IMAP vs. POP (and who cares…)

Over the years, email has changed dramatically.  In the current 2010 world, most companies still offer POP as well as IMAP for receiving email.  In many cases, automatically adding an email address to a new computer or iPhone will use the POP method for getting email to you.  What difference does it make?  Ah, hence this little post…

Again in our 2010 world where many of us have a personal computer at home, a Blackberry or iPhone and occasionally (or more) work computers provide web access to our personal email it can be a pain to read and re-read a message on multiple devices.  This is where the IMAP and POP difference comes into effect.

When using POP [wikipedia] the device (in this case, iPhone, computer or other device), grabs the new mail from the server and removes the email (unless some settings are changed on the system to “keep mail on the server”).  In cases where you see the same mail on your phone and computer but they both show as unread (until you read them in two places) the system is using POP.  The other drawback is when you send a message using POP the device that sends the message retains the message locally (meaning if you are at work and you send a message that morning from your home PC, you will not see that message).

POP was valuable in the past, especially in years past when email storage was very limited (10-100MB, not the 7.5GB world of gmail).  Getting emails off the servers was important and a requirement to keep from “bouncing” mailbox full messages.

The thing that bothers me these days is if you set an email address up on an iPhone or iPad using GMail, the system makes it very easy but uses POP.  A quick adjustment to the account will make email a much more efficient tool with the use of IMAP.

IMAP [wikipedia] is the newer of the two protocols and again is supported by most email systems.  With Google’s email system, using IMAP allows you to read a message on your iPhone or Droid and when you check the message on your home computer, that message will show as read.  If you replied, that too will show up.  Do you have folders (or labels as google calls them)?  IMAP will also display those in your email program.

The bottom line is check your email settings and switch to IMAP if you are comfortable doing so.  It will make the use of email so much more seamless.

  • For Google’s GMail, check this page for clients and settings
  • The page for setting GMail up on an Apple mobile device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch)
  • Apple’s MobileMe IMAP setting page
  • Yahoo does NOT provide IMAP without purchasing Yahoo Plus (I would not suggest investing in this)
  • AOL’s page for setting up IMAP

If you have questions or concerns about changing your email setting, please let me know.

If you made these changes to your system and have seen improvements with the way the system(s) work, again, let us know.

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