How to Set Up Gmail on iOS Using Exchange ActiveSync

| How-To

Exchange Setup Gmail iOS

Gmail is an excellent free email service that can be configured automatically in iOS and OS X. Using the built-in “Gmail” option in iOS sets up Gmail with the IMAP protocol, but there is a better method.

IMAP is a great email protocol and a large improvement over legacy POP services, but there are some problems with using Gmail via IMAP, including duplication of draft messages when stored on the server and relatively slow push of new messages.

A better alternative is Exchange ActiveSync, which Google licensed from Microsoft in 2010 for use on mobile platforms that connect to Google’s services. Since then, iPhone users have had the option to set up access to their Google email, contacts, and calendars via Exchange, a platform that provides relatively faster push of emails and solves most of the quirkiness of Gmail on IMAP.

Gmail Exchange Setup iPhone

To set up Gmail with Exchange, unlock your iOS device and head to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account. Select “Microsoft Exchange,” enter your Gmail email address and password in the correct fields, and press “Next.”

Gmail Exchange Setup iPhone

On the next screen, enter in the “Server” field and reenter your Gmail email address in the “Username” field. Leave the “Domain” field blank. When all the information has been entered, press “Next.”

Gmail Exchange Setup iPhone

If your Gmail address and password were entered correctly, you’ll be presented with your syncing options, which include Mail, Contacts, and Calendars. Turn on or off any features that you want to have access to on your iOS device and press “Save.”

Gmail Exchange Setup iPhone

Your Gmail email, contacts, and calendars will now be added to your iOS device and integrate with the built-in apps. You’ll notice faster push email and you’ll be able to sync stored drafts and sent messages on the Gmail servers. You’ll also notice that the “Archive” button for emails has been replaced with a more traditional trash can. Depending on your perspective and how you like to handle deleting or archiving email messages, this is either a good or bad change.

IMAP is a great email protocol and is often the only option for many email accounts. For Gmail users on iOS, however, Exchange may be a better choice and will make your Gmail experience on iOS less frustrating.

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John C. Welch

One thing to keep in mind with Exchange ActiveSync and Gmail is that this won’t sync reminders, which normally is an Exchange ActiveSync feature. This is a Google decision, not a limitation of either iOS or Exchange ActiveSync.

Nicholas Furness

You also don’t get to Flag messages in iOS 6 using Exchange with GMail. This wasn’t a problem in iOS 5.

John C. Welch

Google changed something then. I’ve three Exchange ActiveSync accounts, and on the non-google ones, I can flag messages.

Nicholas Furness

I don’t think that they have.

I have two Exchange Activesync accounts. In iOS 5 I can flag on both accounts. In iOS 6, not on the Google one. I can test and reproduce this side-by-side and have filed a bug report with Apple.

It’s possible Google changed something, but they were clever about it if they did to only target iOS 6.

Ben Rosenthal

The flags fix is to not skip the Domain field. Instead, enter Google or, but not Also, ensure your full email address is your username, even for accounts. You can now flag again.

Nicholas Furness

Ben: Thank you! That worked perfectly.

I’ll update my bug report (12376526). It *does* seem to behave differently in iOS5 than iOS6 (iOS5 doesn’t have my domain configured), but that gets me working again.

If I could buy you a beer, I would smile


Yes the Archive is replaced by a delete, but Google will still just archive your messages unless you go into the Google Sync prefs and change it.  Details here:

Ben Rosenthal

Thanks, Nicholas. I appreciate the sentiment. I don’t drink alcohol, though.

Yes, iOS 5 didn’t require Domain and username could be sans domain.

Patrick Fergus

Don’t forget you can configure some additional settings by visiting this website on your iPhone (and iPad?) such as “Send Mail As”, “Delete Email as Trash”, and additional calendars to sync.

- Patrick


If you put google in domain name, you can flag in your IOS device. But the flag wouldnt sync with the gmail.


Hi, it worked ok first a few hours it then started having the screen freeze and crashing back. I am on 4s, ios 6, and gmail added as exchange syn. it only plays up with mail function.

Dave Hamilton

We got an email from Jonathan about this article, specifically relating to deleting from Gmail without moving to the trash folder (and therefore uncategorizing as spam). Jonathan wrote:

“There is a much easier way than going to the Gmail interface. From within, go to your gmail spam folder and select all of the messages (e.g. press Cmd-A). To delete them all immediately (without moving them to the Trash folder), press Cmd-Option-Delete.

I’ve been doing it this way for more than a year, allowing me to never use the gmail web interface, and gmail has never “learned” anything bad from it (i.e. it still catches virtually all spam).”

Thanks, Jonathan!


I have setup my gmail on my iPhone using iOS6 using the “Exchange” method and mail and contacts synch as advertised. No issues there.
I am however unable to create new mail folders or edit my existing mail folder names using the “Exchange” setup.  I recieve “The mailbox couldn’t be renamed on the server” for example.
Is this a limitation of the exchange setup or something I am doing wrong.
Any advice or recommendation would be appreciated.


This doesn’t seem to be a new issue, David, as someone posted about it to an iLounge forum in June, which would have been on iOS 5. As I don’t have a non-Gmail Exchange account to test, I don’t know if it’s a bug with Google or iOS. I recommend reporting it to Apple and also searching Gmail help forums for others discussing.


I recently set up my gmail account in Exchange for push notification. Previously, I had it set up through gmail on my iPhone and iPad.  I can see all of my folders (or labels I guess they’re called on gmail) that I set up on my computer but I am not able to access any of that information through exchange (it is easily accessible through gmail).  I need to access that info on my ios device as well as on my computer.  Is there a way to access it through exchange or do I need to go back to gmail on my phone and ipad?


Socrrobinl: Did you set which Mail Folders to Push in the account’s settings on your iOS devices? That may be the next step.


I did that first after reading about it and hoped that was the answer. It wasn’t. Emails that I have labeled still did not come through on my phone. Very annoying. So if I save something under a specific label on my computer at work, I don’t seem to be able to retrieve it on my ipad at home—unless I set up my mail under gmail.  I keep thinking there must be a way to retrieve it using Exchange but so far no luck.


My guess is that this is related to the bug with creating mailboxes/labels.


I went back and tried again. Success!  Had to change mail days to sync to - no limit.  Once I did that, the push notifications all worked! Yay!

David Yu

When I follow the above instructions, I get an error message connection to the server failed, despite being able to log in using gmail app. Is there something I need to do differently? I have the most recent iOS and iPhone 5


Hi David -

Besides perhaps Google Apps for Business users, Google has turned off the ability to connect to Gmail through Exchange. So, you should instead set up your accounts as regular Gmail using the built-in settings on your device.

David Yu

Thanks earthsaver. I also found out tht google stopped providing access via exchange. Here’s a link for why and what the alternative is which worked for me now!topic/gmail/UZeItoct_5g[276-300-false]


Activesync is great but it has one important limitation, which that it doesn’t give you access to public folders or anything outside your mailbox, such as the global address list.

Fortunately there are other solutions that give you calendar and contact sync public folders to iPhone.  They allow you to sync items into your mailbox, where Activesync can pick them up and bring them to your mobile device.

Andrew J Baumiller

Thank you Ben! You’re a rock star - filling in the domain field with fixed the flagging issue. It doesn’t appear that you can use multiple color flags but it’s a big step forward. Again, thank you for your tip/fix!

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