What to Do When Gmail Is Not Working on iPhone

These are the fixes you've been looking for

The Gmail icon on a smartphone's screen.

S3studio / Getty Images

Gmail is the most popular email service on the web. However, as streamlined and as easy to use as it generally is, it can, like other email services, encounter issues. This guide covers the most common problems iPhone owners are likely to have with the service, and it explains how to resolve them. From being unable to send or receive mail to failing to connect to the Gmail server via your iPhone, it will you have you using your account again in no time.

What to Do When You Cannot Get Gmail on Your iPhone

A screenshot showing Google's security screen.

Often, issues can arise if you attempt to use Gmail on your iPhone while away on vacation, or in a location you tend not to visit normally. Detecting that you're somewhere you usually aren't, Gmail can sometimes stop letting you access their server whenever you open the Mail app on your iPhone. This problem can continue even when you return home from a trip.

Usually, you know this is a problem because you'll be presented with any one of a number of error messages. "Cannot Get Mail," "Cannot Send Mail," and "Cannot Connect Using SSL" are some of the most common, and while they might vary in their exact wording, they always indicate that you have a problem.

Fortunately, you can deal with this problem by going to the Gmail website on your iPhone and (re)enabling your device. Here's what you do:

  1. Open your iPhone's internet browser (most likely Safari)
  2. Go to gmail.com
  3. Sign into the account you're having difficulties with (make sure you're signed out of any other account)
  4. Next, copy and paste the following link into your browser's address/URL bar: https://accounts.google.com/b/0/displayunlockcaptcha
  5. Tap Continue

If you can't pull up Gmail in Safari, You may not have a good internet connection or Gmail might be down. If either of these is the case, stop right here and try to figure out which it is.

You will then see a page which says, "Account access enabled. Please try signing into your Google account again from your new device or application."

Having done this, you should be able to open the iPhone's Mail app and begin receiving/sending as normal.

What to Do When Gmail Is Not Working on iPhone: Check Device Activity

A screenshot from a Google account where you can review device activity.

While the above method usually resolves most Gmail problems, you can also try checking your Gmail account for any emails from Google alerting you to an 'unusual' sign-in.

Such emails usually contain a red box that says, "REVIEW YOUR DEVICES NOW." You should click on this link and, if required to, enable your iPhone.

Alternatively, you can log into your Google account (via your smartphone or computer) and check your Device and Activity Dashboard.

  1. Log into Gmail (if doing this on your iPhone, tap 'the 'Go to the mobile Gmail site' link and then the "View Gmail in Desktop' link at the bottom of the Settings menu)
  2. Click your Gmail account profile picture and click Google Account (you don't need to click your account picture when doing this on your iPhone)
  3. Click Device activity & security events
  4. Scroll down to the Recently used devices submenu and click REVIEW DEVICES

After doing this, click on your iPhone. In the vast majority cases, this will present you with the details of your most recent login. However, if there is an Enable button, click it. After doing this, try logging into your Gmail account using the Mail app on your iPhone.

What to Do When Gmail Is Not Working on iPhone: Enable IMAP

Screenshots of the Gmail mobile site

One other fairly common cause of iPhone Gmail issues is IMAP. This stands for internet message access protocol, a technological standard that lets your Gmail account send all your account information to and from your smartphone. Normally, IMAP should present you with no problems or issues at all, but if it gets switched off (for whatever reason) it will prevent Gmail from working on your iPhone.

As such, here's how to check whether IMAP is enabled and how to switch it back on if it isn't.

  1. Using your desktop or laptop computer, go to gmail.com and log into your Gmail account
  2. Click the Settings cogwheel in the top-right corner of the screen
  3. Click Settings
  4. Click the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab
  5. Scroll down to the IMAP Access subheading and click Enable IMAP, if it isn't already on

This will enable IMAP for your Gmail, which will mean that your iPhone's Mail app will begin sending and receiving emails again.

