The past few days with the iPhone have been quite enjoyable, and I’m getting more and more excited about developing applications for the iPhone, even if they are only just Web apps for the time being. This device brings me back to the days when I was doing hardcore Newton development. Yes, for me, the spirit of Newton lives on in the iPhone!
One thing that I’m excited about having again is wireless email access on a handheld device. In the late 90’s, I used a Metricom Ricochet modem that was velcro’ed to my Newton to get email. Over the years, I’ve used several more devices, such as the Blackberry 957, the Palm i705, and the Palm Treo 700w, but none of them have stuck with me. I could have seen myself using the Crackberry, but I hated having to pay an extra $40/month for what amounted to an email machine. With the iPhone, I have no problem spending an extra $20/month since I get a whole lot more for my money — email, iPod, phone, and Internet.
I ran into some snags getting my email configured properly on my iPhone, namely in being able to send mail from the phone and in handling spam. Since these topics might be general interest, here’s how I dealt with them:
Having the iPhone grab account information from my Mac is great, but there’s a catch if you don’t use one of the pre-configured accounts like Yahoo! Mail, AOL, Gmail. If the iPhone is unable to contact the SMTP server listed in your account, you won’t be able to send any email from the phone!
At home, I use Comcast cable for Internet. Comcast blocks SMTP traffic on port 25 except for their own server at smtp.comcast.net. Because of this, my tow.com account is configured to use Comcast’s SMTP server. When I synced that mail account to the iPhone, it copied over that value for the SMTP server. I composed several emails over the past two days which remained in the Out Box, leading me to conclude that smtp.comcast.net isn’t accessible from the iPhone when on the Edge network.
For the past year, I’ve been forwarding my mail at tow.com to Gmail for archival purposes. I learned today that Gmail has a publicly available SMTP server on port 465 or 587 that you can use, provided you have a Gmail account. I configured my tow.com email account to Gmail’s SMTP server, and now mail is being sent just fine from both my desktop and iPhone.
However, when I received mail sent through Gmail’s server, the From address was my Gmail address instead of my tow.com address. To fix that, I had to go into my Gmail account settings and set up an alternate From address.
The second problem is that the iPhone’s Email application doesn’t have any junk mail filtering capabilities. I get a ton of spam, and all of those messages were flooding my iPhone’s Inbox. This problem is compounded by the fact that the iPhone doesn’t have any way to select multiple email messages for deletion!
Before today, my junk mail handling was done via a combination of SpamAssassin on tow.com and Mac OS X’s Junk Mail filtering algorithms. Mail came into tow.com to be tagged by SpamAssassin before being downloaded and processed again by Mac OS X mail. I needed to find a way to filter my messages before they got the iPhone. Deleting mail on the server first wasn’t an option since I didn’t want to inadvertently delete any false positives.
Again, Gmail came to the rescue. By setting Gmail to forward mail to an second account on tow.com, I’m able to have Gmail filter my messages before they reach the iPhone. To accomplish this, I had to:
- Forward all incoming mail to tow.com to Gmail
- Forward mail from Gmail to my second tow.com account
- Set the iPhone to retrieve mail from my second tow.com account
This approach has given me many benefits. I have multiple copies of the mail — for data redundancy purposes — on my Mac, my iPhone, and the Web. I have arguably better spam filtering via Gmail. I can now send email fine from my iPhone and my Macs without having to worry about SMTP port blocking. Finally, all my mail appears to come from one account at tow.com. Life is good!