• GMail Push Using Google Sync

    image via Google

    I'm a heavy Google products user. Though I sort of instinctively mistrust the way Google is becoming more and more sort of a SkyNet with its tentacles into everything (Google Shopping? really?), I do move around a fair amount for my work, and so it's really useful for me to have easy access to my docs, calendar and email, etc. from anywhere I can get connected.

    Back in February, we got "Google Sync," which used Microsoft ActiveSync technology to keep your Google and iPhone contacts and calendars synchronized. And more recently, the folks at the Googleplex have extended that to enable push Gmail on your iPhone. I decided to give it a try.

    Google suggests that you begin by doing an iTunes sync of your phone so your data is backed up. This is an excellent idea, as you'll see.

    To set up Google Sync, you just need to add a Microsoft Exchange account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen under Settings (note: you can only add one Exchange account, so if you already have one on your phone, you can't take advantage of this hack). Put your full [email protected] address under Email, and leave Domain blank, and enter your full email address again under Username. Enter your password and tap Next.

    Google says you may see an Unable to Verify Certificate warning if you use "googlemail.com," but I use gmail.com and i saw it anyway... and I also see it again every time I go on a different WiFi network. If you see this warning, click Accept, and a Server field will appear on the Exchange setup screen: enter m.google.com and tap Next.

    The next screen will allow you to choose which Google services you want to keep synced, and whether you want to delete your existing Contacts or keep them on your iPhone. I chose to keep mine so I could evaluate what I got and what had changed.

    When the sync completed, I checked my Contacts list. My friends' Google pictures were also imported with their contact info, which was kind of cool (but of questionable usefulness: I know what my friends look like!), which was an easy way to tell what was Google and what was original I realized that some of my duplicated contacts had information split across them: email address on the Google Sync import, phone number on the iPhone contact.

    What I did to clean it up was revert to my original, backed up Contacts list in iTunes, and selected the "Sync Google Contacts" option under the Info tab. This gave me the option to merge my existing contact information with what I had on Google.

    To enable push notification, then, all you have to do is set the “Fetch New Data” option under Mail, Contacts, Calendars to “Push."

    The real-time notifications are cool, and I like the fact that Google Sync keeps my data consistent on all the various devices (my MacBook, my ThinkPad, and my iPhone) I use throughout my work and personal life. Unfortunately, though, the power draw of this feature, combined with what appear to be very real ongoing iPhone battery issues, make it impractical to keep this function on all the time. Just in standby mode, no calls or anything, my battery was down to half by the evening.

    If the power issue is resolved, Google Sync is a really handy tool for keeping your contact and calendar info organized. As it is, though, it makes me have to be too aware of my battery status to be more than a nuisance, and having to intentionally enable and disable the function pretty much defeats the purpose of a background sync.
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