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Google drops Exchange ActiveSync. What does it mean for Windows Phone? [Updated]

This afternoon Google has announced the discontinuation of their support of Exchange ActiveSync (EAS aka the standard for many who use email) after January 30th 2013. The question you may be wondering is, how does it affect Windows Phone?

Surprisingly, the answer is it shouldn't have any discernable impact for the majority of you who rely on Gmail for syncing of contacts and calendar. When a user initially sets up a Gmail account on Windows Phone, you are given two choices:

  1. Email Only – Uses POP IMAP (Updated)
  2. Email, Contacts and Calendar – Uses IMAP EAS (Updated)

Neither of those should change in anyway for users who opt for the “walk through” method on Windows Phone, which we venture to guess, is the majority.

[Update Rafael Rivera has done some sniffing and turns out there could be some trouble. The 'email only' option uses IMAP, not POP as previously thought while the 'email, contacts and calendar' function is EAS supported. That means when Google flips the switch in January, you will no longer be able to setup a GMail account using the second method.]

Some of you though choose to the “Advanced Setup” near the bottom of the new account screen. There is where users can currently setup Gmail using Google Sync aka Google’s ActiveSync solution. That feature is going away after January 30th for non-Google Apps subscribers. However, if you currently have that setup and are using it, the service will continue to work for you with nothing changing. Only new requests for GoogleSync will be rejected after January 30th.

But...why Google, why?

So why is Google getting rid of one of the most widely used (and often preferred) email syncing technologies? They don’t give specific reasons, but instead couch it in a “winter cleaning” metaphor--whatever that means. But the real reason we suspect is Google is taking a fight to Microsoft by pulling support for EAS, directly off-loading any potential users who prefer Microsoft's system instead.

Android will continue to rock "the best Gmail experience" in mobile while Apple's iPhone and iPad already use Google's new preferred system, leaving Microsoft left holding the bag with EAS support. While we don't think it will have a direct impact on Windows Phone, it's clear that Google is kicking some sand at Microsoft with this move. (Incidentally, Paul Thurrott agrees with this assessment, stating flatly that Google is "declaring war" on Microsoft with this change).

It's evident Google is focused on using their IMAP system, which is very unique in the syncing world as far as standards go. The reason they are probably doing it is so they can continue to alter that system to give the full Gmail experience, something for which EAS cannot do (plus there is also the matter of paying Microsoft to license EAS). In other words, Google likes IMAP for their email and they have now embraced cardDAV for calendar syncing, something that Windows Phone doesn’t support (but the iPhone does).

Google of course can do whatever they want for whatever reasons they want but in the end, we still recommend you move your stuff to Outlook.com and get away from their services if at all possible. You’ll thank us later.

