How to setup Exchange or Google mail, calendar, contacts using ActiveSync on your iPhone or iPad

How to setup Exchange or Google mail, calendar, contacts using ActiveSync on your iPhone or iPad

Exchange is Microsoft's corporate email, calendar, and contact system, and ActiveSync is their fairly awesome protocol to keep it all updated on all of your devices, including iPhone and iPad. Google licenses ActiveSync for Google Sync, which used to be available for all Gmail accounts but is now restricted to paid Google accounts. No matter whether you use Exchange directly from Microsoft, from Google, or from your company or a third-party service, it's all setup the same way. All you need to know are your credentials.

How to setup mail, calendar, and contacts on your iPhone or iPad using Exchange ActiveSync

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  3. Tap Add Account.
  4. Tap Microsoft Exchange.
  5. Enter your Exchange ActiveSync account settings (ask your IT administrator or service provider if you don't know them).
  6. Tap Next
  7. Enter any additional information it asks for (Server, Domain).
  8. Tap Next
  9. Select what you want to sync (Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Reminders).
  10. Tap Save

You can go back to Settings and configure how many days of mail you want to sync, as well away messages, and advanced settings like SSL and S/MIME as well.

How to setup Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts on your iPhone or iPad using Exchange ActiveSync

The setup for Google Sync is identical to Exchange ActiveSync, since that's all it really is. You don't get Notes sync when you use Exchange, but you do get incredibly fast email. You just need to have a paid Google account and enter the following settings:

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  3. Tap Add Account.
  4. Tap Microsoft Exchange.
  5. For Email, enter your full Gmail or Google Account email address (i.e. or
  6. Leave the Domain field blank. (Really.)
  7. Again, enter your Gmail or Google Account email address as the Username. (Yup, that's twice.)
  8. Enter your Gmail/Google Account password for Password.
  9. Tap Next.
  10. When the Server field appears, enter
  11. Tap Next.
  12. Select what you want to sync (Mail, Calendar, and Contacts).

Note: Originally written in February 2011. Updated November 2013.

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+.

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Reader comments

How to setup Exchange or Google mail, calendar, contacts using ActiveSync on your iPhone or iPad


why would anyone do that? My normal gmail push works perfectly. whenever i send myself an email my phone rings 1 sec after i hit the send button on my pc..

Because exchange also offers Contacts syncing whereas IMAP doesn't. What Exchange doesn't offer is Notes syncing. But as we all know Contacts trump Notes.

Some IMAP systems may sync contacts, but Google's IMAP does not sync contacts with the iPhone. It only syncs mail, contacts, and tasks.
On a side note, what's really nice about Google Sync'ing of contacts is that only those with label "My Contacts" show up on your phone, but the rest of your contacts are still searchable.

In addition to the reasons already given, not everyone only uses gmail and might prefer to have just one email app as opposed to their mail client plus the gmail one. For example, I am required to have access to my work account on my phone and it is illegal for me to have my work emails forwarded to my gmail account due to HIPAA regulations.

Question: if I'm syncing my mail with my Mac my iPhone gets a second gmail (imap version because that's what's on my can I get my to use the google exchange version so they can sync properly?

I apologize I read your question wrong. When I had my GMail setup as IMAP on my phone and I would delete mail on my phone it wouldn't always "sync" with my web version on my computer for whatever reason. Ever since I changed to Exchange its never had issues. Again my apologies.

There is one big Problem i think. If you delete a message in one the iphone with exchange sync it goes to "all mail" in gmail and not in the trash

The only downside I found was that you can't delete mails, it's says delete when you swipe but it actually archives the mails. Some way to change that would be great!!

Is anyone else fed up with everyone calling ActiveSync "push" email..!! It's not!
BlackBerry, technically, is the only solution that is true push solution.
ActivveSync and all others based on it, are pull!!
If you ever check out the server logs for ActiveSync, you see the constant polling off all these devices which are logged in to the system allowing them to see when new email is in their mailbox.
Ok, it is one step up from the polling of pop mail every 5 or 10 mins, but not push!
Rant over! :o)

Wrong...what a surprise.
I maintain my companies email servers, the Microsoft Exchange platform is push email, 0% pull. If you would like specifics I would love to provide them.

So how does your exchange server know where to PUSH the notification that new email is waiting??
RIM/BlackBerry are able to offer this as each Blackberry device has a PIN (PID) that is recorded in their NOC, your BES or BIS server PUSHES notification to this device via that pin directly to the device, no matter where in the world it is.
ActiveSync relies on the iPad or iPhone to be logged onto the Exchange server 24/7 to be able to know if there is a message waiting or not.
I can show you the server logs of my company, and my clients companys to!!
Basically, BlackBerry server only contacts a device when there is something for it to collect.
AcvtiveSync relies on the DEVICE to log into ActiveSync and stays logged in waiting for something to happen.

Just take a look at your server logs and see how often your devices contact the exchange server, even when they're not receiving mail!!

to xlnzee - in your mail settings turn archive off and will delete your email instead of archive it. when you set up these accounts auto archive is turned on just turn it off and you wont archive you will delete it as you want

When you setup Gmail thru Exchange, there is no option to turn archive Off, but the option is available when setting up normal Gmail option.

If I set up my gmail as exchange to get my contacts over, then I delete it from the exchange will my contacts be gone?

