lost.

Russell Dawson says:

Any Idea that how I can sync my google apps - with my desktop computer - and my iphone

Mark says:

Concerning the syncing-issue, I can reccomend "remote calendar".
What made me finally choose for this app was that it can sync a variety of calendars using calDAV with my iphone. Me and my girlfirend are using ical, while in office we are using google. With remote calendar I have it all in sync. You should look out for it in the app store.
Since I'm a little scatterbrained sometimes, this is just great for me. I don't forget important appointments anymore. The app works very well and way better than other applications of this kind (NemusSync, SpanningSync, Google or BusySync, etc.), which are often developer-bound (i.e. they can only sync google, for example). Let's assume I'm on a business trip. Remote calendar syncs my new appointments instantly when someone in the office makes a new entry into my calendar. I tried other solution, too, but remote calendar wokrs way better.
It is very easy to use and even people like me, who are in war with technical devices, understand really quick how it works. Above all it is cheap. It is totally solid and reliable. During the 3 month I've been using it, I couldn't find any bug.

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