Me and my other half will be traveling for about a year starting November 3rd. That kind of long trip requires a minimum of preparation, and figuring out how to keep my iPhone up-to-date is pretty high on the list of things to do.

My biggest issue is for syncing contacts and calendars while we’re away. I will have a netbook but this netbook doesn’t have Outlook, which prevents me from syncing and backing up contacts and calendars with my PC.

After a little bit of digging around, it appears that Google Sync is my best chance to keep my iPhone contacts and calendars safe. As reluctant as I am to completely rely on Google (I’m a Google hater), I didn’t have many options. Of course I could choose to pay $99/year for MobileMe but I think this service is a terrible joke aiming at making money off Fan Boys. I’d rather go with the free Google Sync alternative…

Setting up Google Sync took me about 10 minutes from start to finish, including test time. It is very easy and straightforward. This step by step guide will show you how to set up Google Sync on your iPhone and sync your iPhone contacts and calendars with Google over the air and get push Gmail as well.

1. Export / Import Calendars and Contacts

The very first thing to do is to export your contacts and calendars in order to import them into your Google account. Import the contacts in Gmail and import your calendars in Google Calendar.

2. Sync and Backup

Sync your iPhone with iTunes to backup all your data. Worst case scenario, your data will be safe.

3. Configure iTunes

Once everything has been backed up, go to iTunes, plug in your iPhone and under the Info tab, check the “Sync Contacts with” option and select “Google Contacts” from the drop-down menu. Then click “Configure” and enter your username and password when prompted.

iTunes will connect with Google for a bit. When it’s done, click “Apply” in iTunes to sync your iPhone. You will be asked if you want to replace or merge the contacts that are on your iPhone with your Google contacts. Choose what you think is best for you. I chose to merge them.

4. Set Up Google Sync On Your iPhone

Now we’re going to set up Google Sync on your iPhone. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account > Microsoft Exchange. In the Email field, enter your full Gmail address; leave the domain field blank; enter your full Gmail address again as your username; enter your password, and tap Next.

If you get the “Unable to verify access” error message, just tap “Accept”. A new field will appear to let you enter the server information. Enter and tap Next.

5. Select the Services to Sync

Now you may select the Google services you would like to sync. At this time, it is impossible to sync email. Only calendars and contacts can sync with Google. As of today, it is now possible to use Google Sync to also get push Gmail emails to your iPhone. Until this morning, you were only able to sync contacts and calendars but now you can also sync your emails.

When you enable contacts and calendar syncs, you will get a message asking you what you’d like to do with existing contacts/calendars. You may keep them on your iPhone or delete them. I chose to delete them so it doesn’t create duplicate entries. Tap Done when to finish the set up.

Now go back to the Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and make sure that the “Fetch New Data” option is set to “Push”.

Getting Used to Google Sync

After setting up Google Sync, you may want to test it out. For example go to your Google Calendar account and create a new event. It should appear on your iPhone within seconds. Note that you sometimes need to close and launch the calendar app again to see the event show up on your iPhone. When you create an event online, it often takes a minute or so to sync with your iPhone.

If you create an event from your iPhone, make sure you create the event from the “Google Sync Calendar” we created or else, it will just show on your iPhone but it won’t sync with Google.

To try out the Gmail push service, send yourself an email from another email account and wait for the new email to arrive. I tested this a few times and it usually takes 5 to 10 seconds for me to get the new email notification.

The Bad Thing About Google Sync for iPhone

The obvious bad thing about Google Sync for iPhone is that you rely on Google once AGAIN.

My biggest issue is that I was used to the Gpush Gmail push app which would display a text notification for each incoming email. The text notification would show me the sender and the subject of the email which helped me figure out whether the email required immediate attention or not. Now every time a new email comes in, I have to open the to see what the email is about.

