It is 2011, and your email and calendar are no longer limited to your desktop computer. Our mobile phones, tablets, and portable gaming devices allow us to check email, send messages, schedule events, and review our contacts on the go, at any time of the day. If you are a Google Apps users, the two best ways to access your mail, contacts, and calendar are through the browser-based Gmail App or by syncing your mobile email client with your Google Apps account.Notes: This post was first published in TechRepublic's Google in the Enterprise blog.
The latest ComScore report shows that the top three most popular smartphone operating systems are Android, Apple's iOS, and RIM (the OS used by BlackBerry).
This blog post will cover the setup and use of Gmail and Calendar on Android, Apple, and RIM devices. There are instructions for other devices on Google's Mobile web site.
The Gmail and Calendar Web App
The fastest way to access your Google Apps messages and calendar events is to open your phone's browser and navigate to m.gmail.com. After you sign on with your full username and password, you will have access your mobile formatted Mail, Calendar, Docs, Search, Maps, and other application associated with your Google account.
The web app for mail features fast mailbox search, conversation grouping of messages, and colored label visibility for messages. You can perform various actions on your messages, such as responding, starring, forwarding, labeling, archiving, and deleting. You can't add attachments, but you can view most attachment files in the browser.
Source: Gmail for mobile
You can also view your calendar in the browser by going to calendar.google.com or selecting the Calendar tab at the top of your Gmail app. By using the Calendar in your mobile browser, you can view your schedule, create events, invite guest, and respond to event invitations. You can also display multiple calendars that you have been given access to, with each calendar appearing as separate colored blocks.
If you use the Mail and Calendar web apps regularly, save the link as an icon on your home screen for quick access.
What's good about the Browser App
Using the browser app is by far the easiest way to connect to your mail and calendar. The only setup involved is signing in with your username and password. This user interface is especially nice on Android and Apple devices. The "floaty bar," which follows the users as they move through their messages, is a great new feature.
Source: Gmail for mobile
A recent release of the UI even incorporates Google Plus into the mobile apps experience. Of course, Google Plus it not yet available to Google Apps users, but once it is, this integration will be helpful.
If a friend needs to check their Google account on your phone, it's easy to let them sign in via the browser app.
Drawbacks of the Browser App
The major drawback of the browser app is that it does not render the same on all mobile devices and operating systems. The interface is great for Android and Apple devices, but it's limited for Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows devices. If you do not have an Android or Apple device, you can't add labels or access the priority inbox.
There are also no Push Notifications or alerts about new messages. This is a blessing for some people who have the discipline to check their email once or twice a day, but it can be troubling for those who like instant email gratification.
The other important drawback is that you can only be signed into one account at a time. If you have multiple email accounts, it is recommended that you use IMAP or GoogleSync to connect your accounts via your phone's mail client.
If you want to sync your phone's native web client, calendar, and contact book with your Google Mail and Calendar account, then Google Sync is for you. The data that syncs differs depending on the device you are using.
If you have an iPhone, you can sync your mail, contacts, calendar events, as well as turn on Push Notification. This sync feature is built into Android devices — you enter your Google account and password upon phone setup, and then your mail, contacts, and calendar are automatically synced. BlackBerry users can use the sync tool for contacts, but they need to set up an IMAP connection for syncing their mail.
Fun fact, Google Sync actually uses the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol to connect to your messages, events and contacts.
What's good about Google Sync
Google Sync instantly syncs your phone's email application, calendar, and contacts with your Google account. You can get Push Notifications so you instantly know when you receive a new email or have been invited to a new event via Google Calendar. You do not need to be online or have a 3G connection to view your data if you set up Google Sync.
While you can only manage one account using the Google Sync protocol, you can connect other accounts to your device using IMAP. This way, you can keep track of your personal and work messages by using your device's calendar and mail.
What's bad about Google Sync
If you are using Google Apps for Business, your administrator can disable Google Sync for your domain.
Google Sync is still in beta, and while many of the bugs and known issues of the past year have been remedied, some still remain. Several of these issues involve the behavior of deleted messages, access to secondary calendars, and repeating event issues. You can read about the known issues for your operating system by going to the setup page for your device.
Setting up Google Sync
To set up Google Sync, follow the specific instructions listed for your device. Remember to enter your full Google Apps email when asked for a username.
The best of both worlds
You are not restricted from using both the web application and Google Sync to access your Google account. Perhaps you want to use the web app when you are online, and then use Google Sync to access your content when you don't have a connection.
Susan Cline is the Director of Training and Change Management at Google Apps Parter Ltech. She is also the author of several Google Apps courses on Lynda.com. Visit Susan at her website http://susancline.com/ or follow her on Twitter @GoogleAppsSusan.