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Using Mail and Calendar on your iPhone

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Christopher Breen shows you how to use iPhone's Mail and Calendar apps, as well as how to configure your iPhone to work with any number of other email clients.
This chapter is from the book

Seeking a less-immediate way to communicate than the phone or messaging? Can't figure out how to copy your notes and photos from your iPhone to a computer that's not synced with your iPhone or how to receive documents that you can view on your iPhone? Or is your life so tied to email that you can't stand to be away from your computer for more than a couple of hours? If so, you and the iPhone's Mail application are about to become best friends.

Portable email is a real boon, and so is knowing where you're supposed to be from one minute to the next. To help with the latter, the iPhone includes a Calendar application that lets you sync your schedule with your Mac or Windows PC, as well as create calendar events on the go. In this chapter, I explain the ins and outs of both applications.

Using Mail

Mail is a real email client, much like the one you use on your computer. With it, you can send and receive email messages, as well as send and receive a limited variety of email attachments. You can send photos or videos you've taken with your iPhone, for example, and receive and play such audio attachments as MP3, AAC, WAV, and AIFF. You can view received JPEG graphics files, text, and HTML; Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents; iWork Pages, Keynote, and Numbers files; and Adobe PDF documents. Regrettably, you can't edit any of the files you receive; they're read-only.

Mail is limited in some other ways:

  • Unlike all modern computer-based email clients, the iPhone has no spam filter and no feature for managing mailing lists.
  • You can't flag messages or apply rules that allow Mail to sort or copy certain messages (those from a particular sender, for example) into specific mailboxes.
  • Speaking of mailboxes, you can't create new mailboxes on the iPhone, either. Instead, you must create them on your computer or on the Web, and you can do so only with IMAP accounts; they'll appear in Mail after you sync the mail accounts on your computer with the iPhone.

The iPhone is capable of sending and receiving email over a Wi-Fi connection and a carrier's 3G and EDGE networks. Other than the speed of sending and receiving messages, there's no significant difference between running Mail over these networks. Note, however, that there's a big difference if you're using your phone overseas. Wi-Fi costs nothing extra, but carriers impose punitive roaming charges for using 3G and EDGE (for email or anything else) outside their coverage areas.

Now that you know what Mail can and can't do, you're ready to look at how to use it.

Creating an account

When you first synced your iPhone to your computer, you were asked whether you wanted to synchronize your email accounts to the phone. If you chose to do so, your iPhone is nearly ready to send and receive messages. All you may have to do now is enter a password for your email account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars setting.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Rather than start in the middle, with a nearly configured account, I'll start at the beginning so that you can follow the iPhone's account-setup procedure from start to finish. In the next few pages, I examine how to configure Exchange, Web-based (MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL), and IMAP and POP accounts.

Configuring an Exchange account

Let me take care of corporate readers first by outlining the steps necessary to create an Exchange account:

  1. Tap the Settings icon in the iPhone's Home screen and then tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap Add Account, and in the resulting screen, tap Microsoft Exchange.
  3. In the Exchange screen that appears, enter your email address, user name, password, and a description along the lines of Company Email.

    Your IT department or manager should be able to provide this info.

  4. Tap Next.

    The iPhone attempts to connect to the Exchange server.

    If the connection is successful, you're pretty well set. If it isn't, another Exchange screen will ask for the same information you provided before, as well as the server address. Again, the Exchange server administrator should be able to give you this information. The address in question here is the address of the front-end server—the one that greets your iPhone when it attempts to connect to the company server.

    When this information is configured properly, the iPhone attempts to log on to the server via a secure (SSL) connection. If it can't do so, it tries a nonsecure connection.

    If SSL isn't configured correctly, you can change those settings by tapping the name of your Exchange account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen; tapping Account Info; and flipping the SSL slider to On or Off, depending on how it should be configured.

  5. When you're prompted to choose the kinds of data—Mail, Contacts, and Calendars—that you want to synchronize between your iPhone and the Exchange server (Figure 4.1), flick the switch for those data types to On.

    Figure 4.1

    Figure 4.1 Choose the kind of data you want to sync with the Exchange server.

    By default, the iPhone synchronizes just three days' worth of email. If you need to store more email on your iPhone, select your Exchange account in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars screen; tap Mail Days to Sync; and choose a new number of days' worth of email to synchronize. Your options are No Limit, 1 Day, 3 Days, 1 Week, 2 Weeks, and 1 Month.

Configuring MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL accounts

The iPhone's designers made configuring one of these accounts really easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings icon in the iPhone's Home screen and then tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap Add Account, and choose MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or AOL.
  3. In the screen that appears, enter your name, the email address for this account, your account's password, and a descriptive name for the account—My Mighty MobileMe Account, for example.
  4. Tap Save.

