How to sync Google Contacts and Calendar with the iPhone using Google Mobile Sync

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Google now offers its own ExchangeSync service for smartphones called Google Sync for Mobile, which means you now now automatically synchronise your Google Account data with your handheld over Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection.

If you’re an iPhone or iPod Touch owner, this means you can now synchronise your Google Calendar and Contacts data with your device over-the-air – something that was only previously possible with an Apple MobileMe account, or your employer’s own Microsoft ExchangeSync server (if they have one).

Setting up Google Calendar and Contacts sync for the iPhone and iPod Touch is straightforward, but there are a few gotchas that can cause your iPhone to lose data if you’re not careful.

The first is that since the iPhone only supports one ExchangeSync account, you’ll need to delete any existing set-up before you can use Google’s. So, if you already use ExchangeSync for company email and contacts, you won’t be able to use both it and Google’s service.

The second major gotcha is that the first time you use the Google Mobile Sync service, your existing contacts and calendar will be deleted. So, it’s important to back up your iPhone Contacts using iTunes before you set up Google Sync.

It’s also worth tidying up the contents of your Google My Contacts group – this is the only group that is synchronised*, so you should prune any unwanted contacts you don’t want on your iPhone and add any that you want to synchronise.

* At least according to Google – in practice, the All Contacts group gets synchronised, so this could be a bug in the service or a mistake in Google’s documentation.

Google Mobile Sync only works for Calendar and Contacts – not Mail, stick with IMAP access to your Gmail/Googlemail account for the time being.

Step 1

This should be pretty obvious, but if you don’t already have a Google Account (if you have a Gmail/Googlemail account, you have one), you’ll need to go to www.google.com/accounts and sign up – it’s free.

Step 2

Backup any contacts on your iPhone that you want to keep.

Step 3

On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account… > Microsoft Exchange.
If you already have an Exchange account configured, you’ll see an error message and you have to go back to the Accounts screen, select the Exchange account and delete it, then repeat this step.

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Step 4

Tap the Email field and enter a name for this account (it doesn’t have to be your email address). Leave the Domain field empty.

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Step 5

Enter your Gmail/Googlemail email address in the Username field and its password in the Password field. Tap the Next button to continue.

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Step 6

A new Server field will appear – enter m.google.com, then tap the Next button. Google will then attempt to verify the settings, so make sure you have an active Wi-Fi or mobile data connection (Edge or 3G).

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Step 7

Select the Google services that you want to sync – Mail is not yet supported, so turn this off. When you tap the Done button, your iPhone will synchronise its Contacts and Calendar data with your Google Account.
This is your last chance to stop and perform a backup if you haven’t already done so!

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Step 8

When the verification is complete, you’ll be back at the Mail, Contacts, Calendar screen in Settings. Tap the Settings button to return to the main Settings screen, then tap Fetch New Data.

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Step 9

Here, you can choose whether or not to use Push updates. When Push is ON, any changes you make in your Google Calendar or Contacts are automatically and immediately sent to your iPhone; otherwise, updates will only be downloaded when you open the corresponding iPhone app.

Push updating may sound convenient, but it will seriously affect your iPhone’s battery life, particularly if you make a lot of changes to your Contacts and Calendar. The sensible option is to set Push to OFF and Fetch to Manually, but it’s your call.

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Step 10

If you use Push (see step 10), you Contacts and Calendar data will sync to your iPhone over the next few minutes, otherwise, you’ll need to open the appropriate application to initiate a manual sync.

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Oh and if you use multiple Google calendars but you find that only is synchronising, you’ll need to make a minor tweak in your Google account settings.

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