Also, in case you don't have access to a desktop or laptop computer, you can complete the above process using your iPhone. Here's what you do:

  1. Using your iPhone's web browser (e.g. Safari), go to gmail.com and log into your Gmail account
  2. Tap the "Go to the mobile Gmail site" link at the bottom of the screen
  3. Tap the More button in the top-left corner of the screen
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, to the "View Gmail in" submenu, and tap "Desktop"
  5. Tap Settings, from the menu bar running along the top of the screen
  6. Tap the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab
  7. Scroll down to the IMAP Access subheading and tap Enable IMAP, if it isn't already on

That's it, and assuming that IMAP wasn't enabled before, your iPhone should start working with your Gmail account again.

What to Do When Gmail Is Not Working on iPhone: iOS 6 and Earlier

A screenshot of where to enabling less secure apps from inside Google

While this guide covers more recent iPhones and versions of iOS, there is one extra option that users can try if they're running iOS 6 or earlier. It involves letting 'less secure' apps access your Gmail account:

  1. Log into Gmail (if doing this on your iPhone, tap 'the 'Go to the mobile Gmail site' link and then the "View Gmail in Desktop' link at the bottom of the Settings menu)
  2. Click your Gmail account profile picture and click Google Account (you don't need to click your account picture when doing this on your iPhone)
  3. Click Device activity & security events
  4. Scroll down to the "Allow less secure apps" subheading at the bottom of the page
  5. Click the slider, so that it moves into the blue On position

Users of iOS 6 will then be able to use Gmail via the Mail app of their iPhones. However, given that iOS 6 isn't as secure as more recent versions, it may be a good idea to upgrade.

What to Do When Gmail Is Not Working on iPhone: Delete and Restore Account

A series of screenshots showing how to delete Gmail account on an iPhone

Assuming that none of the methods above have resolved the issue, one thing you can try when Gmail isn't working on your iPhone is to delete your Gmail account from the smartphone and then set it up again.

Before you take this step, or any further down, check online to make sure the problem isn't a Gmail outage. Obviously, if Gmail is down, there no point in doing anything to your phone, as this will not help the situation.

Here's how you delete the account:

  1. On your iPhone, tap Settings
  2. Tap Passwords & Accounts
  3. Tap your Gmail account
  4. Finally, tap Delete Account

Next, you'll obviously want to set the Gmail account up again on your iPhone:

  1. Go to Passwords & Accounts again
  2. Tap Add Account
  3. Tap Google
  4. Type in your Gmail address
  5. Tap NEXT
  6. Type in your Gmail account's password
  7. Tap NEXT again
  8. Check that Mail is enabled, and enable Contacts, Calendar, and Notes if you want to access these on your iPhone
  9. Tap Save

That's it, although Gmail users with two-factor authentication enabled should note that they'll have to enter a Google Authenticator code after Step 7.

What to Do When Gmail is Not Working on iPhone: Restore iPhone

A screenshot of restoring an iPhone from inside iTunes
Apple

One final option if you've tried everything above, and you're certain it's not a Gmail outage, is to perform a factory reset and restore your iPhone to a previous backup. This can help in situations where some kind of system error on your iPhone is making Gmail inaccessible.

First, backup your data. Either you can use iTunes, by connecting your iPhone to a computer using a USB cable, opening its submenu on iTunes, and then selecting Back Up Now. Or you can use iCloud, by going to Settings on your iPhone, clicking your Name (this step doesn't apply to iOS versions earlier than 10.2), then iCloud, and finally iCloud Backup.

Once backed up, you then need to switch off the Find My iPhone feature.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap your Name (not applicable to iOS versions earlier than 10.2)
  3. Tap iCloud
  4. Swipe the Find My iPhone slider to the white Off position
  5. Scroll to the bottom and tap Sign Out

Finally, you can perform the factory reset itself by taking the following path: Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Once you've reset your iPhone, you then need to restore its last backup (see below), and then set up your Gmail account again (as described in the previous section).

Here's how to restore using an iCloud backup:

  1. When setting up your iPhone for the first time after the reset, tap Restore from iCloud Backup on the Apps & Data screen
  2. Tap the backup you wish to restore (i.e. the one you made before resetting the iPhone)

And here's how to restore using iTunes:

  1. Using a desktop or laptop computer and a USB cable, connect your iPhone to iTunes
  2. Click the iPhone icon in the top-left corner of the iTunes screen
  3. Click Restore Backup
  4. Find the desired backup from the "iPhone Name" drop-down menu and click on it to select
  5. Click Restore