I found this puzzling setting in iPhone Settings > accounts and passwords (for iOS 11):

Is Fetch > automatically the same as Push?. How does it work with Google Contacts, Gmail, etc?

  • What level of detail are you seeking? Push and fetch just are how the mail server sees the initiator of a connection. Get sends someone to the post office to pick up the mail, push means you listen for the sound of the mail slot moving when it is delivered to your device.
    – bmike
    Dec 11, 2017 at 20:18

2 Answers 2


Fetch is for use where Push doesn't work - for instance on POP3 accounts, rather than IMAP.

It simply goes to look if you have any email ready to download, every 5, 10 mins... whatever you set the interval to be.

iCloud mail, for instance can Push. If there is mail for you, it will literally push it at your phone, no checking required.

  • 2
    but what does automatically mean? That's what I asked Dec 11, 2017 at 20:23
  • You asked if it’s the same as push, which it isn’t. The automatic part is it will do it whenever it’s plugged in & connected to Wifi.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 12, 2017 at 5:20
  • Or where it is not supported (like Gmail) Apr 18, 2018 at 21:26

I think he knows about the basics of push/fetch. Seems to me, he just wanted to know what they mean by automatic, as apple are keeping true to their cryptic "it just works no extra information required" mentality, except it does not just work. :(

I think automatic still remains just fetch albeit maybe one with a dynamically ajusted frequency (maybe based on personal historic statistical data coupled with time of day trafic heursitics??).

I suppose they could also do a high frequency fetch on their end (apple server side, with a token from the app) and push a fetch trigger when they see anything new, but that would require access even tokenized to your account. So if your email provider (gmail, yhaoo mail, etc) does not support push you are probably not going to get push... :(

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