Unlike its practice with other kinds of accounts, the iPhone doesn't demand settings for incoming and outgoing mail servers. It's intimately familiar with these services and does all that configuration for you. But you're welcome to muck with these more-arcane settings after you create the account, if you like (and I tell you how in the "Configuring further" section later in this chapter).

Configuring POP and IMAP accounts

If you're like a lot of people and have an email account through a "regular" ISP (one that provides email via a DSL or cable broadband connection, for example), you'll configure your iPhone this way:

  1. Tap the Settings icon in the iPhone's Home screen and then tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap Add Account.
  3. Tap Other.

    I ask you to tap Other because this option lets you set up email accounts for ISPs other than those listed above the Other entry. In the resulting screen, you have the option to add mail accounts (as well as server-based contacts and calendars, which I'll deal with later).

  4. Tap Add Mail Account.

    In the resulting New Account screen, enter the information for setting up a POP or IMAP account.

  5. Tap Name, and enter your real name (as opposed to your user name).
  6. Tap Address, and enter your email address (such as ).
  7. Tap Password, and enter the account's password.
  8. Tap Description, and enter a description of your account.

    I often use the name of my account for this entry—Macworld, for example.

  9. Tap Save to save your settings.

    The iPhone looks up the account settings you've entered. If you've set up an account for a common email carrier—Cox or BellSouth, for example—it checks your account and configures the server settings for you.

    If the iPhone can't configure your account, or if the Internet service provider (ISP) offers IMAP and POP accounts and doesn't know which kind you have, the New Account screen displays new options.

  10. Choose IMAP or POP.

    At the top of the screen, you see IMAP and POP buttons. Tap the appropriate button for the kind of account you have.

  11. Enter the host name in the Incoming Mail Server area.

    This information, provided by your ISP, is in the format

  12. Tap User Name, and enter the name that precedes the at (@) symbol in your email address.

    If the address is, for example, type bruno.

  13. Tap Password, and enter the password for your email account.
  14. Below Outgoing Mail Server, tap Host Name; then enter the appropriate text—which, once again, will be provided by your ISP, typically in the format
  15. Enter your user name and password again, if required.

    If these fields aren't filled in for you, copy this information from the Incoming Mail Server fields and paste it in here.

  16. When you've double-checked to make sure everything's correct, tap Save in the top-right corner of the screen.

    The configured account (Figure 4.2) appears in the list of accounts in the Mail Settings screen.

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 Configured email POP account.

Configuring further

Most people can stop right here and get on with mucking with Mail, but your email account may require a little extra tweaking for it to work. Here's how to do just that:

  1. Tap your account name in the Mail, Contacts, Calendar settings screen.
  2. If you'd like that account to appear in Mail's Accounts list, be sure that the Account slider is set to On.

    Why turn it off? Perhaps you've got a load of messages sitting on the server that you'd rather not download with your iPhone. Download those messages with your computer, delete them from the server, and then enable the account on your iPhone.

  3. Verify that the information in the account's settings fields is correct; if not, tap the field you want to edit and start typing.
  4. Tap the SMTP button to configure the outgoing server for your email account (see the sidebar "Out and About" for more details).
  5. Tap the Advanced button at the bottom of the screen, and in the resulting Advanced screen for POP accounts (Figure 4.3 on the next page), choose the options you want.
Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 A POP account's Advanced settings.

Use these settings to specify

  • The interval the iPhone will wait before it removes deleted messages from its Trash. Options are Never, After One Day, After One Week, and After One Month
  • Whether your account will use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protection to transmit and receive email
  • The kind of authentication your account requires (MD5 Challenge-Response, NTLM, HTTP MD5 Digest, or Password)
  • When you want email to be deleted from the server (options include Never, Seven Days, and When Removed from Inbox)
  • The incoming server port for your account

This information is individual enough that I'll leave it to your IT or ISP representative to tell you how to configure these options. Worth noting, however, is that you may be able to suss out these settings by looking at how the email client on your computer is configured.

For IMAP accounts, you have some different options in the Advanced window. You can choose which mailboxes will hold drafts, sent email, and deleted messages. You can choose when to remove deleted messages (Never, After One Day, After One Week, or After One Month). You can also turn on or off SSL (note that Yahoo Mail doesn't offer an SSL option). You can choose the same authentication schemes as your POP-using sisters and brothers. You can enter an IMAP path prefix—a path name required by some IMAP servers so that they can show folders properly. And you can change the incoming server port.

