After ActiveSync: Setup your iOS device to sync with Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts

Now that ActiveSync is going away, users will have to setup an iPhone or iPad to sync with Google Mail, Calendars and Contact using different protocols.

Many existing Google customers use Microsoft ActiveSync (a proprietary protocol) to sync Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts with mobile devices. As part of a "Winter cleaning" at the end of 2012, Google announced that consumers should use IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV to sync new mobile devices with Google Mail, Calendars, and Contacts. IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV are open protocols.

Go fetch

For iPhone and iPad users, a major difference between the two formats is "push" versus "fetch". Microsoft ActiveSync supports push, which enables the ability to receive information immediately. The open protocols support fetch, not push. The fastest "fetch" settings on iOS retrieve information every 15 minutes.

Fortunately, all existing devices that use ActiveSync with Mail, Calendar and Contacts will continue to work. And Google Apps for Business, Government and Education customers may choose to sync new mobile devices using either Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync or the open protocols.

But Gmail users that aren't on a Google Apps for Business, Government and Education account will need to configure new devices to sync with the open protocols.

New protocol setup

Here's how to setup an iPhone or iPad to sync with Google Mail, Calendars and Contact using IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV protocols.

1. Add Gmail account to sync Mail and Calendars

a. On your iPhone or iPad, go to: Settings | Mail, Contacts, Calendars | Add Account... | Gmail.

Add your Gmail account

You'll need to enter your name and a description of the account. Enter your name as you want it to display. For the description, any description that will remind you this is your Gmail account is fine (e.g., "Gmail").

Also enter your full Google or Google Apps email address and password. (Note: if you have 2-step authentication turned on, you'll need to generate and enter an application specific password. If you have more than one device, you should generate a new application specific password for each device.) Then, click the "Next" button to continue.

The system checks your credentials, displays checkmarks next to each item, then continues to the next screen.

Enable Mail and Calendar sync

b. Verify that Mail and Calendar sync are both on. If you use Notes, you may turn that on, as well. Then click the "Save" button.

c. Make sure that Mail and Calendar sync properly. Open the iOS Mail app: you should see your Gmail inbox messages appear. Then open the iOS Calendar app. Again, your calendar items should appear. A full sync may take several minutes.

2. Add a CardDAV account to sync Contacts

a. Go to Settings | Mail, Contacts, Calendars | Add Account... | Other

Choose 'Other' for additional sync protocols

Touch "Add CardDAV Account" to sync Contacts.

Sync your Contacts with CardDAV

Enter as the server. You'll again need to enter your full Gmail or Google Apps email address, password, and an account description. (If you have 2-step authentication turned on, you should generate an additional application specific password the device's CardDAV account.) Click the "Next" button to continue.

Enter your Google account info to sync with CardDAV

b. After the account is added, go to the iOS Contacts app to verify that Contacts sync properly. As before, a full sync may take a minute or two.

3. Adjust Fetch settings

You can choose how frequently your device fetches new information. On your iOS device, navigate to: Settings | Mail, Contacts, Calendars | Fetch New Data.

Change how often your device syncs Mail, Calendar or Contact information

Choose to fetch new data every 15 minutes, 30 minutes, hourly, or manually. Less frequent fetching of data saves battery life. Tap the "Advanced" button to specify unique fetch settings for each account (e.g., fetch new Mail and Calendar items every 15 minutes, and new Contact items hourly).

Adjust fetch times to save battery

4. Sync multiple calendars (if needed)

If you want to sync multiple Google Calendars to your iOS device, you may need to do a bit of additional setup.

a. Open the Safari browser on iOS and enter the following URL: Make sure to enter "https", not simply "http:". (Google Apps users will need to customize this and enter: Replace "" with your organization's domain — which is everything after the "@" sign in your email address.)

You will likely need to login with your full email address and password.

b. Choose the Calendars to sync to your device.

The list of all calendars to which you have access will display. Select the checkbox for every calendar to sync to your iOS device.

Choose Google Calendars to sync to your iOS device

c. Click the "Save" button on the lower right of the calendar sync web page.

d. Go to your iOS Calendar app. Click the "Calendars" button in the upper left.

In Calendars, touch the 'Calendars' button to choose which calendars display

e. Choose which Calendars display by tapping each calendar. Calendars with a checkmark will display.

Toggle displayed Calendars, as desired

That's it. You're all set to sync your Google Mail, Calendars, and Contacts with your iOS device using open protocols.

Also read:


Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

Editor's Picks