I just got an iPad and want to know, what is the best way to set up Gmail on the iPad? As far as I can tell there are three methods to set up the account:

  1. As a Gmail account
  2. As an Exchange account
  3. "manually" (I.e. you enter in all the information on the servers yourself).

According to this website, manual setup allows you to store your drafts on the server, but exchange allows for push. Can someone please explain the differences between the options and the best way to set up Gmail?


Setting up via Exchange is my preferred iOS Gmail setup. In earlier iOS versions (I think 3.0) you were limited to one Exchange account. So in my case, that was reserved for my work email. But once that limitation was lifted, I switched Gmail to Exchange and have been quite happy with it.

You get push email, which is the main benefit, but you also get push contact/calendar updates. Depending on if you use Google calendar as your main calendar, push calendar updates and invites can be a huge help to managing one's day.

If you decide you don't need push while using Exchange (or ActiveSync, which is the specific mobile protocol used by Exchange and Google), disabling push is quick and simple. Setting up via ActiveSync also saves a few steps in that you don't have to link your calendar and contacts manually. So I say go for Exchange, even if you don't use push. But it's not a huge deal either way, and as it's so easy to add/remove accounts on iOS, if you pick one and don't like how it works out, you can always switch to the other with minimal effort.

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  • So it looks like I have my Gmail set up as Exchange, but my drafts are not being stored on the server. Any idea why that would be? – Jason Sep 21 '11 at 20:35
  • Hmm I guess drafts don't sync. Could have swore they did - my mistake. google.com/support/mobile/bin/answer.py?answer=139635 – chrismanderson Sep 21 '11 at 22:51
  • Also, with push, you should be able to disable syncing on a time basis, which should use less battery. – asmeurer Jun 23 '12 at 2:01

The big advantage of Exchange account is push as you mentioned already. That will also get you synced contacts and calendars if you don't disable those options in the account settings on your iPad. Gmail contact sync can be a little wonky at times, so be careful about that one or it's possible in some cases to end up with a ton of contacts for anyone who's ever emailed your Gmail account. Worth noting that push can negatively affect your battery life, but I'm not sure if there's any great data on that - generally I don't think it's a substantial hit.

The advantage to doing it via the standard Gmail option (which is just IMAP) is simplicity. Doing it that way generally gets things set up the way they should. You get an archive option in place of "delete". You can still add your Google calendars separately via CalDAV if you're inclined to do so.

Manually will just get you the same results as the "Gmail" account option, possibly without the archive option, I haven't tested. No real reason to do this unless you really want practice typing server addresses in.

I don't think there's really a "best" way, but if you want push or contacts, I'd say go with Exchange, otherwise just keep it simple and use the standard Gmail option.

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