Source: Google 1, 2

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

231 Comments
  • Doesn't the "Email, Contacts and Calendar" use Exchange? I didn't think IMAP could handle contact syncing or push email...both of which are present when selecting "Email, Contacts and Calendar" which leads me to think its Exchange.
  • I *think* it's because Google's IMAP is non-standard, which is kind of the problem. When people had issues recently with syncing, they set up their phones using the EAS method (advanced) and had no syncing problems. Update: I stand corrected. Post updated.
  • Mine was the opposite. I had issues trying to get EAS working on a non Google Apps Gmail account. I was forced to use the default settings. Not that I care. Gmail syncs the slowest and is the most cumbersome of all my email accounts. So good riddance.
  • Thanks for updating the post. The Verge has confirmed this as well: "The second option with calendar and contacts lets Windows Phone 8 users setup a Gmail connection using Exchange ActiveSync, with push email, calendars, and contacts. This solution will cease working from January 30th for new devices, leaving Microsoft little over a month to provide an acceptable alternative for end users."
  • Microsoft does provide an acceptable alternative, it is called outlook.com
  • That is not an acceptable alternative for people who have used Gmail as their primary email for 8 years and have no interest in swiching everything over. I'm glad mine will continue to function but if it would have stopped I very well may have been forced off of WP.
  • Yeah, I've been postponing leaving google for long while due to amount of spam and of course their disregard for privacy over time. No time like the present I guess, sigh. Thanks Google.
  • Link contacts to outlook, set Gmail to forward to your outlook address. Outlook has a 'send from' feature you can use too, I believe.
  • That's correct, Google has there own version of EAS that is based off of IMAP. The problem is that lots of people don't use it. Well.... millions of people use it but hundreds of millions of users use EAS. It's even been proven that EAS is more efficient at pushing data then googles version. Although they both offer unique abilities I really do think that EAS is more robust.
    I'm sure MS will adopt this new IMAP format on WP8, they realize that millions of people use gmail on WP7/8. I just wonder if it will be in time?
  • I hear that IMAP IDLE is a strain on battery life..
  • Yeah this is news to me, too.
  • Well, on Android and the iPhone, they use IMAP for email, so this isn't a big deal. On the iPhone, like Windows Phone, if you want it to be EAS you had to manually set it up.
  • The email isn't the big deal, the calendar and contacts are.  With Android they sync nativaly, on the iphone you can use CalDav and CardDav to sync those 2 things.  WP doesn't support those standards so calendar and contacts will no long be available to new users.  Got it.
  • That upsets me the most, I had a horrible time getting google calendar to share properly, had to add wife's email to get it to work
  • If the walk-through method is EAS supported, why doesn't it sync Google Tasks, something you get when you use the advanced setup and choose EAS.
  • Why now? Why didn't Google do this when WP7 debuted?
  • because Windows Phone 8 is taking off now. windows phone 7 wasn't a serious contender. Its funny because just last week larry page with a nice pose was stating that we should not put our fight to users to make them suffer for our own competition and now they are doing it.
  • Don't do evil, right?
  • This is why the only google brands i use still are Gmail. I plan on changing to outlook i suppose.
  • Outlook.com is unsuitable for me, since I use the Evolution client in Linux. Gmail is the only free email account I know of that supports IMAP in a desktop client. Outlook.com/hotmail.com only supports POP3 in Evolution, which is a dealbreaker.
    It's either Gmail or pay for my own hosted email service if I want IMAP support.
  • Omg. Evolution is awful. I used it for almost a year at my last job.
  • AOL uses IMAP, always has. I still consider their email offering the best. I almost never get spam where my yahoo/hotmail/gmail accounts get swamped w/spawn & I never use them.
  • IMAP is aweful, I've get to use a decent implementation of it - or at least- with a service where it works properly. Hainv got manually sync folder structures with Gmail from Windows Mail?! Aweful.
    I'm so glad I moved off of GMail
  • I don't know how Google does IMAP, but my AOL email works great on WP7/Win 8/Thunderbird. I never have problems. 
  • I've been getting ALOT LESS spam since outlook.com went live.
  • Then why not use the browser instead?  Evolution is a pretty crappy email client, reminds me too much of Outlook Express.  I'd rather use Outlook.com than GMail any day.
  • Have you heard of a browser. Clients, other than Outlook 2010/2013, are stupid.
  • Surprisingly, the Mail App on Windows 8 kinda do the job well. It's a mail client to, right? :D
  • Microsot is stupid - 'cuz allowing Xbox Live service on IPhones and Adnroids !!!
  • Microsoft is not stupid. I might use ipod and android tablet and xbox a windows phone alltogether because I am free to choose right? now these companies should think about some other way for competition and not make people like me suffer for their own selfishness and jealousy. Microsoft by far was better than others in competition fairness. but now apparently they are taking it to the next level.
  • You think MS is taking it to the next level? You probably meant google?
  • How is google taking it to the next level with competition fairness? He meant MS and he is right, by allowing their apps to all users of smartphones, not just their smartphones, makes them the bigger person when it comes to competition fairness, not like google who does what it can to make its users not be able to use MS products.
  • You can't get achievements so I don't see what the problem is.
  • +1000 internets to you sir
  • Lets hope all this "war" between the companies still benefits all consumers in the end.
  • Hah, if only.
  • No kidding.
  • but how painlessly move to outlook? its impossible
  • Outlook has an option to move contacts, calendars, and mail as well as forward your mail for (I believe) 30 days (but don't quote me on that number).
  • Actually it's pretty easy.  First, create a new outlook.com account (skip this step if you already have a hotmail/live/outlook account).  Next, log into the outlook account and attach your Google account - this will sync your contacts.  Then, log into Gmail and set up a forwarding address (Settings->Forwarding and POP/IMAP); point this to your outlook account.  Now all email sent to your gmail.com address will be forwarded to your outlook.com address.  Sit back and enjoy.  Or, configure your outlook.com address to pull messages from your gmail account - go to More Mail Settings->Your Email accounts and Add a send-and-receive account.  There will be a delay in receiving emails sent this way, as it only polls so often (and the poll rate isn't configurable).
  • Thank you. I will probably do this. I have a live.com email but did not see why I should turn it to outlook
  • If you have a live.com address, just sign into mail at outlook.com and it will upgrade you.
  • When I got my Windows phone I tried to link my Google contacts. Phone numbers for about 2/3 of my contacts were missing. Its not simple at all if you use custom descriptions in Google Contacts for phone numbers or email addresses. Outlook ignores them.
  • This! Microsoft's contact support is woeful, especially in WP7.5. I have to maintain two separate contact lists (one for Android and WP each) because all custom descriptions in Google contacts are ignored by MS.
    This hasn't been fixed in the new Outlook mail.
     