In my experience, this setup doesn't work well for Gmail. It's slower, less reliable, and burns more battery power. You also give up some features like editable drafts. See Google's page for more details:
I use two configurations on my device. This combo works best for me:

  1. the Exchange setup as described above for Contacts and Calendars (the instant sync works well, especially if you have a big address book that you are always updating). I have Mail turned OFF in this account.
  2. Straight Gmail setup for Mail and Notes. I have Calendars turned OFF in this account. You don't need to specify folders, and you get the option to delete or archive messages (archive is set by default).

Hope this is helpful ...

What I want to know is, how to snyc my Exchange calendar to my account. I wish there was a setting to sync calendar to my iPhone's exchange calendar. Plz apple, give us that!

Now I'm confused? If I don't need/want to sync my contacts, calender & notes to my Gmail account... should I just set up through the GMail option? All I care about is that my Gmail account along with it's sub-folders sync up. So that when I move/delete/read an email on my iPhone, it moves/deletes/reads it on my computer & vise versa.

The last step is deciding what you want to sync; mail, contacts, calenders. You can turn off what you don't want to sync and only do email.

Does this mean that the Google service is essentially what we get from MobileMe...without the $100/yr expense? Can I actually get the "push" experience without paying the money? I am still unclear on the differences.

Plus, if you ever decide to change platforms (Android, WP7, ect) you will still be able to use Google and sync your info. Mobile Me is iphone only.

Y absolutely can. Give it a shot. I got rid of MobileMe recently as well as there were too many issues with it for me to use and justify the cost. GMail IMO is much better and faster and's FREE.

So I have this set up exactly as outlined in the article. Am I supposed to get a notification when a new email arrives? I sent an email from my work account to my gmail account and get no notification.

It alerts just like every other email. You will get the email tone or vibration. I am jailbroken and even get my emails in LockInfo just like any other type of email comes in to the phone.

Does anyone know if it is possible to setup google active sync on outlook with similar server settings? It would be nice to have outlook sync contacts and calendar to google.

I did the set up as explained but never got the messageWARNING: Your iPhone will ask if you want to delete all existing data and replace it with Google data, or merge the two. What you choose depends on how you store your data. If everything is in the Google Cloud, choose replace. If you have a mix of data from, for example, Outlook as well, choose merge.However the mail function is working as advertised. I am not able to get calendar and contacts to sync with google. any help?

Is it possible that anyone can explain how to search for mail outside three days while on google exchange? Every time i try to search for old mail it says The connection to the server failed.

make sure that you set your EXCHANGE account as your default account; my phone did not update immediately ("push") until i made this adjustment.

I have some calendar entries on my iPhone and some others on my gmail account. Will they merge in a single calendar on my iPhone? What about contacts? Will they merge and appear both on my phone and my gmail account? It would be great to have everything synchronized.

I used this technique when I first got my iphone. Pushed great, but I was unable to search folders for mail. Kept getting "cannot connect to server" errors. Finally just setup gmail and use boxcar for push.
I also discovered that you can sync your contacts (gmail anyway) through itunes. may not be as convenient as over the air, but it beats having them removed if you remove exchange.

Ok, I am trying an iphone 3gs, if I like it I will switch from bb to iphone4. I am a completely illiterate about the iphone world and e-mail management is what I am concerned the most.
I have 5 e-mail accounts set on my bb, 3 corporate accounts (from 2 different corporations), one gmail plus one hotmail... Does it mean I can only get that on my gmail account?

This is in many ways great, but the annoying bit is that data fields that I've taken for granted for years and years and have been using in Outlook / on all phones (including the iPhone) disappear. So far I've only seen one ("Other number") but I wouldn't be surprised if there are more.
It's annoying as I have multiple details under one contact, and a good few of my contacts have the Other number field in use. Sure, I can manually change these to "Fax work" or something else, but it would be much easier if Google supported what is by all accounts a standard.
Overall it is a winner however, and it's good to know everything is now synced with Google, though I only use Exchange for Contacts. Mail, Calendar and Notes are synced using the vanilla Gmail option as I want my Notes, want editable drafts in Mail, and don't understand the benefit of syncing Calendar with Exchange when the Gmail option works perfectly.

Love this gmail tutorial! It was very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to do all of that.

I have set this up as instructed and the invitee button appears. Thanks for the tip. However, the invitations do not seem to be going out. I've sent emails via the new account I setup and they work but not the mail invites. Have I setup something up incorrectly?

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I ran across this while trying to set up my new HTC ONE X.
I've had about 10 iphones and after #2, I got spoiled with push email. I tried the HTC email app, but don't like the schedule. I tried the gmail app for Android, but hate conversation threading.
My Solution:
Click settings / Accounts & sync...
Click +add at the top...
Click Exchange ActiveSync...
Use for the server, but leave domain empty
Enter in the 2 appropriate fields
Enter your password
The rest is a bit foggy, but I set it up for push email, contacts and calendar.
Make sure ActiveSync in the phone is turned on.
My personal preference was to also switch off threading
In the phone, I set peak times as all days and set the times for the times I'm usually checking email. I set off-peak times to sync every couple hours.
Works perfectly for me now. I get push email, without having to put up with threaded conversations from the gmail app.
I also have a Google account set up, but it doesn't sync calendar, contacts or email... Just the rest so my phone and pics stay backed up.
Hope this helps those wanting to get this set up in their Droids.