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I'm trying to understand what the best way to set up Google mail, contacts and calendars on my iPhone and iPad. There seems to be plenty of options, all of which have downsides spread over lots of different postings and websites.

Here are the key issues I've found so far consolidated into one place:

Google mail

  • Exchange: Drafts don't synchronise. Searching for old emails doesn't always work. Google have announced that Exchange ActiveSync support will no longer be available for non-business accounts after 30th January 2013.
  • Gmail: No support for push email.
  • Gmail app: Cannot swipe messages in the inbox to delete them (only archive supported), notifications of new email sometimes open up the wrong email, mobile phone numbers aren't clickable, selecting an email address in any other app will not open Gmail to send a message (this is an iOS restriction), no custom alert sounds for certain contacts/groups and only a limited number of emails are readable if you have no data connection.


  • Exchange: Additional newlines sometimes end up in the description of appointments. Google have announced that Exchange ActiveSync support will no longer be available for non-business accounts after 30th January 2013.
  • Gmail: Additional subscribed calendars aren't displayed.
  • CalDav: Birthday events in a subscribed calendar that has been hidden from view in the calendar app still show up in the Notification Center. Subscribed calendars in Google Calendar will always trigger an alarm on iOS (based on your default alert times) even though Google reports that none are set up. Changing an alert time will after a short while cause you to end up with two alerts on an appointment within iOS, one at the new alert time you wanted and one at the default alert time.


  • Exchange: Not all fields (including pictures) are synchronized. Some address fields end up getting swapped (eg. town is displayed above the first line of the address). Google have announced that Exchange ActiveSync support will no longer be available for non-business accounts after 30th January 2013.
  • Gmail: Not possible.
  • CardDAV: Now recommended by Google as the preferred method. Will sync more than 3 email addresses. Syncs in both directions. No support for push. Contact group syncing is not supported. See related question.

Is this correct? Is there anything else missing?

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You can select which additional subscribed calendars you want to show up on your iPhone by following the instructions in this Google Support doc:… – beverson Dec 16 '12 at 15:06
This should be set up as separate questions as there will be separate answers for each of apps – Mark Dec 19 '12 at 16:14
I might add this detail to the CardDAV section: that contact group syncing is not supported. Or, by all means, let me know that it is and how, because from what I can tell, it is not. – ezrock May 29 '13 at 0:27

The Verge gave a good writeup recommending the Gmail App + CalDAV + CardDAV:

The Gmail app solves both downsides you mention above. For CardDAV, it does a 15 min fetch, which is plenty good enough for me, so I don't see lack of push as being a real problem.

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Thanks for the pointer. I've tried the gmail app and found a number of issues which I've added to the original question. – Richard Dec 17 '12 at 9:02

It might be worth trying Sparrow. I didn't like the searching but I suspect it might deal with a bunch of your issues.

For what it's worth, I actively disliked the Gmail app but it was updated fairly recently and now it's my main client. Calendar remains a big problem for me - so excellent question.

Also I believe you can flag email in the Exchange app... :s

share|improve this answer
I tried Sparrow and, whilst it's a lovely app, the lack of push notifications was the deal-breaker for me since I didn't want to have to keep opening the app to find out whether or not I had new email. You're right about Exchange, will update. – Richard Jan 2 '13 at 12:50
I should add that I now actively switch between the gmail app (which I just use for searching) and the main app which i use for everything else... – Joe Jan 2 '13 at 13:19

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