Push options for iPhone email
On the hunt for better iPhone email
Lab Notes March 16th, 2009
By Roger Howorth

Over the last few years the Apple iPhone has changed our expectations of how a mobile phone should look and work. But while the iPhone comes with an exceptionally good web browser and a range of other software, years after its launch the options for push email are still disappointing.

Blackberry was the first major vendor to offer successful push email products on mobile devices. Many people value push email on mobiles because it means your phone is updated as soon as new email arrives in your inbox. Without push email, the phone must “dial home” every few minutes to see if new mail has arrived. This dialling home operation can result in excessive Internet access charges, particularly when the phone is using a foreign Cellular network.

Although push email is available for the iPhone, they do not use open-source standards such as IMAP “Idle”.  Instead, the current options use Microsoft Active Sync  based protocols. While this should not be a problem, the current options all seem to have shortcomings in the way they work.

For example, if you read an email in your desktop email software, such as Outlook, the email is still shown as “unread” by MobileMe on your iPhone.

Currently, a free Yahoo email account seems to be the best option for push email to the iPhone. Unfortunately Yahoo does not provide IMAP access, and although you can setup folders and file your mail into them using a web browser, mail in those folders is not shown on the iPhone.

Mail system Plus points Bad points
Yahoo Free No IMAP access so can’t organize mail into folders
Apple MobileMe The official Apple option Costs £60/year. Does not synchronise read marks with desktop email software

This table lists the current options for iPhone push email. We’ll be updating this page as new options come to market.

Related article: iPhone gets new Push option

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