Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the TidBITS Content Network for Apple consultants.

Google Drops Google Sync for Most iOS Users

For a while now Google’s Help pages have been steering users away from using Google Sync, which uses Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync technology for mail, contact, and calendar syncing. Now the future picture of device syncing with Google services is clear, albeit not particularly rosy: in a page titled “Google Sync End of Life,” the company says, “Starting January 30, 2013, consumers won’t be able to set up new devices using Google Sync.” Instead, users are instructed to set up new devices using the following protocols for device syncing: IMAP for email, CardDAV for Contacts, and CalDAV for calendars.

For those who have already set up their devices to use Google Sync, the end of the world is being postponed indefinitely: Google states in the same document that the service will continue to work for existing Google Sync devices, and that Google Sync will continue to be offered to new users of Google Apps for Business, Education, and Government. (Note that we haven’t found a good way to convert a regular Gmail account to a Google Apps account.)

Though Google Sync has never progressed beyond beta status, on iOS it has been the only syncing method for Gmail accounts that provides push email to iOS devices; the open-standard IMAP service offered by Google does not. In the early days of iOS (before it was even known as iOS), device owners who wanted push email and who had both Gmail accounts and Exchange accounts (the latter perhaps through work or school) faced a difficult choice: the operating system allowed only one Exchange ActiveSync account per device, so device owners had to choose which account to use on their devices. Recent versions of iOS have provided for multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts on one device, so users could set up multiple Gmail and Exchange accounts on their devices and get push email through all of them. Those were the glory days.

And those days are coming to an end. In fact, those days are already over for Google Calendar users: Google Calendar Sync was made unavailable to new (non-paying) users on 14 December 2012, although it will continue to function for those who have already set it up on their devices. New users instead will have to set up CalDAV accounts to access their Google calendars on iOS devices. They can do that, of course, through the Gmail setup assistant on iOS as described in Google’s current Calendar Help document. Similarly, those who wish to sync their Google contacts on iOS via CardDAV can also use the Gmail setup on their devices as described in Google’s Contacts Help document, even though the Google Sync option for contacts still remains available to new users until the end of January 2013.

The fact that Google now supports open protocols for mail, contacts, and calendars is a good thing, of course, but that goodness is not unalloyed. As noted earlier, IMAP does not provide a push email capability, so iOS users will have to set up a fetch schedule for it on their devices to be alerted to new messages in a timely manner. And with CalDAV instead of Google Calendar Sync, new calendar invitations will be seen only when users open the Calendar app on their devices — CalDAV does not push them.

For those of you who have a new iOS device and want to receive push email from Gmail on it, time’s a-wastin’: you have until the end of January 2013 to set it up.


Backblaze is unlimited, unthrottled backup for Macs at $5/month.
Web access to files means your data is always available. Restore
by Mail allows you to recover files via a hard drive or USB.
Start your 15-day trial today! <>

Comments about Google Drops Google Sync for Most iOS Users
(Comments are closed.)

Bill Cole  2012-12-18 20:21
Actually IMAP does have a "Push" capability, (using the IDLE command) its just that iOS doesn't implement it for generic IMAP accounts. There is push for iCloud accounts, and it is possible that Apple is using ActiveSync there, but they could be using IMAP IDLE
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-18 20:25
IMAP IDLE is not feasible on a handheld device since it requires that the mail app maintain an always on connection to the server. Apple's Push Notification Servers use a different approach that is more battery friendly. I wrote about this, in fact, earlier this year: "How Apple Mail May Be Anything but IDLE when Pushing Email," 22 October 2012,
Steve Harmony  2012-12-19 17:37
My iPhone 4s is presently using Google Sync to sync with my Google Calendar. So I'm grandfathered in, but I wonder if there's any advantage to going to the open standard?
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-12-19 18:15
As far as I know, there are some advantages and drawbacks. The big drawback is that invitations are not pushed with CalDAV as they would be with Google Sync. The advantage is that using CalDAV via the Gmail setup on the iPhone means that calendar colors sync between Google and iOS instead of being randomly assigned.
Andreas Frick  2012-12-20 07:52
As far as I know, the MS Exchange protocol has not been totally disclosed. Google's step will enforce the development of imap extensions to incorporate push mail suitable for mobile devices. Maybe also Apple will drop support for exchange in future versions of iOS to enforce MS to better support of imap.
Jim Reardon  2012-12-22 22:40
I can offer one compelling reason to go with the open IMAP standard and forgo "push" e-mail:

Battery Life

Plain and simple. Unless you think of e-mail as a paging service, you should turn off push e-mail and all forms of notification. Your iPhone battery life will at least double, perhaps triple.

iMessage is good enough for those urgent notices. And it works well. If you insist on being interrupted by every bit of mail entering your e-mail Inbox, you need a different sort of help.
David Buckley  2013-01-07 20:07
Google Apps for Business is absolutely usable for a single person. You have the benefit of your own domain, as Google partners with webhosts like Enom and (awk!) GoDaddy, among others and you can convert to using Apps for business if using one of the existing host partners or switch if necessary pretty easily. Can be used for a sole proprietorship or just an individual who wants the benefit of Google's Service Level Agreement (guarantee of uptime) and really good customer support by phone, not just email/webform. Nice people actually answer the phone in a timely fashion and help when you have a problem.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-08 09:16
I think the problem is more that if you already have a free Google account that's associated with a Gmail address and whatnot, there's no way to convert that to a paid Google Apps account, thus forcing you to change your email address, which is a hassle.
David Buckley  2013-01-08 09:43
I was responding to: "no single-user option seems to be offered." The fact that you can't migrate to paid, moving your data and that you can't merge accounts is really bad, I agree. But using G-Apps for business for a sole-proprietorship is really viable and, I think, under sold and under utilized.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-08 10:17
Ah, yes, you're right, and I should just delete that phrase, since while Google Apps isn't aimed at the individual user, there's certainly nothing that prevents someone from using it that way.
Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-01-08 10:23
It's more complex than that from a usability point of view: while an individual user could use Apps that way, the description on the Google site does nothing to encourage the individual user to consider it as a viable option. Such a user would have to take a leap of faith in that regard.
David Buckley  2013-01-08 14:20
I agree that Da Big G does not encourage single users but I don't think they discourage it either. To me the real leap of faith is any webbish free mail account, Google, Yahoo, Hotmail/Outlook, etc..; I've heard tales of all of these services occasionally losing someones data. At least with G-Apps you can call a human and get real support as a paying customer. If you are only one you pays yer $50/year and you takes yer 25Gb web storage, real customer service and the ability to use all of the other services, with your own domain. Speaking from experience, the support is excellent and the SLA is quite adhered to with pro-rated refunds for downtime. You are, of course, your own administrator but it is reasonably straightforward. It's worth the cost, I believe.
damen pumps  2013-01-07 23:56
The Google Calendar app update adds a few new things.
First, you can now make a call, or go to a show place for an event directly from the notification of this event, as in the following screenshots. We expect this is just another example of freelander i20 catch up with rich Android notifications, introduced in 4.1.
Andrew Edsor  2013-01-08 01:02
For syncing of Calendars and Contacts without the help of iCloud or Google, and cross platform, fruux (sic) is well worth a look at.