  • This is exactly what I have been doing for the last 2 months. I really don't care that much for Gmail anyway. Screw Google...
  • +1000000
  • Yeah I just set up forwarding to my outlook account from gmail as soon as i read this. See you later Gmail, its been fun.
     
    I now use Google for Zero services.....I even started searching with Bing when I bought Windows 8.
     
    p.s. I still use a bunch of Apple stuff, so I'm not a total MS fanboi. :)
     
     
  • Outlook.com added DMARC a very nice spam prevention stardard to it servers.  DMARC essentially signs each email with the sending server's private cert and publishes it's public cert in DNS.  Recieving servers will check the cert of the server that sends the email and will reject invalid signed emails.  This makes it a bit more difficult for the spammers.  Anyway, the bottom line is forwarding email from your old email service to outlook may not work as expected.  I was unable to do this from comcast to outlook.  I had to use the email pulling service in outlook.com to pull mail from comcast.
  • +5 to you thought I would have to figure this out myself
  • Hmm, another sad story. As an ex Android user, I still rely on Google for some of their services, including Gmail. But oh well, I'm happy with my WP...
  • Just do what I did man. I have my Gmail forward to my Outlook.com and all is well. One less account on the phone to poll as well (more battery for you!)
     
  • I am considering doing this but will it pull all emails or just recent ones? Not being able to search old e-mails is getting very annoying, even though I set up an Exchange ActiveSync, really not liking the arrogance of google at all, reminds of another famous company
  • Use this
    http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-outlook/archive/2012/08/09/upgrade-from-gmail-to-outlook-com-in-5-easy-steps.aspx
  • Use this
    http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-outlook/archive/2012/08/09/upgrade-from-gmail-to-outlook-com-in-5-easy-steps.aspx
  • Um isn't there a huge imap bug on wp8 that causes the phone to go haywire?
  • The problem is not IMAP on Windows Phone 8. That's a standardized implementation. The problem is that Google mangled the hell out of IMAP on their end by using a non-standard implementation. This is the same problem that caused the issue with Yahoo over IMAP earlier this year.
  • That's my understanding of it too. Google uses a custom IMAP solution, which on occasion, they alter and it causes issues on clients. That's what caused that rash of syncing issues a few weeks ago--if it were EAS, that presumably would not have occured).
  • I understand that EAS is supposed to be manually set up. Yet I did the automatic setup and went into the email settings and checked contacts and calendar after and my phone list populated and gave me a push email option. So how is that different from EAS
  • Fools
  • So no dedicated gmail app from google for sure. That sucks. 
  • This sucks for Gmail users, I hope a developer makes a Gmail app. If I could move back to Outlook I would.
  • Well. Guess I'm done with Gmail.
  • I already pulled out as well.
  • There's always someone who prefers the pullout method.
  • I will continue to use Gmail, its just easier to remember which is my Garbage mail for junk and crap. G is for Garbage. :) lol
  • Yup..me, too. Bye bye, GMail!
  • I'm pulling the plug now and moving my apps account over to live domains, it's a bit of a pain, but google wants to keep screwing users to fight Microsoft...and users like myself who enjoy both companies products, I'll go with the company that works to build cross-platform so if i ever do leave, i  wont be stiffed in the future. 
  • I really think it's time for Microsoft to respond in kind to these kind of di*k moves, playing nice is not getting them anywhere.
  • I agree. It's time for Microsoft to go thermonuclear on Google.
  • Well, they are currently embroiled in a legal battle with Motorola (a.k.a. Google) in regards to its wireless patents (Link: http://www.dailytech.com/Google+v+Microsoft+Lawsuits+Wrap+Up+Under+Cloak...). If they win, then consider that as a form of revenge against Google. ;)
