Ronny Lam

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Google Apps and Sync on iOS

Yesterday I posted that Google is sunsetting ActiveSync for consumers as part of their Wintercleaning. With the recent introduction of CardDAV everything can be synced with open protocols instead of Microsoft’s ActiveSync. Google is sticking with ActiveSync for Business Apps customers and for good reason. Some of this might also apply for consumers.

Is disabling ActiveSync an option for Google Apps users? The answer is between “no” and “it depends”. When you disable ActiveSync and thus depend on IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV for sync you are going to miss some things and you won’t get any real features back:

  • IMAP IDLE is not supported on iOS. This means that if you configure your Google Apps or Gmail as an IMAP account you won’t get push mail and depend on the fetching interval in settings, which is every 15 minutes at the most. A workaround is to use the Gmail app which has push support and which some people find awesome. In that case you still need to configure a mail account for other apps, setting it to manual fetch is the best option then.
  • In calendar accepting appointments is not supported on iOS when using CalDAV. You have to go to the web interface for that.
  • In calendar you cannot invite other people on iOS when using CalDAV. Again, you have to go to the web interface for that.
  • In calendar all your calendars get synced and you can enable or disable the ones you want to show, however you cannot change the colors of the calendars on iOS, which you can when using ActiveSync. Colors are kind of inherited from the colors you configured in the web interface.

For Business users these are things they rely on, so disabling ActiveSync is not an option. For consumers I presume some of them will really miss these features.

What do you gain from using the open standard protocols? First of all the answer is in the question, open standards. But besides that:

  • More usable fields in contacts, the amount and type of fields is limited in ActiveSync.
  • Better search in mail. IMAP search is much better than ActiveSync.

And I think that’s it. If you know any other advantages please send me a tweet or plus. In retrospect I think that disabling ActiveSync is a bad thing for Google, not that things are not supported in the open protocols, but iOS is lacking some features that Google (Apps) users rely on. Apple would have to solve some issues to really support these users without ActiveSync.