Windows Mobile phone setup part 1 – email

Since my contract was up, I replaced my cellphone with an SMT5800 smartphone, which runs Windows Mobile 6.0. I’ve spent the last few days getting it all configured and syncing with my calendar, tasks, email and contacts. Frankly, I’m surprised how difficult this has been.

I already keep much of this information online, so now I want to sync them to my phone. I’m an avid user (and big fan) of the following free online services:

  • Gmail for email and contacts
  • Google Calendar for events and appointments
  • Remember the Milk for tasks

For a little background, I run Windows on my PC at home, but I don’t use Microsoft Outlook. Windows Mobile devices sync very well with Outlook, as long as you have version 2003 or 2007, but that software wasn’t included with my phone (I thought it used to be included with PDAs…) I do have Outlook 2000, but it isn’t supported by ActiveSync 4.5, which is required for my Windows Mobile 6.0 phone. The Outlook upgrade would not be cheap, so I’ve ruled that out. Also, I should point out that I don’t intended to get a data plan or use over-the-air (OTA) service in any way. I’m purely hoping to sync this data when connected to my PC, but as it turns out, most of my solutions will work well OTA.

For installment one, I’m trying to get my email on my phone.

Email wasn’t all that bad to set up, once I figured out which of the available options I wanted to use. My choices were:

  1. Sync with Outlook via Activesync when docked
  2. Sync with a POP server over the network when docked
  3. Sync with an IMAP server over the network when docked

Option 1, Activesync, should have been ruled out right away, since Activesync 4.5 doesn’t support Outlook 2000, and that’s all I have. What was surprising, though, is that it never complained about that. I set up email synchronization through Activesync, and it ALMOST worked. I had some problems with text missing when replying to messages, so I moved on.

Option 2, POP access, wasn’t going to work for me. I use Thunderbird to archive my email, downloading from the Gmail POP server. The problem is, once the Windows Mobile email client downloads the messages, they don’t get downloaded into any other POP client (Thunderbird, in my case). POP doesn’t deal well with multiple clients grabbing messages.

Thankfully, IMAP access is working out for me. I set up the Windows Mobile mail client on my phone to access my Gmail account through IMAP. IMAP is basically designed for this case, happy to synchronize instead just download. It’s not perfect, since the Windows Mobile mail client doesn’t automatically sync with the server when docked in the cradle. I’m able to work around that software limitation, however, by scheduling regular sends and receives in the mail client. Note: I’ve DISABLED the OTA internet access for my phone, so it will not sync over the air, but if you don’t disable it, I’m pretty sure it’ll connect and run up your bill. When the scheduled run comes up and I’m docked, the email will send and receive. I wish I could find an automatic way to trigger that sync when the device is connected.

What’s interesting to note is that I don’t really have to have any special software on the PC when I sync. As long as I have Activesync to set up that internet connection for the phone, I’m in good shape. I don’t need any mail software on the PC.

Ok, the email problem is solved, at least well enough, so one down, three to go.

See part 2 for information about syncing tasks.

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