  • But that only resolves a money issue. I think if they pull Office, Skype, Skydrive and other support from Android it would have a bigger meaning but it seems that Google is forgetting their "Do no evil" slogan.
    Its weird to see that Google is turning evil and Microsoft is turning for the good. Something you couldn't really say like 5 years ago.
  • And all of this does is affect users. I don't own a Windows Phone (yet) but all of the Google\Microsoft news of the last couple of days has me feeling rejected.
  • Fine. Screw them. Ever since Hotmail has been upgraded to Outlook I've been using Gmail less and less. And Google is pissing me off with their childish behaviour towards Windows Phone and Microsoft, so I'm going to have a little winter cleaning myself. Goodbye Google, and riddance.
  • Google is scared and it shows. If W8 and WP8 take off, and they are, Google is f*cked.
  • They still have yet to update their calendar to the metro style.  The current hotmail calendar is ugly and horrible compared to google calendar.  Until that changes, I can't bring myself to switch.
  • I just use the WP calendar. Outlook is way better than Gmail no matter what.
  • I used to be a big fan of Google, but that is waning as of late.
  • Same here. A few years ago I was all but enamored with every move they made, but now I'm beginning to see through it all. Plus, I can't help but think that the only thing they focus on is innovating further. They've yet to finish a product, everything always seems to be a work in progress.
  • Google is playing with fire, and is going to get burn , I don't really understand how the fuck , google can say I'm no going to release and app for windows phone 8 and is all good , and apple can block apps from its market but Microsoft can't do the same , I would block anything google makes from windows 8 and will only allow internet explorer and Bing , there's go google out of business.
  • Microsoft cannot do that because of the previous anti-trust trial.
  • It means noone will use Gmail.
  • Don't care. Used to use Googles services a lot, but lately I'm going all MSFT. Don't miss anything. :-)
  • I have moved to Outlook, only using Gmail for comments youtube =D
  • Same here and for spam mail. he he he
  • Glad i'm not the only one. its the email address i use to subscribe to random stuff. 
  • I've linked my hotmail account with YouTube, so I only use Gmail for those random subscriptions. How I wish YouTube isn't owned by Google.
  • You and me both brother
  • Me too, perhaps MS can buy Vimeo and make it better than YT
  • Interesting that Microsoft services seems to be the most open and cross-platform. I'm glad I've chosen to go with Microsoft.
  • Screw GMAIL anyways. Outlook all the way.
  • Ever since google suspended my gplus account for using a pseudonym instead of my real name, I dropped all google services and deleted my account (months ago now). Pity, because I liked Gplus . Good to see I've no reason to regret my departure though: google is getting worse by the month, violating privacy and being generally obtuse.
  • You don't actually need to hit advanced when setting up Gmail with Activesync on Windows Phone, just press the top Outlook/exchange and add m.google.com as server.
  • Not anymore after the end date.
  • I feel like I'm already in a perpetual battle with android fanboys (a battle I didn't initiate, all I was doing was showing off my awesome new phone lol). Good to see the theatre of war has expanded to corporate proportions
  • It's obvious to me Google is fearing WP8's rise and wants to scare off some gmail users. Pretty pathetic IMO.
  • what rise? :s
  • I think that's exactly what it is.
    Google always is trying to pretend Mircrosoft is no really competitor. They really are intent on never mention MS in Termes of big companies or competitors in the IT-business.
    They are avoiding to bring any of their services to the new Windows-Platforms. I wouldn't be surprised if google would but pressure on Samsung and were the reason why the Ativ S is in such a big delay.
    Samsung normally is fast in bringing new phones. They just redesigned their tablet in two month after the iPad 2 presentation. They could bring the Ativ as the "other/different" GS3 and I think they wouldn't lose anything. They could really benefit from the galaxy brand.
