Why does Gmail on the iPhone suck so badly?

While I’m the first to admit that I’m not some sort of digitally enhanced road warrior — in fact, I prefer not to travel — I definitely have appreciated the nice Google Gmail mobile application that the company made available to us Blackberry users. Between it and Gmail accessed in a computer’s Web browser, the two were in perfect sync and it was easy to keep an eye on my Gmail mailbox without trouble.
Switching over from a Blackberry Pearl to an Apple iPhone, however, the last thing I thought I’d experience was a completely dysfunctional Gmail client for the iPhone. Yet that’s exactly what I have…

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: when I go to my Gmail account on my Mac, I see that there are 14 threads, of which six are new. Unthread it (or imagine it’s unthreaded) and I have 38 individual messages across those fourteen threads.
If I go to Gmail on the iPhone via the Safari browser, I see the same data: that is, of course, in sync with the regular Web-based version because, well, it is the Web-based version.
Set up Google Gmail for the iPhone, however, and it’s in some sort of weird twilight zone, dragging messages I sent or received months ago (and that are not in my inbox) back into the daylight and generally having zero relationship with my current Gmail configuration.
On my iPhone, in the iPhone mail application, it’s showing 198 messages, ranging from the very latest that I also have on the Web-based version to messages I sent out in April of this year. Even more ominously, the very last slot shows: Load 50 More Messages… and indicates that there are 391 messages, 391 messages unread.
What the heck?
There are some (completely undocumented) settings I can change with the Gmail account setup on the iPhone, notably Deleted Messages / Remove and Delete from server / When removed from inbox, but neither seems to affect the weird lack of sync I’m seeing.
And yet, when I searched for “iPhone Gmail” I didn’t find anyone else complaining about the complete screwiness of Gmail on the iPhone, so I’m not sure what gives here. Is it possible that this is conscious, deliberate, planned behavior for this email system?
I’ll say one thing, it’s the first major glitch and software bug I’ve found on this otherwise fun and way-cool new phone and handheld computer…

23 comments on “Why does Gmail on the iPhone suck so badly?

  1. It could be that the app is using the GMail POP access… in which case it wants to download the whole account (Archived and Inbox) but it will probably catch up over time…

  2. This pisses me off to no end. I wish my gmail on my PC and my gmail on my iPhone could get on the same page about things and communicate on some level. I hate having every email I send on my iPhone pop up as a new email once I send it. That’s what an outbox is for, not my inbox.

  3. This post describes a procedure to access a GMail account on your iPhone and (a) specify a FROM address which has a domain other than @google.com and (b) prevents the iPhone from reading ALL recent email, whether read, archived or already deleted!
    Problem: iPhone doesn’t honour any of your FROM settings configured at GMail — it locks down the domain to either Yahoo! GMail or AIM, depending on which of the pre-configured accounts you choose to set up. The solution is to set up an “Other” type of POP accessible account, first to a non Yahoo! GMail or AIM account and then to edit in the GMail details after the fact.
    Assumptions: You have a work email account inside a protected network forwarding mail to your GMail account. You have enabled POP access at GMail and specified a default FROM address for new email and for replies to emails sent through this account — presumably your work email address. You access this GMail account outside the protected network on a mobile device where new emails and replies are delivered using your work email address as the “FROM” address — so that responses will go back to your work account.
    Alternatively: You similarly forward mail from a personal email account through GMail to (a) use GMail as a free web accessible archive, (b) as a spam filtering device or (c) name your favourite reason for doing this here. You access this GMail account on a mobile device and want all your replies and new mail to say that it came FROM your personal email account, not from GMail.
    The Solution …
    1. On the iPhone create an “other” type of POP3 accessible email account (not Yahoo! GMail nor AIM) …
    Settings>Mail>Add Account>Other
    Choose “Pop” out of IMAP, POP and Exchange buttons.
    For the “Account Information” give your real “Name” and for your “Address” give the FROM address you really want to use and then under “Description” write anything you please to remind you of what this account setup is. The key here is that you can now specify a FROM “Address” which is NOT locked down to Yahoo!, GMail or AIM.
    Enter real POP accessible details which are neither Yahoo! GMail nor AIM — or simply fudge ALL the username, password, Incoming Mail Server and Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) details and wait (a very long time) for the authentication to fail after hitting the “Save” button. For example …
    Incoming Mail Server …
    Host Name my.inbox.com
    Username me@inbox.com
    Password pass
    Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) …
    Host Name my.inbox.com
    Username me@inbox.com
    Password pass
    2. After you have either authenticated or failed to authenticate the email servers you gave in step 1 above, you can now go back and edit in the details you need to access your GMail account …
    Incoming Mail Server …
    Host Name pop.gmail.com
    Username your.name@gmail.com
    Password yourPassword
    Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP) …
    Host Name smtp.gmail.com
    Username your.name@gmail.com
    Password yourPassword
    Now click on “Advanced” and make sure that “Incoming Uses SSL” is on, that “Outgoing Uses SSL” is also on and that “Authentication” is set to password.
    3. A benefit of doing things this way is that under the Settings>Mail>Account Description>Advanced you no longer have the option to leave “Use Recent Mode” on — which causes the iPhone to recall “recent” messages even if they’ve been read and archived.

