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I don't know how Gmail is capable of pushing the email to the phone as I don't think IMAP supports push to iOS.

How’s it possible that iPhone receives emails from a personal Gmail account in near real time, despite using IMAP and not Exchange (ActiveSync)?

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  • IMAP does, but GMail non-business doesn't. That doesn't mean they won't show up, it depends on what you have the polling set to. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMAP_IDLE Commented Jul 12, 2022 at 23:18
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    It's just fetching mail periodically, based on your set frequency in settings. For example if you fetch every 15 minutes, an email would arrive on your phone within 15 minutes of being received. Does that answer your question?
    – JBallin
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 5:23
  • @JBallin that was my understanding too, but I’m surprised I always get the notification of a new email quicker than every 15 mins… I just sent a test email to my Gmail account and got it on my phone within 15 seconds.
    – nzapponi
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 12:48
  • Did you open the mail app or pull down to re-sync? That would trigger a fetch too.
    – JBallin
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 14:34
  • No I didn’t.. does Mail actually not support IMAP IDLE? That would explain it..
    – nzapponi
    Commented Jul 13, 2022 at 15:17

2 Answers 2

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How’s it possible that iPhone receives emails from a personal Gmail account in near real time, despite using IMAP and not Exchange (ActiveSync)?

IMAP is a server based protocol meaning that messages are held on the server and only downloaded when opened/selected by the client. What you see in Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. is just the header info (From, To, Subject, Date, etc.). Microsoft actually has an excellent description of IMAP:

IMAP allows you to access your email wherever you are, from any device. When you read an email message using IMAP, you aren't actually downloading or storing it on your computer; instead, you're reading it from the email service.

Now, as to “receiving your email in near real-time” this is due to a IMAP protocol called “Push-IMAP”. This is an extension of the IMAP protocol that will notify a client (device) of synchronization change. Instead of sending the entire message, it will “push” a notification triggering a synchronization where only the header info is updated and then the email downloaded when opened/selected.

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Source: Add an email account to Mail on your Mac

Are you sure your gmail is set as IMAP? If it was setup using first party wizard it might be using something more.

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  • This doesn’t answer the question. GMail uses IMAP. This first party wizard only expedites the settings not that it’s using a different protocol.
    – Allan
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 21:35

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