For as long as I have been using an iPhone, I have been frustrated by the inability of Hotmail to support a modern email access protocol. Hotmail seemed to be fixed in the mists of time at a point where POP3 was deemed to be sufficient to meet the needs of users. And while POP3 does a reasonable job of allowing clients to access an inbox, that’s about the height of its capabilities. In particular, synchronization of messages read or deleted on the iPhone seemed to be beyond POP3. The result was that I had to process messages twice – once when they appeared on the iPhone, and again later on to clean up my mailbox.
IMAP4 support would have been a solution. Other email systems such as Gmail use IMAP4 to good effect to support clients like the iPhone, but there was no sign that Hotmail would ever support this protocol, so I lived with the frustration.
And then I found out about Hotmail’s support of ActiveSync. This is not news as Microsoft made ActiveSync available for Hotmail in August 2010, but I must have been asleep when that particular announcement crossed the wires. ActiveSync is usually associated with Exchange but in essence it’s just an email access protocol that works over HTTP. ActiveSync is a more modern protocol than IMAP4 and Microsoft has been very successful in licensing the protocol to companies such as Apple, Google, Nokia, and Motorola (amongst many others), so enabling ActiveSync support for Hotmail allows clients running on any ActiveSync device to download messages, contacts, and calendar information. Filters and searches work too. For more information, you can view a video about ActiveSync support for Hotmail.
In any case, configuring ActiveSync to access Hotmail on an iPad or iPhone is easy.
- Go to Settings
- Select Mail, Contacts, and Calendar
- Select Add Account
- Select “Microsoft Exchange” as the new account type (this really means that the device will use ActiveSync as its synchronization protocol rather than attempting to get to Hotmail via Exchange)
- Enter your email address in the Email field. This will be something like “John.Doe@Hotmail.com”
- Leave the Domain field blank.
- Enter your email address in the Username field.
- Enter your Hotmail password in the Password field.
- Enter a description (something like “Hotmail via ActiveSync”).
- Click Next. The device will attempt to connect and should come back with a request for you to enter a server name. Enter “m.hotmail.com” and click Next.
- The device will verify the connection and then ask what you want to synchronize. The options are Mail, Contacts, and Calendar. The default is to synchronize Mail only as you might create duplicates if you synchronize the other two data types with Outlook via iTunes.
- Click Save to complete adding the account.
- Go back to Mail and check your Inbox. The device will make an ActiveSync connection and download any new messages. Older messages are not synchronized.
And that’s all there is to it. Nice, simple, effective, and liberation from POP3. Pity it took me so long to catch up with the news…