I would like to know how to configure my Apple iPhone so that I can check my Google Gmail messages whenever I’d like. What’s the best way to do this?
Turns out that there are two different avenues you can use to access your Gmail, and, unfortunately, each of them has its problems at this point in the evolution of the iPhone software and system.
The first way is simply to go to Gmail via the Safari browser, which has the huge advantage that you’re guaranteed to be in sync with the Web version of Gmail because, well, because it is the Web version of Gmail. The problem, however, is that it will quickly be clear that Gmail/web isn’t designed for the display characteristics of the iPhone and it lays out awkwardly, the text is way too small by default, and it’s tedious to keep resizing text to make things readable.
The other way, of course, is to use iPhone Mail and configure it for your Gmail account. Here’s how you can do that (but keep reading so I can explain the positive and negative of this approach too, please).
If you haven’t yet configured any mailboxes, going to Mail (the blue icon on the bottom row in the home position) will bring up a set of different email systems that are supported by iPhone Mail. If not, you can also go to Settings –> Mail –> Add Account… and get here too:
Click on the cheery “Gmail” graphic and you’ll see:
Enter your own account information as you would any other iPhone app:
When you’re done, it’ll check for email then show you your current inbox (sort of):
Click on an individual message and you’ll see it displayed, ads and all:
Even here, you can see that the message is displayed rather tiny (versus how iPhone Mail displays regular messages from a standard POP or IMAP account). More significantly, however, accessing Google’s Gmail through iPhone Mail means that you are using the POP interface to Gmail, which means that you don’t get any message threading (which some people would view as a feature, I’m sure), but you also get all sorts of old junk that is sitting in your Gmail inbox, sent mail folder, and related.
A week later it’s still sucking up ancient messages from my own Gmail account and try as I might, I still have over 200 “unread” messages in my Gmail box, messages that are from 2006 and before.
I’ve written about this huge Gmail problem and its inability to stay synchronized with my current Gmail inbox, on my business blog: Why does Gmail on an iPhone suck so badly?
At this point in time, I don’t see that either of these two solutions is particularly attractive, but since I had — and really liked — the special mobile version of Gmail that was available for my Blackberry Pearl, I imagine that it’s only a matter of a few weeks or months before a separate Gmail application is available for us iPhone users, an application that will offer threading and, most importantly, will automatically stay in sync with the Gmail mailbox.