    I can't find a rational reason, why Samsung wouldn't have brought the Ativ S as fast as possible to the market (not just to us in Austria - many the smallest country in the world ;) ).
    I mean they have the resources.
    But I think Google is in the position to but pressure on Samsung.
  • So is this why WP8 defaults to IMAP instead of EAS for Google accounts? I guess Microsoft had advance notice.
  • Pretty much. A lot of us knew about this move back in September, so we're sure MS was aware.
  • As much as I hate to admit it, this is probably a good thing for users (not MS). Microsoft needs to support more open technologies if it wants to be anyting more than 3rd place. EAS is great, but it costs Google a lot of money to license. I'm sure they're not huge on paying that fee for every free gmail user. This strong arms MS to support IMAP IDLE (IMAP PUSH), CalDav, and CardDav. In a way, this gives MS an opportunity to support gmail's non-standard mail setup (labels, archiving, etc.) better than it did being forced to go through EAS. It also gives MS an opportunity to support businesses that roll their own mail solutions. I personally hate gmail, but I know a lot of people won't consider WP until it supports labels. Hopefully Belfiore makes this happen.
  • I would agree with you IF AND ONLY IF Google actually used the open standards too... but they purposely butcher the IMAP standards to suit their needs too. They do it so that they're in control of their own services and keep them more closed than you may realize. You can't have it both ways.
  • THIS
  • Not only their .... adaptation ... of IMAP, but they don't actually support CalDAV or CardDAV either.  You can sync contacts INTO Google's services from CardDAV, but their platform doesn't actually utilize those for contact/calendar storage or retrieval.  IMAP as a push mechanism is also very inefficient versus ActiveSync, so there's not a technical reason this is being done.  It appears to be entirely political and anti-competitive.  Given Google's marketshare in the phone market compared to Microsoft's, this really is trying to head them off at the pass (with WP8), and smacks a little of desperation.  For full disclosure I am a Microsoft employee, but it doesn't make this any less obvious.  There's no reason (other than licensing fees for EAS) that this would be done, especially to less-eficient sync methods.
  • Well, Google and hardware partners have to pay licensing fees to use ActiveSync. That is where Microsoft makes its money on Android sales.
  • I've used and enjoyed Gmail for years and have considered it one of the premiere email services...but l really love my L920 and I swear, I will drop Gmail like a three foot putt if it causes me any grief with my phone!
  • Lol I feel you.
  • Glad I don't have to deal with or worry about that Gmail crap. Outlook is smooth and works perfectly for me.
  • Why doesn't MS simply refuse to license EAS on Android devices.  I said they should do the same thing to Apple for thier app store nonsense with Skydrive.  Business uses need EAS for their exchange email servers, refuse to let them use EAS and they will acquiesce, trust me.
  • The problem is that it's risky for Microsoft because they'll get grilled for being anti-competitive. Google seems to be able to get away with anything.
  • Lol never used Gmail in my entire life:) no big deal.
  • Not long after getting my 920 I ditched Gmail. It sucked any way. Don't miss google at all, never did like google to start with.
  • ....meh...why wait. Gonna switch everything over to my hotmail and start using that.
  • This is perhaps the single biggest blunder in all of the relatively short smartphone history.  As someone who supports enterprises and SMB's alike they all use EAS and VERY few use gmail or Google services.  They just are not that good for business in my opinion.  Ending EAS support will mean a boast to WP8 phones as there are now two choices: iPhone or WP8.  I have personally had all phones Droid's/iPhone's/WP7/WP8 and I can honestly say I like the Nokia L920 the best.  It's FAST, easy and reliable.  It doesn't scratch and holds up to my easy to rough usage. 
     