Battery life doesn’t seem to be affected much by this new set up but since I use a few push apps, my battery life sucks anyway…

So far, that’s about all the downside I could find about Google Sync for iPhone. Getting calendars, contacts, and emails pushed to my iPhone over the air for free is a much better alternative than MobileMe.

  • Sebastien

    Thanks for dropping by T-Will.

    I hear your concern about the Push schedule. What I do is that I put my iPhone in silent mode at night (which also deactivates vibrations). This way, my iPhone never gets in the way of my sleep 🙂

    Or you can also manually turn off push notifications before going to bed but that’s a little more cumbersome than just putting it in silent mode…


  • T-Will

    Thanks for the tip on the Push Gmail…finally!

    Now I wish there were a way to set a Push schedule (I don’t want my iPhone alerting me of new email in the middle of the night).

    • I’ve connected with Google Sync early in the days. It’s like instant everything to me, never going to miss any emails. or become late in replying them.

  • T-Will

    Good point with the silent mode and idea about turning off Push notifications. I think SBSettings has a Push toggle I could use, or silent mode will probably work fine for me.


    • Bethany

      I am just a bit weary when I have to merge my Gmail contacts with my iPhone ones. Could anyone suggest a way to back up directly my iPhone contacts to my computer (as an offline copy)?

      • Ilonka

        I am currently using an app called Copy-trans Contact in to back up my iPhone contacts to my PC.

  • dj


    I don’t know for sure that it was the source of my issue, but since I’ve stopped using it I haven’t had the problem. Do not use SBSettings push toggle. I would turn off push via that every night and once a week lose push functionality altogether. I would turn push back on there, and in regular settings and all my push apps would tell me that i needed to connect to itunes to use push notifications. i’m on AT and T, not hactivated or anything. I haven’t had the problem since removing sbsettings push toggle. Everynight before bed I just hit settings quick and kill push. seeing as how i’m adjusting my alarms a little anyway, it doesn’t really hurt much.

    And thank you for the clarification in your article Sebastien . I was losing my mind. i would get a vibrate, a badge number, but no text message on screen telling me the sender and subject. I think I might miss that enough to keep using the pushmail app I had been using. But opening mail and having the new messages there immediately is very very nice.

  • Antony_256

    I did this without step 3. Not needed. And there is (on your iphone) for selecting which calendars to sync.

  • Good news. It would be nice to be able to setup more than one Exchange Account since I already have my work account setup in Exchange

  • Sebastien

    @Carter Yes, it also works for Google Apps for domains 🙂

  • I don’t know if this works with Google Apps domains yet, as I’ve yet to get a new mail notification for that account, yet.

  • David

    Did anyone feel his battery drains faster with the push mail on?

    I think it does drain it faster on my iPhone.

    From what I’m reading there’s a difference between Push Mail (what Gmail gives now) and Push Notifications (what GPush for example does). From what I understand each of those pushes uses around 20% of the battery, so it’s wiser to use one of them if possible.

    Thoughts? Corrections?


  • Sebastien

    Hi David,

    I did notice that my battery is draining much faster now. I guess I didn’t pay much attention to that when I wrote the article. gPush was bad on the battery but I think this is even worse. I might have to rearrange my settings and manually fe5tch new data instead of relying on push.


  • Sebastien

    Good call ILP. Thanks for your feedback. Greatly appreciated 🙂

  • ILP

    Hey Sebastien,

    It should also be noted that when you do set this up, the exchange changes the ENTIRE STRUCTURE of your contacts, to where there’s no longer an ‘iphone’ designation for numbers, and the choices you have are lame. You can only designate one number to ‘mobile’, so if you have a contact with multiple cell #’s, that shit’s not gonna happen. I had to undo it all, and go back to normal setup of Gmail, and bam, when I re-synced on Itunes, problem fixed.

    Other than that, keep up the good work, good info, son.

  • Dr. DJ

    I need to keep my personal MS outlook calendar and contacts syncronized with the i-phone. Any available free solutions? Tks

  • @Dr. DJ – just set your iPhone to sync with Outlook (in iTunes) and you’ll be good to go. That’s what I did before syncing with Google.

