Friday, December 3, 2010

How to set up a single Gmail inbox on iOS with the ability to send from multiple addresses

One of the nice features in Gmail is the ability to only need a single account which gets mail via forwarding or by reading other accounts via POP3. Used in conjunction with Gmail's "send as" capability, you will never have to log in to more than one email account again.

Setting this up to work in Gmail's online interface is easy. Getting the same functionality on your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch), on the other hand, is a bit trickier to set up…

First, let's explain the email account setup…

There's only one main email account which receives all of your email (e.g. This is the only email account you need to log in to to check for mail. The other accounts you used should forward their mail to the main account (e.g.,, etc. all forward to You could also use other tricks such as plus addressing and nicknames (a Google Apps feature) to get email to the main account.

Here are the requirements when sending mail from one of your other accounts (i.e. not the main account):

  1. When sending mail from a non-main account, my main account's address should never be revealed to the recipient.
  2. A copy of the sent mail should be stored in the main account.
  Type Credentials Notes
Main Account ( Exchange Self  
Plus Address of Main Account
IMAP Main Account  
Nickname of Main Account
IMAP Main Account  
Forwarding Account
Exchange Self Requires POP3 reading to meet requirement #2.

Some definitions:

  • POP3 reading: setting up the main account to read mail from the forwarding account via POP3 in Gmail's web interface.

Setting up the Main Account:

You should set up your account as an Exchange account for the best experience on on your iOS device. This is pretty simple if you follow Google's article: Google Sync: Set Up Your Apple Device for Google Sync.

Setting up a Plus Address or Nickname Account:

The only tricky part with setting up one of these to work properly is that you must remember to add the account in Gmail's interface as a "send as" address. Even if you will only be sending mail on your iOS device, you still need to add the email in Gmail's "send as" settings.

Once you have done that, you can add the plus address or nickname's email address as an IMAP account on your iOS device (a POP3 account will work as well). When it asks for your credentials, you should use the credentials of your main account. I have seen other guides recommend to use junk data for the IMAP or POP3 server, that's fine, but when you press the refresh button on the main screen of the mail app, you will get a bunch of error messages.

Setting up these type of accounts will hide your information automatically and doesn't require the workaround that a forwarding account requires.

Setting up a Forwarding Account:

The first step is to set up the forwarding from the forwarding address to the main account. This will ensure that you get the message immediately as it is received rather than relying on POP3 reading, which could take up to an hour until the message is received in the main account.

Next, you need to set up the main account to read the forwarding account via POP3. This will ensure that there is a copy of mail that was sent on the forwarding account on the main account. Don't worry about duplicates being copied over, since Gmail is very aggressive in eliminating duplicates.

Now you need to set up the account on your iOS device as an exchange account. The only thing you should do at the end is to select to only sync Mail (not Contacts or Calendars).

Here are some more modifications I would recommend:

  1. Go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Press Fetch New Data.
  3. Go to Advanced.
  4. Tap the Exchange account that was just added.
  5. Change the schedule to Manual.

That's it. If you would like more information about this, keep reading.

What doesn't work, and why:

  • Using the forwarding address credentials (without POP3 reading): Although you set up forwarding on the account, this will only forward incoming mail, not outgoing mail. Thus, you will not have a copy of your sent mail in the main account. This violates requirement #2.
  • Setting up the account as POP3, IMAP, or Gmail on iOS (with POP3 reading): For some reason, Gmail will not allow you to download the message via POP3 from another account if it is set up as one of these. Even if you manually move the messages to your Inbox, they will not be read via POP3. The only thing that works is to set up the account as an Exchange account. This violates requirement #2.
  • Using the main account's email address but using the SMTP credentials of the forwarding account: What happens here is that although the from address is displayed correctly, the return-path header in the email will reveal your main account. Note: to get the same results, you will need to first approved the main account to be able to send as the forwarding account in Gmail, otherwise even the from address will show up as the main account. This violates requirement #1.

What's going on:

  • When sending a message via Gmail's interface: The message is sent directly to the other recipient and a copy of the outgoing message is not stored in the forwarding account.
  • When sending a message using another device (e.g. iPhone): You're sending the message via the forwarding account's Exchange settings. This means that the main account will not get a copy. However, since you set up the main account to read the forwarding account via POP3, you will get a copy of the message in the main account in 1-60 minutes (depending on how often POP3 reading occurs on your account).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the instructions on setting up gmail on ios. What proved very useful was the Pop3 details.
    email archiving