How do I make IMAP work for me?
April 14, 2014 6:31 PM   Subscribe

IMAP is supposed to be able to preserve message state information across clients. So why is it that my email read/unread states aren't transferring from my Macbook to my iPhone?

I have two email accounts which I'm using with Apple Mail, both IMAP accounts. One is Gmail and the other is with my ISP. Right now, when I receive a new email message, I get an app badge/popup on my Macbook and not on my iPhone. Most* of my email is marked read on my phone and unread on my computer when I receive it. What I'd really like to happen is this:

1. Receive popup alert and badge on both phone and computer
2. Messages are marked unread on both phone and computer when I receive them
3. Messages that I mark as read on my phone are marked read on my computer and vice versa

Is this possible? I have a late 2013 Retina Macbook Pro running OSX 10.9.2 and an AT&T iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.

*For a bonus point: I set up a rule that moves messages from the organization I volunteer with into their own folder on Mail on my computer. New messages don't badge the desktop app icon or trigger popup alerts on my computer. Meanwhile, I do receive alerts/badges for them on my phone, where the folder/rule doesn't exist. Is there a way to make it so the behavior across devices is consistent and I either get badges/popups on both my phone and computer or neither?
posted by capricorn to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
> Is this possible?

I can't tell you offhand what is not working with your setup, but it is definitely possible. That's the way that it works for me and most of the people I know.

Depending on the frequency with which they poll for updated information there may be a short lag between when you mark something read on one machine and it shows as read in the mail client on the other but that should be not longer than 10-15 minutes, and probably more like 5, unless you have changed the mail check frequency in your mail programs.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:11 PM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks, that led me to something that may be the problem. In my iPhone options, under "Fetch New Data", the option selected for both of my email accounts is "Fetch". "Push" is not available - the only other option is "Manual" which would be considerably worse. The fetch frequency is set to 15 minutes which is the most frequent option.

However, I do seem to receive email simultaneously on my phone and computer when I'm looking at them side by side, and it also is still not updating read/unread state period, so maybe this isn't it.
posted by capricorn at 7:35 PM on April 14, 2014

I'm a longtime IMAP user and your #2 and #3 should work with no problems at all. I just tested it out. When I tapped on an unread email on the iPhone, within 2 seconds the email was marked as read on the Mac. This is how it usually works. But! Occasionally for whatever reason, the phone will stop marking things as read on the server, and thus won't be seen as read on the assorted other Macs and Linux boxes I have. I haven't quite figured out what gets it into this state, but it doesn't seem to stay that way for long, so I haven't been bothered enough by it to dig too deep. This seems to be an issue with the iPhone and not any other IMAP client I use.

Your #1 is a little bit tougher, because for whatever reason Apple doesn't support push over IMAP on iOS. You're pretty much limited to polling every 15 minutes. Google used to allow you to set a GMail client up with Exchange, which supports push on iOS, but a few months ago they dropped that on free accounts. There's also a GMail iOS app which supports push. For your ISP account, unfortunately there's no push solution. On the Mac side, you're set, as Apple Mail has supported push with IMAP (also known as IDLE) for quite some time and it's been very reliable for me.
posted by zsazsa at 9:08 PM on April 14, 2014

Apple broke it.
posted by flabdablet at 3:53 AM on April 15, 2014

I don't know the answers to your questions. But if it were me, I'd make an appointment with the Genius Bar at my local Apple store. They're usually pretty good at troubleshooting this kind of stuff.
posted by alex1965 at 5:51 AM on April 15, 2014

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