Making Android more like a Blackberry: True Push Email using Exchange on a Galaxy Nexus

Gmail app on Android isn’t true push. Not like a Blackberry at least. Try as I might, I couldn’t get my emails to arrive on my new Galaxy Nexus in real-time, which is important for my pseudo server admin duties. I need to know when something’s gone haywire on my servers [preferably] before my users do! And if anything, the Blackberry was really, really good at this one thing (push email).

My tests with Gmail push were all over the place. Sometimes it seemed instant, and other times I didn’t get a notification at all. Or may I would 5 minutes later. WTF?

I even tried using Gmail to forward to my phone’s SMS address, but that led me into other issues: trying to assign a specific notification tone to a contact without a phone number or using multiple SMS apps to achieve what I wanted. In the end, the hacks I was trying to use to make my Nexus more Blackberry-like were pretty sloppy and I wasn’t very happy.

Until now…I think I figured it out (finally).

Set up the Gmail account you need to push using the built-in Email app instead of the Gmail app. Once you eneter your credentials, select Manual Setup (note: this is using ICS, so I don’t know what the interface looks like in pre-ICS). Then select “Exchange”. For server, change it to “m.google.com” and leave everything else as-is.

When you complete the setup, try a test to that account. Instant, huh? (well at least within 1 minute, consistently,unlike Gmail). Niiiice

Next task is to figure out how to set up Ringer Profiles like a Blackberry: Being able to assign specific notifications to specific email addresses I’ve set up to sync, with individual volumes. For example, setting a profile to “Night”, so everything is off but only the dreaded server alerts come through.

Update: Sadly, my Exchange setup doesn’t seem extremely reliable either. Better than plain Gmail, but still not very instant. I’ve now downloaded and installed an app called Mail Alert (free), that polls the email account at a specified interval. I’ve set mine to every 60 seconds, and using that in conjunction with the Exchange method provides me with a sort of backup alert system. True, this may be a battery drain, but so far in my testing it doesn’t seem to make a significant impact; I am still getting a full day out of the stock battery with room to spare. I may pick up a secondary battery just in case, since I tend to use the WiFi hotspot feature of the Nexus quite a bit.

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