Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

How to use Google Sync without using Exchange

Screenshot of the google mail setup screen on iPhone In a blog post on its official blog called ‘Winter cleaning‘, Google announced that it was shutting down some of its services. They are all features which have either been replaced with something (supposedly) better, or are only used by a small number of people and are therefore not worth keeping. This includes Google Sync, which allows the use of Microsoft Exchange protocols for synchronising Gmail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar.

Unfortunately, Exchange is what myself and a number of others use on the iPhone, as it’s the easiest way to synchronise mail, contacts and calendars at the same time. Now Google isn’t dropping Exchange support completely – users of Gmail and free Google Apps accounts (which recently closed to new sign-ups) can continue using it but won’t be able to set it up on new devices; paid Google Apps users will be able to carry on with no problems.

But it’s clear that Exchange support is not a priority for non-paying users like me and so it’s probably best to look at alternatives. Google is, refreshingly, pushing open standards instead – IMAP for email, CalDAV for calendars and CardDAV for contacts. Luckily for iPhone users like me, Apple supports all three, although Windows Phone users aren’t so lucky.

So, here’s how to replace your Exchange-based Google settings with IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV:

Step 1: Remove the Exchange account

Open Settings, choose Mail, Contacts and Calendars, select your Google Account which is using Exchange, and then select Delete Account. This will remove all contacts, calendars and emails that have been synchronised so I would ensure you have backed your phone up first, just in case there are any problems.

Step 2: Set up a new Gmail account

You should now add your Gmail account in the standard way, by choosing ‘Add Account’ in Mail, Contacts and Calendars and then tapping the Gmail logo. This will set up email and calendar sync, using IMAP and CalDAV respectively, but not contacts.

Step 3: Set up a CardDAV account to synchronise contacts

Going back to the ‘Add Account’ screen, tap ‘Other’ and then ‘Add CardDAV Account’. In server, enter ‘google.com’, your Google Account username and password, and a description – I called mine ‘Google Contacts’.

Now, open the Mail, Contacts and Calender apps on your iPhone in turn to download the data again, which may take a couple of minutes. And then that’s it – you should be back to where you started.

If you find that some of your calendars are missing, open Mobile Safari and browse to https://www.google.com/calendar/syncselect – this will allow to select which calendars are synchronised over CalDAV. The changes will take effect the next time you open the Calendars app, after a few seconds.

These instructions are a bit long-winded and it would be nice if the iPhone’s Gmail support included Contacts as well (which would make step 3 unnecessary). However, considering Apple’s uneasy relationship with Google of late I can’t see this being a priority for them, especially as these features duplicate Apple’s iCloud.

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