  • Jimena Alvarado

    Hi. I’m not the most advanced user…. but until this morning I thought I could do all that without a special app. I was really happy that I finally got my ipod touch to work just right: I could input an event on the calendar, or a contact, and it would upload them to my gmail account with no trouble. I got it to work just by enabling push from the settings page. and now, today, all my contacts are gone! and i can’t push info from my ipod into gmail! I dont know what I did, I dont know how to fix it… I do know that I recently tried out SBS settings, didn’t like it, and removed it…. any ideas for me?

  • Paul

    This sounds like the issue I’ve had – I still have 2 sets of contacts on my iPhone, 1 has only a single mobile number and I can’t work out how to re-sync through iTunes as you say – any chance you could explain in a bit more details for me?!

    @David / Sebastien …
    I’m now confused about the effect of Push Gmail (or e-mail) on battery life …
    I read the disadvantage here, but on Cnet I read:

    Push e-mail is often preferred over “pulled” e-mail for its real-time updates and its lower toll on battery life.


    Any reason for the contradiction that anyone can explain?!


  • Terrence

    thanks for the article!

    a quick question though. I’m only syncing my calendars to Google Calendar, and I’m wondering if there is data involved when the iCal program is not running on the iPhone? is there any exchange of data when neither iCal or Google Calendar is running? got to ask coz I’m on a very restricted data pack, and I may potentially get raped with insane excess charges if there is data that is sent in the background, without my control and/or acknowledgement.

  • Terrence,

    In the settings, make sure the “Fetch new data” option is set to “manually”. Go to “advanced” and make sure everything is set to “manually” as well.

    This will mean the data will update everytime you open the app vs. fetched hourly or so.

    Hope that helps.


  • I keep getting prompted for a domain server… Does anyone know what the address needs to be?

  • Hello, can anyone tell me why the “configure” button in itunes – in the sync contacts section won’t work? In other words, nothing happens when I click on it. im obviously trying to sync my google contacts and although my contacts arrive in my iphone, none of my groups are included – only my complete contact list. Any ideas on how to get the “configure” function to work would be greatly appreciated.!! Thanks Dave

  • I tried the procedure and it erased my email account name and addresses in phone like it said it would. I didn’t know it would erase ALL my phone contacts too! Did I do something wrong?

  • Google won’t sync my groups in my contact list. I’ve tried to sync my group contacts through iTunes but nothing happens when I click “configure”. My entire contact link is synced but with no groups. Any idea on how to fix this? Thanks for your help

  • Claudio

    Hi !
    Normally, when I save a new email adress, let’s say from a web page, it will be saved in “all contacts” which is not the contact folder wich synchronize automatically with gmail via exchange … Any idea on how to solve this issue ?

    Thanks in advance you geeks ! (and sorry 4 my bad english)


  • David

    Hi – this works a treat. Onl;y thing I have found that any phone numbers which are listed under “other” do not sync onto the iphone. The contact and other numbers do sync, just nbot the number under the “other” field. Has anyone else had this problem.

  • Remco

    Hey! Thanks for your manual, i now have mixed up the gMail settings (also available in mail settings) wit calender, mail and notes selected; and my contacts from exchange.
    I did this because gMail lets me archive my mails, exchange won’t.

  • Mark F

    Bryan T,

    If you get prompted for the domain server address it should be

  • pietpara

    I did this and now I have two copies of each contact. I don’t find a way to get rid of the copy except manually. §$%& Nor is there an easy way to delete all contacts at once and then resync to get the single contact back.

  • David

    I keep getting asked for an “Exchange” password. Can some one tell me the password for so I can sync?