  4. EASIER solution
    foward your mail to a fresh new account. then set up that account w/ your iphone..it wont load your archives if there isnt any.

  5. After trying every conceivable, the best Gmail/iPhone solution I have found:
    1. Get a free IMAP AOL email account.
    2. Create a new Other account.
    3. Enter your Gmail email address in the Address box.
    4. In the Incoming: imap.aol.com and AOL info
    5. In the Outgoing: smtp.gmail.com and Gmail info
    6. Forward all/some Gmail emails to your AOL account.
    This gets rid of the endless new messages coming into your Inbox. And it allows you to use IMAP folders as well!

  6. This is all well and good, but what if you use the unique gmail features like tagging and archiving. These have become key to my workflow in the last two years I’ve used gmail.
    I suppose the only solution is access via web, but even my V-cast phone will use gmail’s simple mobile interface that gives you access to tags, etc.
    Surely a dedicated Gmail app is needed for iPhone.
    This is the one iPhone show-stopper for me. I wish I could buy one! 🙁
    – John

  7. To Peter Knox’s comment. You can prevent sent email from showing up in your inbox. I agree, that feature is pretty lame.
    Tap Settings on the iPhone’s Home screen.
    Go to Mail.
    Now tap Accounts.
    Choose your Gmail account.
    Tap Advanced.
    Make sure Off is selected under Use Recent Mode.
    Tap Save.

  8. If I delete a message on the iPhone can it be reflected back on the gmail webmail server??? or if I delete an email in my mail application will it be updated on my iPhone? Driving me nuts trying to figure this out….help anyone?

  9. Now GMail has proper iMap support – you can access your GMail account efficiently with the iPhone’s built-in mail client.
    And using GMail’s add other accounts feature – you can collect your POP3 email using GMail!

  10. Hi all. The reason why the IPhone does show old messages instead the newest ones on top of the list seems to be a big date versus month bug. I observed that the MONTH of the messages shown are always equal and older than the current DAY. For example today is the 8th of November so IMAP on the Iphone will show all Messages until August. but no newer ones. Simply Day and Month are switched while deciding which messages to show es newest. Except Messeges labeled with yesterday etc, they are sometimes shown.
    I assume that is a Google bug. A very annoying one!!!

  11. Hi, im (sort of) glad to see that I’m not the only who cant believe how bad gmail is on the iPhone, a few months back i lost my nokia n series and as the iphone was coming out soon, i bought a cheap pay as you go mobile �40.
    On this cheap, crappy phone i downloaded ‘Mail by Google’ a free app by google. Although not perfect by any means, it was actually better than every single way I have tried using my gmail on my new iphone, and that includes gmail via pop on apple’s mail on iphone, which sucks, gmail via iphone safari which sucks even more, especially as when you go to compose a mail the compose box is tiny and you can hardly see what you’re writing and finally using this rather vague Google app that is free on the iPhone app store which is just a slightly easier wat to start up the iphone safari gmail mentioned earlier.
    Im a totally staggered that theres no REAL NATIVE GMAIL APP on the iPhone at all yet. One that reflects all the functionality and ease of use thats so good about the REAL WEB VERSION. Which reminds me, when you access your gmail on safari on iPhone, why does it change into an unrecognisable version from the normal version? Is the Iphone technically limited and therefiore cant run the normal gmail, is it something to do with AJAX programming.. any experts out there?
    Anyway its all terrible, my humble solution for now: To purely read new mail via POP on Apple’s iPhone mail then respond when I get back to a normal computer (PC or MAC!) Come on Google sort it out, with all your trillions of � you could get a hot web developer to knock up this small but significant app over night!
    Sorry for the long post but I had to vent my frustrations!

  12. Good question, Dan. At this point, running iPhone firmware 2.1 which supposedly has all sorts of improvements for Gmail, I am finding that the Gmail mobile interface is just fine for me. I bookmarked it, moved the bookmark onto my “desktop” on the phone (what the heck do they call it? The main screen?) and it’s just fine…

  13. Hello All:
    I am having a completely different issue. When I try to reply (maybe even send) an e-mail on my gmail, using my iPhone, it shows the round arrow (which denotes message has been replied to). However, when I go to my Sent Mail it does not show any message being sent.
    Moreover, when I log on to GMail on my computer, there is absolutely no record of me ever having sent a message!!!
    Please help me understand this.

  14. Try setting your gmail account o. iPhone as a Microsoft exchange account … I am using it and it works perfect push and auto sync are functioning perfectley and when I delete a message on iPhone it does delete the message from server and when I read one it does mark it as Read on server plus you can set it to sync with iPhone calender and contacts as well !!! Gmail on iPhone rock they are just a perfect combination just use the professional settings google set gmail as a Microsoft exchange account on iPhone

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