Many people like the idea of using Gmail as the default mail app on their iPhone or iPad, instead of Apple’s iOS Mail app. However, they quickly run into trouble when they go to share a link from Safari or a file from another app and find the default Mail app pops up instead of the Gmail app you want to use. Nobody wants to have the same email in two apps at once or deal with duplicate notifications, so is there another way? In a roundabout way, yes, there is.
UPDATE: See How to Share Files, Photos & Links via Gmail on iOS for a cleaner, more recent, solution to this problem that Google fixed in an update to the Gmail app.
The truth is, you can’t completely do away with the iOS Mail app for what I am about to show you. However, you also don’t have to use it to check your Gmail (or your Outlook, AOL, Yahoo! or other email services) in Apple’s default Mail app. Confused yet? Stick with me. You’ll see what I mean.
1. Start by going to Settings >Mail, Contacts and Calendars and add the Google account you want use for email. Your name, email and password is all you need.
2. Here’s the important bit. Once your account has been added and appears in Settings, look for the option just below it that says Fetch New Data. Tap that option and change the setting for Gmail from Fetch to Manual, (see image below).
What this means is that the Mail app is now linked to your Gmail account, but it will not receive any mail unless you specifically tap that app to make that connection, (that’s the Manual part above). So, if you don’t intend on using the iOS Mail app at all, you can go ahead and bury it in a folder on the last screen of your device. If you want to save it for another email account, go ahead and leave it where it is 🙂
3. Now, when you find yourself in the position where you want to share a link from Safari, or email a file from another app, go ahead and select Email from the sharing options. The Gmail app will not open a new email for you, the iOS Mail app will. However, it will send it from your Gmail account, and in my book, that is the next best thing. Any replies to your email will go straight to the Gmail app along with the rest of your mail.
- If you have more than one email account added on your device, you can choose the one you want by tapping on the email address field in the compose window and selecting the right one, or by going to Settings > Mail, Contacts and Calendars, and making Gmail the default account.
- Remember that you can set signatures in the Settings app too. That way when you do share from another app, you can still have your preferred Gmail signature on the email that is sent by the Mail app. Set your email signature in Settings > Mail, Contacts and Calendars > Signatures.
- You may want to turn off all notifications for the Mail app if this is all you use it for. That way, you won’t get double notifications or see the red badge icon showing how many new emails you have. You do this in Settings > Notifications. This can be done on a “per account” basis, i.e. you can disable notifications for your Gmail account, but leave them on for others in case you use the Mail app for multiple email account.
It’s a workaround, I know, but as of iOS 8.1.3, Apple does not let you set default apps in the same way that you can on Android. So, you have to get creative and this is about the cleanest solution I could come up with to accomplish what I wanted to do when sharing from non-Google apps.