How to Enjoy Push E-mail from Gmail Without the App

Gmail users have enjoyed some ups and downs in recent days. First, an upgraded iPhone app was released on December 4. The update finally made it possible to configure multiple accounts. On December 10, Gmail users plummeted into a panic on Twitter when the mail service briefly crashed. The downtime lasted for about 18 minutes, according to a Google status update.

Both regular and commercial users were affected across desktop and mobile platforms. Tim Steele, a Google engineer, explained on a Google developer’s forum that the outage was at least partially due to “a faulty load balancing configuration change.” The problem was resolved quickly because engineers rolled back to the settings that were in place before the update was implemented.

Not only was Gmail down, but many Google Chrome users who had Gmail loaded saw their entire browser crash. That unexpected failure was an odd event for a browser that boasts the ability to limit freezes to the affected window.

Rare downtime aside, Gmail is a powerful tool used by people all over the world, in both personal and commercial instances. The latter customers enjoy Gmail service through the Google Apps system.

Many users, both personal and commercial, insist upon “push” e-mail. This feature allows them to read their messages within seconds of it being sent. Although there is a mechanism to add Gmail accounts to the iPhone Mail app, using that method delivers users’ mail in a polling format, where the mailbox is checked at certain intervals, ranging from 15 minutes to one hour.

Although Gmail’s iPhone app is quite useful, what if a user wants push e-mail, but does not want to install an app?

There is a solution, and the answer lies within the stock Mail program.

Step One: Go to Settings, Mail/Contacts/Calendars, and add an account. Choose Microsoft Exchange.

Step Two: Enter the complete e-mail address, password, and a description. Press “Next.”

Step Three: At the next screen, enter in the “Server” field. Leave the “Domain” field blank, and enter the complete e-mail address again. Press “Next.”

Step Four: Choose which features to sync (Mail, Contact, Notes) by toggling the appropriate setting for each function. Press “Save.” Users should note that “Exchange” will appear at the top regardless of what name was chosen at the “Description” step. The chosen name will appear in the accounts list.

The setup is complete at this point. Because Gmail is performing under the Microsoft Exchange platform under this configuration, messages will be delivered as push messages. Our testing showed that messages are pushed to the iPhone within five seconds of a message being sent.

When the native Mail program is used, specific alerts and notifications for each account can be chosen. By contrast, users are limited to one type of alert with the Gmail app.

Indeed, as of now, Gmail does not afford the opportunity to select different alert tones and notifications for each account, and this method will not only make that possible, but it will make it easier to include all of one’s Gmail accounts in the iPhone configuration, which can make sending photos and performing other functions easier.

UPDATE 12/17/2012: Google recently announced, “Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won’t be able to set up new devices using Google Sync.” That’s the bad news.

But the good news, according to Google, is that “existing Google Sync connections will continue to function. Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education. Users of those products are unaffected by this announcement.”

So, it appears that if users of the free Gmail or Google Apps platforms wish to set up push e-mail through Gmail platforms without using the app or IMAP, they should set those connections up by the end of January.