MobileMe and Exchange alternatives for the iPhone using Google Apps

iPhoneAs a photographer who spends a lot of time on the road, the iPhone has been a big blessing with its window to the web capabilities.  During my pre-iPhone life I never had to worry about keeping things like email, calendars and address books in sync — because I worked off of one computer.  Now that I have this terrific tiny top computer, keeping things in sync became a high priority to avoid the digital stress of duplication.

Looking into my options to accomplish this there was Mobile Me for $99 per year, purchasing a Exchange account for $120 per year, or the solution I finally settled on — Google Apps — for free. 

After a lot of experimentation, I have figured out a push-like wireless sync solution for iCal to Google Apps to iPhone calendar, and a wired sync solution for Address Book to Google Apps to iPhone contact list, along with IMAP email support.  All hosted at my business email address. (NOTE: UPDATED INFO ON THIS HERE.  GOOGLE APPS NOW SUPPORTING EXCHANGE PUSH SYNC!)

Here is what I did:

NOTE:  For the below steps to work, you will need to have administrative access to the MX records of your website.  OR you can just follow the steps with a Gmail account – but then you don’t get the benefit of keeping your business email address.

Email Sync:

1.  Sign up for a Google Apps account here by clicking on the blue button on the upper right hand side of the screen.  Google Apps allows you to keep your business email address, but have it hosted through Google.  There is a step-by-step guide here on how to get started with the setup.  Once this process is complete, Google is now acting as the host of your business email.  With Google mail you have the choice of enabling POP or IMAP email.  Choose IMAP, which allows you to mark a message as read on any device (your iphone or smart phone, your computer or web based mail) and it will be marked as read on all other devices reading the IMAP account.  Brilliant.

2.  Set up your local email client to access your new IMAP account.  This will work whether you are using Mac Mail, Entourage or Outlook.  Instructions of how to do this for your specific email client are on the Google Apps help page here.

3.  If you want to take the process one step further, you can upload all of your old emails that live locally on your computer hard drive to the cloud.  It took me almost a whole day on a fast connection to upload the last ten years of correspondence to the cloud, but it was well worth the wait.  No more worry about backing up some of my most valuable data – my emails.

4.  If you have an iPhone you will want to connect it to your computer at this point, open up iTunes and un-check “sync mail accounts” as you see below:

iTunes Settings
iTunes Settings

5.  Set up your iPhone for to access your new Google Apps account.  Instructions here.

6.  Now – If you just need your emails to sync across multiple platforms, you can stop at this point.  Mission accomplished.  However, if you want your address book and calendar to sync to Google Apps and your computer, read on…

Address Book to Google Apps to iPhone Contacts via wired Sync:

7.  Assuming you have all your contacts in Apple’s address book (if you are an Entourage user like myself, you will need to enable sync services in Entourage preferences to accomplish this, if your in Outlook I can’t help you) you can find full instructions on how to set up the tree way wired sync here.

iCal to Google Apps Cal to iPhone Cal via wireless push sync:

8.  To set up over the air synchronization between your new Google Apps calendar and your iCal calendar you need to set your iCal calendar to function as a CalDav calendar.  Instructions here.  What CalDav enables you to do is wirelessly sync iCal with Google Calendar.  Brilliant.  Unfortunately there is not yet CalDav support for the calendars on the iPhone – not Brilliant.  Here is the workaround…

9.  Sign up for a free Nuevasync account here.

10.  Follow the directions on the Nuevasync site to sync your iPhone calendar over the air to your Google Apps calendar.  Nuevasync acts as an intermediary exchange server for the iPhone, enabling wireless push type syncing to be possible.  Thanks Nuevasync!

2 thoughts on “MobileMe and Exchange alternatives for the iPhone using Google Apps”

  1. You can also try a new iPhone app called Sync In A Blink. It syncs your contacts directly to your Gmail account from your iPhone without having to sign up for an account with a separate website.
    I’ve tried it and it works. It’s simple to setup.
    Give it a try.

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