  • Amybeth

    I’ve had to restart and resync several iphones now I’ve got like 7 duplicates of many of my Contacts on my iPhone ….. I’ve finally gone through and deleted duplicates in my gmail, but I’m afraid to sync because I don’t know what’s going to happen …… IS THERE A WAY TO CHOOSE WHETHER THE SYNC PICKS THE GMAIL CONTACTS AS CORRECT OR THE iPHONE? I’m constantly adding contacts into my iPhone when I’m out and about …. when I sync my phone, which information stays and which goes?

  • Richard Gamble

    my calendar syncs only new entries, is there a way for me to get the calendar, that is already loaded on my iphone, to download into my Google calendar?

  • Laurent Rathle

    Thank you for this nice tip, but I can’t use it. I need too much my groups and Google don’t support that it seems.

  • Rapscallion

    @Amybeth – I have had the same issue and here is how I fixed it. Make sure your iPhone is synced to Gmail. Then clean up your Gmail by removing duplicates. There is a handy feature in Gmail to make this really easy. Go to ‘Contacts’ -> ‘More Actions’ -> ‘Find and Remove Duplicates’. You will see all the contacts that have info that conflicts, and Gmail will merge them into one contact for you.

    Once Gmail is clean, turn off contact syncing in the iPhone exchange account. You will be prompted to delete all contacts from your iPhone (say yes). Then turn contact syncing back on to force Gmail to resync all contacts back to your phone.

    Once this is done, there is no real “Master” for the sync (AFAIK). If you add/modify a contact on your iPhone it is almost immediately synced to Gmail and vice-versa.

    Hope this helps you 🙂

  • Don Thomas

    How do you export the contacts and the calendar from the iphone?

  • mar

    how about creating a contact on your phone and having it saved in your gmail? hwo do you do that? is there a “Google Sync Calendar” for contacts?

  • Donald Lawton

    Hello all,

    I just posted an app to the iPhone App store which may solve your problems. It’s called “Contacts Sync With Groups For Gmail.” It allows you to copy your iPhone contacts to Gmail and vice versa while maintaining any group assignments. For instance, you may have your iPhone contacts organized into groups such as “friends,” “family,” and “coworkers.” With this app, you can copy those contacts to Gmail and they’ll appear in the same groups.

    You can read about my app at:

  • mar

    hi Donald Lawton,

    Your App looks really great, one question though: does it automatically sinc your contacts and groups? or does it just do it when you sign in and ask it to?

    • Donald Lawton

      Hi Mar,

      Thanks for evaluating my app. My app will only copy your contacts and groups when you ask it to do so explicitly. I’ll look into syncing in the background for future versions.


  • Means

    This was very helpful – Thanks for posting!

  • Victoria

    Omg thank yoou i love you haha!

  • coqui mesarina

    When i try to put my user name and password of gmai on intunes nothing happens and the window opens again and again. What should i do ?

  • Daniel Sheff

    I have several calendars in Gmail, but only one is coming through. Any suggestions on getting the others to show on the iPhone?

  • Daniel Sheff

    Ah, found it:

    Syncing Multiple Calendars

    By default only your primary calendar will be synced to your device.
    You can sync additional calendars by visiting the following page from
    any web browser:

    (Google Apps users can go to, replacing ‘your_domain’ with your actual domain name.)

    Select the calendars you’d like to sync, and click Save. The selected calendars will display on your device at the time of the next sync.

  • Engr. Maddy

    Hi – this works a treat. Onl;y thing I have found that any phone numbers which are listed under “other” do not sync onto the iphone. The contact and other numbers do sync, just nbot the number under the “other” field. Has anyone else had this problem.

  • You sir are a life saver. Thanks so much for posting this. I deleted all my mail accounts not realising my googlemail account was sync’d to my contacts on my iPhone.

  • gino

    what if it asks to fill out the server field

  • texasaaa

    Im worried period about giving google my friends info! I don’t have their permission to do so… I know this is a conspiracy of some kind. What I don’t know is if there is anything I can do about it… do we ALL just trust this congramelation?