I’ve been running OS 2.0 on my (first-generation) iPhone for a week and a half now, and as I mentioned before, Exchange ActiveSync push email, calendaring, and contacts was one of the main things Iwas looking for when I upgraded. That article on setting up ActiveSync has since become my top blog post by far, pulling in literally thousands of hits per day, so I must not be alone in wanting this functionality.
But it turns out that the green grass of iPhone/Exchange integration has a tint of brown. Folks have experienced issues getting the service set up, and it guzzles battery juice like a toddler at a lemonade stand. Read on for my notes and suggestions…
By far the biggest problem folks have encountered when trying to enable Exchange ActiveSync on the iPhone has been finding the correct server name. Update: It turns out that Exchange 2007 has an Autodiscovery service for ActiveSync devices, and the iPhone supports and attempts to use this. But it will fail for anyone using Exchange 2003 or with an admin that turned this off…
If Autodiscovery fails, you have to manually enter the address. Most Exchange implementations have a variety of different servers these days, each with a unique hostname and IP address:
- The main Exchange server, which is normally only used for internal or VPN connections to Outlook using the MAPI/RPC protocol and often has an excitingly-weird name like em22dc.yourcompany.com. This is not what you are looking for.
- The external Exchange server for RPC over HTTPS connections from Outlook, which often has a nicer name like rpc.yourcompany.com. This is also not what you’re looking for.
- The Outlook Web Access server used by Entourage and for accessing mail using a web browser, which is often called “owa.yourcompany.com”. Getting warmer, but still not the right one.
- Entourage also uses an LDAP server, often called “ldap.yourcompany.com”, and might alias the OWA server as “dav.yourcompany.com”. Still not the right server for the iPhone.
- The one you want is the ActiveSync server, sometimes called “oma.yourcompany.com” since it’s mainly used for Outlook Mobile on Windows Mobile devices.
If your techies don’t know the first thing about the iPhone, change your tactics. Ask them which hostname they enter when configuring Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs – these are very common, and this is the server you need with the iPhone!
One more thing: You might get lucky and find that one of those other server names works for the iPhone’s ActiveSync. This does not mean you’re using DAV or OWA on the iPhone – instead it means that they set up two services on the same hostname. But I haven’t seen this myself.
The Problem With Push
Let me start by saying that, so far, the push email experience with Exchange ActiveSync to the iPhone has been flawless for me. Amazingly, messages appear on my iPhone before they show up in Outlook on my PC, which is online with RPC over HTTPS. Whatever Apple (and Microsoft) did to enable push email certainly worked well! Perhaps a bit too well, though. After using ActiveSync push for a few days, I noticed that my battery was draining by early afternoon.
At first, I chalked this up to increased usage of the phone’s new features. But having spent the day (mostly) ignoring the phone while on vacation, I was shocked to see the battery icon turn red before dinner. Clearly something was eating my battery alive!
As an experiment, I turned off push in the iPhone’s Settings pane, opting for manual just to be safe. Are you surprised to learn that my battery was green all the next day? In fact, it barely used any power at all, even with 30-minute IMAP updates from Google Mail still running.
Note that the Push settings have been moved under “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” in OS 3.0.
Clearly ActiveSync push is a major battery hog, and I would imagine that 3G would be even worse than the miserly EDGE in the first-generation phone! What to do? You’ve got just a few choices:
- Go back to IMAP fetch and lose Exchange integration (boo!)
- Leave push enabled but plan to charge up more often or use WiFi, which is much more battery-friendly.
- Switch Exchange from push to fetch, which leaves the integration intact but doesn’t guzzle the juice as quickly
- Switch Exchange to manual update, which is very battery-friendly
I have decided on option 3 when I’m out and about to conserve battery power, since most of my email can wait a few minutes. And if I’m low on juice, I’ll switch over to option 4. But if I’m in the office, with my most-excellent WiFi and broadband connectivity, I’m leaving push enabled.
I think it’s worth noting that the push settings are stored in a separate control panel from the other mail settings, which is either an odd gaffe or an indication that other non-mail push options will eventually be added here.
- There’s a master switch on the main panel (shown above) which is nice, since you can quickly turn off all push to conserve juice.
- I’d love another setting option of turning off push mail based on battery level or on a schedule, like the BlackBerry has.
- You can also tweak the master fetch schedule setting here.
- Tap Advanced, and you can set each account’s settings – select push, fetch, or manual for each account based on your own preferences. If I was using MobileMe for personal email, I might be tempted to turn off push just for that account, since my spam can wait!
- One more thing – notice that you can set the name of your mail accounts to something other than your email address. That’s done in each account’s settings panel.
Hopefully, these two suggestions will help the multitude of folks who are having problems with Exchange ActiveSync on the iPhone. Drop me a line if I can be of more help!