    In summary, Google is shooting themselves in the foot with this decision.  Do they honestly think people will just transfer to Google because they can no longer sync to Exchange?  New equation:  Google = Sony Beta.  EAS=VHS.
  • I think you're misunderstanding a bit, they're not ending EAS support in Android, they're ending the EAS endpoints in Gmail. and just for the free users, the users of Google's business apps suites will continue to have it. 
  • From what I understand they are dropping EAS for accessing Gmail, they aren't dropping EAS on their Droid phones, they would be crazy to do that. But it does show what hypocrites they are.
  • They're not ending EAS support in the Android OS.  They're simply ending EAS support for connecting to GMail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts, and it's the latter that's the key.  When I set my wife's Google account up on her iPhone shortly after Google made EAS an option, it gave me a way to bring her Google contacts OTA to her iPhone contacts app.  IMAP for mail and CalDav for Calendar + physical syncing to Address Book on our Mac via iTunes was how I'd had to do it prior to this offering.  EAS is so much easier all things considered, but if CardDav is reliable then it seems understandable to me why Google would attempt to simplify account connectivity setup long term - especially if they're paying MSFT for each user and they have a viable alternative?
    That being said if MSFT rolled the anti-competitive dice and refused to license EAS for Android in general, Samsung, would take a body blow, and then along with HTC probably fork Android forever and pay MSFT a separate EAS license I would guess.  Otherwise enterprise users would absolutely depart their platform as you warned.
  • I'm going to miss my Gmail account.... I guess I'll just forward my Gmail to my Live inbox until I get everyone updated then just walk away.
    If they're honestly going to make it that difficult, I have no problem leaving that account to rot...
  • Thankfully, I steer clear of Google....
  • The article doesn't mention it, but are we to assume this is only in refernce to Gmail?  If they dropped EAS support on their Android phones, that would be certain doom for them as far as connecting to actual Exchange servers that many companies use.  Then again, the EAS clients provided by them usually suck, so third parties like Touchdown will benefit.  I avoid Google like the plague.  Even YouTube.  Fuckem.
  • Im a little upset for youtube. but you do have good option on wp8 with metrotube and you have the official app on xbox live so screw google and long live microsoft <3  lol
  • My main mail and had always been yahoo. Never ever used Google products. Now I use hotmail, now outlook. Signed up since my first WP, the HD7, and that was two and a half years ago. Never looked back! I have Gmail too but looks so complicated. Never used it. Only upsetting is YouTube. Gov shouldn't have let them buy it!!
  • I don't use anything Google anyway so I don't give a flying f***...screw Google.