In this post I discuss some of the most common issues that arise when trying to use Gmail on your Windows Mobile phone.
IMAP vs. POP
There are two ‘languages’ (or protocols) that the phone can use to communicate with the Gmail servers. These protocols are called POP3 and IMAP4 and can be selected in the email setup wizard.
Generally speaking, if you are using Windows Mobile to access your Gmail account, you should use IMAP. The Gmail POP server has some well-known ‘quirks’ that often end up confusing users. Some of the more common POP-related issues are listed below.
Q. Messages that I mark as Read/Unread on the phone do not get updated on the Gmail website.
A. This is an inherent limitation of the POP protocol. IMAP does not have this limitation.
Q. Messages are being downloaded to my inbox but disappear the next time I synchronize.
A. This is because the Gmail POP server only reports back information about ‘new’ messages. The phone interprets the lack of information about old messages to mean that they were deleted from the server.
One workaround is to edit your username in the account settings wizard to use a format specific to Gmail POP accounts. Instead of the username email@example.com, enter the username "recent:firstname.lastname@example.org".
The addition of the "recent:" prefix informs the Gmail server that the phone wants information about all the messages from the past 30 days. Unfortunately this means that you won’t be able to read messages older than 30 days.
Q. Messages older than 30 days are being deleted from the phone even though I configured my account to download all messages.
A. See above.
Q. Messages that I send to others are showing up in my own inbox.
A. This is a quirk of the Gmail POP server. Some people prefer this behavior since it allows them to review messages they have sent.
IMAP vs. Windows Mobile 6.0
In WM 6.0, we implemented some features that made setting up an email account easier than ever. These included a revamped setup wizard and automatic setup for well-known email services.
However WM 6.0 shipped before Gmail unveiled IMAP access, so automatic setup creates a POP account.
To disable automatic setup, uncheck the box labeled "Try to get e-mail settings automatically from the Internet" on page one of the account creation wizard.
Some versions of Windows Mobile might not have this checkbox. In that case, you must perform a bit of trickery to fool the setup wizard. When asked for your email address, type a fake address that does not end in @gmail.com. After the account is created, edit the account settings, and enter the correct email address.
Have other Gmail questions or tips? Post a comment!