Understanding Mail, Contacts, Calendars behavior

Before I leave the Mail, Contacts, Calendar screen, I should examine the options that tell the Mail, Contacts, and Calendars applications how to behave (Figure 4.4).

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 Additional Mail settings.

View the bottom part of the screen, and you find these options below the Mail heading:

  • Fetch New Data. Thanks to the iPhone 2.0 and later software's Microsoft Exchange and MobileMe support, new data such as events, contacts, and email can be transferred (or pushed) to your phone automatically. You don't have to tell the iPhone to retrieve this data; retrieval just happens. When you tap Fetch New Data, you're taken to the screen of the same name, where you can switch off Push (Figure 4.5).
    Figure 4.5

    Figure 4.5 The Fetch New Data screen.

    Additionally, you find Fetch settings here. Fetch is essentially a scheduler for your iPhone; it tells the phone how often to go out and get information such as email messages from an account that can't push email, such as a POP account. (Fetch can also retrieve data from services such as MobileMe and Yahoo that push data but for which you've turned push off.) You can configure the iPhone to fetch data every 15 or 30 minutes, hourly, or manually.

    If you tap the Advanced button at the bottom of the window, you're taken to an Advanced screen, where you can determine how your various email accounts behave with regard to pushing and fetching. You can configure a MobileMe or Yahoo account with a Push, Fetch, or Manual option, for example. Accounts that don't support push can be configured only for Fetch or Manual.

  • Show. How many messages would you like Mail to display? Options include 25, 50, 75, 100, or 200 recent messages.
  • Preview. When you view message subjects within a mailbox in one of your Mail accounts, you see the first bit of text in each message. The Preview entry determines how many lines of this text you'll see: none, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 lines.
  • Minimum Font Size. This setting determines how large the text will be in your email messages: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, or Giant. Medium is good for most eyes, and it saves a lot of scrolling.
  • Show To/Cc Label. When this option is set to on, Mail plasters a To next to messages that were sent directly to you and a Cc next to messages on which you were copied.
  • Ask Before Deleting. When you set this option to on, if you tap the Trash icon to delete the message you're reading, you'll be asked to confirm your decision. If you swipe a message and then tap the red Delete icon that appears or use the iPhone's bulk-delete option, however, you won't be asked for confirmation.
  • Load Remote Images. Like the email client on your computer, the iPhone is capable of automatically showing you images embedded in messages. By default this option is on. If you routinely retrieve mail over a slow EDGE connection, you might consider turning it off, as your phone won't have to work to download this extra data.
  • Always Bcc Myself. If you're the kind of person who wants a copy of every message you send (but don't want the recipients of those messages to know), switch on this option. You'll get your copies.
  • Signature. Ever wonder where that proud Sent from My iPhone message comes from—the one that appears at the bottom of every message you send from your iPhone? Right here. As a new iPhone owner, you'll want to stick with this default message for a while, simply for the bragging rights. Feel free to tap this option later and enter some pithy signoff of your own.
  • Default Account. If you have more than one email account set up, this setting determines which account will send photos, videos, notes, and YouTube links. When you send one of these items, you can't choose which account sends it, so give this option some thought. You may discover that Wi-Fi hotspots are reluctant to send mail through your regular ISP's SMTP server, whereas Gmail accounts rarely have this problem. For this reason, you may want to make your Gmail account the default.

These Contacts settings appear next (Figure 4.6):

Figure 4.6

Figure 4.6 Additional Contacts and Calendar settings.

  • Sort Order. Tap this option to choose between sorting contacts by First, Last name or by Last, First name.
  • Display Order. Similar to Sort Order, this option lets you display your contacts as either First, Last or Last, First.
  • Import SIM Contacts. If you have another GSM phone that contains stored contacts on its SIM card, feel free to turn off both phones, extract the SIM card from the other phone, plunk it into your iPhone, and choose this command. Any contacts on that SIM card will be imported to your iPhone. If you have MobileMe and Exchange contacts on the phone, you'll be prompted to choose which of the two accounts to add them to.

Finally, you see these Calendar settings at the bottom of the screen:

  • New Invitation Alerts. This On/Off switch lets you view—or not—meeting invitations you've received (those pushed to you from an Exchange server, for example).
  • Time Zone Support. Tap this command, and you're taken to the Time Zone Support screen, where you can turn Time Zone Support on or off. Below that setting is an option to choose the time zone of a major city.

    When Time Zone Support is on, Calendar's events are shown in the time of the selected city. So, for example, you could choose London even if you're in San Francisco and see events in London time. Switch this option off, and events are shown in the phone's current location (which is determined by network time).

  • Default Calendar. Tap this command to choose a calendar where the iPhone will add events created outside the Calendar application.
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