Android users can take advantage of Google’s major services right out of the box, but setting Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar up on your iPhone isn’t quite so clear. It’s worth doing right, though: with a little elbow grease you can have a setup that’s every bit as good. It’ll let you use the new Gmail app, which is a big improvement over the iPhone’s standard mail app and most other third-party options, and you’ll also get a better, simpler calendar and contacts setup — goodbye, weird duplicated events and endless birthday notifications. Plus, we’d swear that our battery life got a lot better as soon as we left Exchange and turned to our new setup.
The trick here is combining the Gmail app with two syncing protocols called CardDAV and CalDAV (don’t worry, you’ll never actually need to know what these are to get them to work). You’ll need an iOS device running version 5.0 or above to take advantage of these, but each offers better and more powerful integration with Google’s services than just tapping “Gmail” when you first set up your email accounts on your phone. Much like the momentary pain of digging into your Facebook privacy settings, the five or ten minutes spent setting up this system will save you email stress for months to come.
Part 1: Setup Gmail and Mail
If you haven’t already, download or update to the latest version of Google’s iOS Gmail app. With multiple account support, a full redesign, and infinite scrolling, it’s a massive update that will serve as the core of your iOS mail experience. To set up additional accounts in the app, simply tap the menu bar icon on the top left, and then the drop down at the top of the navigation list. From here, you can add up to five new Gmail accounts. Don’t forget to turn notifications on in the iOS Notifications (Settings > Notifications > Gmail).
But unfortunately, the Gmail app won’t take over all the emailing functionality on your iPhone. So you need to set up what amounts to a send-only Gmail account, for when you want to send a URL from Safari or a photo from your camera roll. Just go to Settings and scroll down to Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Tap Add Account and pick Gmail. Then enter your username and password, plus your name and a description for the account. On the next screen, make sure only Mail is set to “On.” Then go back to the Mail settings and tap on “Fetch New Data.” Scroll down to “Advanced,” and then tap on the account you just set up. Make sure Manual is selected — that makes sure the account will never retrieve data, but will still let you send emails when you want to.
Note that for these accounts, you’ll want to turn notifications off, otherwise you’ll be receiving updates from both Gmail and Apple’s Mail app.
Part 2: Syncing contacts with CardDAV
The second key part of the setup is managing your contacts. To sync your Google contacts with your phone, go to Settings in iOS and scroll down to Mail, Contacts, Calendars, tap Add Account... and then select Other. Choose Add CardDAV Account and enter "google.com" for the Server field, then enter your account credentials under Username (use your full email address) and Password. There’s a field where you can enter a description of the account if you like, and after you fill that out, tap Next and ensure that the Contacts toggle is enabled. Navigate back to the Contacts app, and once you enter it your contacts should start syncing right away.
Part 3: Selecting the Default Account
If you’ve got a previously configured iCloud account that syncs your contacts, you still have a few more steps. CardDAV needs to be designated as the Default Account if you want any new contacts you add to be synced with Google automatically, and to do that, make your way back to the Mail, Contacts, Calendars pane within the Settings app. Swipe down to the Contacts section and tap Default Account, which will only be visible if you’re syncing more than one. Finally, select your newly added CardDAV account, and your new contacts will sync with Google automatically after you’ve entered them.
Part 4: Syncing Calendars with CalDAV
The steps required to integrate Google Calendar with iOS are very similar — go to Settings and navigate down to Mail, Contacts, Calendars once again. This time, tap Add Account... and select Other, and then Add CalDAV Account. Just like above, you'll enter "google.com" for the Server field, your user name and password, and add an optional description. After clicking Next, navigate back to the Calendar app and the entries should appear shortly. To sync multiple calendars, go to this page and select the calendars you want to sync, then click Save. If you run into any problems, double check that SSL is enabled in both your CardDAV and CalDAV accounts.
With all of this configured and the new Gmail app for iPhone installed, you can now enjoy a similar level of integration with Google’s productivity ecosystem that Android users boast about. Go have some fun organizing your contacts — you've earned it.