What Do the iPhone Email Settings Do?

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Make the Mail app yours by mastering its Settings.

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The pre-installed iPhone Mail app offers dozens of email settings that allow you to customize how the app works. From changing the alert tone when a new email arrives and how much of the email is previewed before you open it to how often it checks for new mail, learning about Mail's settings will help you master email on your iPhone.

If your iPhone email isn't working right, the problem might not be your settings. Find out what could be causing it and how to fix it in What to Do When Your iPhone Email Is Not Working.

Mastering Basic iPhone Email Settings

Screenshot: Mail app basic settings

The basic settings offered by the Mail app give you control over virtually every aspect of the app. Here is what each core option on the Settings screen does. To access these options, tap Settings > Mail.

  • Siri & Search: Determines whether Siri can be used to control and search the Mail app.
  • Notifications: A section later in this article explains Notification settings.
  • Cellular Data: Move this slider to off/white to only check email via Wi-Fi. 
  • Preview: Controls the number of lines of text from the email shown in the inbox. Options range from none to 5 lines.
  • Show To/Cc Label: Slide this to On/green to show who an email is addressed to and who is CCed.
  • Swipe Options: Control what happens when you swipe left or right across an email in the inbox view. Tap Swipe Left and choose from None, Mark as Read, Flag, or Move Message to a new folder. Tap Swipe Right and choose from the same options, plus Archive.
  • Flag Style: Choose whether emails that you've flagged for follow up display a dot of color next to them or a flag icon.
  • Ask Before Deleting: Get a warning before Mail deletes an email when you moving this slider to On/green.
  • Load Remote Images: Slide this to On/green to load images in emails (think email newsletters). Images can be turned off to save data.
  • Organize by Thread: Slide this to On/green to group together related messages that are part of a conversation.
  • Collapse Read Messages: Move this to on/green to reduce the vertical space messages in a thread that you've already read take up. 
  • Most Recent Message on Top: For threaded conversations, use this to display the latest message at the top of the list.
  • Complete Threads: When this is enabled, every message in a conversation thread, including those that are deleted or in other folders, are shown as part of the conversation.
  • Always Bcc Myself: Slide this to On/green to always send yourself a copy of all emails you send from your phone.
  • Mark Addresses: Tap this and enter an email domain name (for example, gmail.com or your work email address). With that set, any email address that doesn't use that domain is highlighted in red. This is especially helpful to make sure you're not sending work email from a personal account or accidentally sending an email to the wrong address.
  • Increase Quote Level: When you respond to a message or forward it, having this setting turned to On/green adds indentation to the original email to make it easier to read.
  • Signature: Choose what message appears at the bottom of all emails send from your iPhone.
  • Default Account: Choose the email account that messages are sent from by default.

Change Settings to Get Email More Often

Screenshot: Mail app fetch settings

You can control how email gets downloaded to your phone and how often your phone checks for new mail by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Accounts & Passwords (on older versions of the iOS, tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars).
  3. Tap Fetch New Data.
  4. In this section, there are three options: Push, Accounts, and Advanced
    1. Push: Automatically downloads (or "pushes") all email from your account to your phone as soon as they're received. The alternative is that emails are only downloaded when you check your mail. Not all email accounts support this, and it runs down battery life faster
    2. Accounts: A list of each account configured on your device lets you make an account-by-account to either Fetch email automatically or only download mail when you manually check it. Tap each account and then tap Fetch or Manual.
    3. Fetch: The traditional way of checking email. It checks your email every 15, 30, or 60 minutes and downloads any messages that have arrived since you last checked. You can also set it to check manually. This is used if Push is disabled. The less often you check email, the more battery you'll save.

Advanced Email Account Settings

Screenshot: Mail app advanced settings

Every email account set up on your iPhone has a series of advanced options that let you control each account even more tightly. Access these by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap Accounts & Passwords (or Mail, Contacts, Calendar on older versions of the iOS).
  3. Tap the account you want to configure.
  4. Tap Account. 
  5. Tap Advanced.

While different account types have some different options, the most common are covered here:

  • Drafts Mailbox: Tap this to select the mailbox that this email account saves draft emails to by default.
  • Deleted Mailbox: Choose the mailbox that deleted emails are moved to by default.
  • Archive Mailbox: If this account supports archiving email (rather than just deleting it), tap this option to select the mailbox that archived messages are moved to.
  • Move Discarded Messages Into: Choose whether discarded emails are Deleted or Archived here.
  • Use SSL: Move this slider to on/green to add SSL security when sending your username and password to your email server. Some servers require this; it's optional for others.
  • IMAP Path Prefix: If you check your mail using the IMAP protocol, enter the path prefix required here (if you don't know what this means, you probably don't need it).
  • Server Port: Tap this to specify the port (i.e., connection address) required by your email server. Another one that you only need to configure in special situations.
  • S/MIME: Move this slider to on/green to encode your mails in the S/MIME format.

Controlling Email Notification Settings

Screenshot: Mail app notifications

Assuming you're running iOS 5 or higher (and virtually everyone is), you can control the types of notifications you receive in Notification Center from the Mail app by following these steps:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap Notifications.
  3. Scroll down and tap Mail.
  4. The Allow Notifications slider determines whether the Mail app gives you notifications. If it's turned on, tap the account whose settings you want to control settings and your options are: 
    1. Sounds: Lets you select the tone that plays when new mail arrives.
    2. Badge App Icon: Determines whether the number of unread messages appears on the app icon.
    3. Show On Lock Screen: Controls whether new emails show on your phone's lock screen.
    4. Show in History: Determines whether these notifications show up in Notification Center.
    5. Show as Banners: Sets notifications to appear as slide-down banners.
    6. Show Preview: Move this to On/green to see a text excerpt from the email in Notification Center.

You can also choose from Thread Notification Settings on the main Notifications screen. These options override individual account settings. All options are the same, they're just global instead of set on a per-account basis.

Turn Off Email Sounds

Screenshot: Mail app sound settings

One of the most basic settings related to email has to do with the sounds that play when you send or receive an email to confirm that something has happened. You may want to change those noises or not have them at all. To change these settings:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Scroll down to Sounds & Haptics (or just Sounds on older versions of the iOS) and tap it.
  3. Scroll to the Sounds and Vibration Patterns section.
  4. The relevant settings in this section are New Mail (the sound that plays when new email arrives) and Sent Mail (the sound that indicates an email has been sent).
  5. Tap the one you want to change. You'll see a list of alert tones to choose from, plus all of the ringtones (including custom tones) on your phone and None.
  6. When you tap on a tone, it plays. If you want to use it, ensure the checkmark is next to it and then tap the Sounds & Haptics button in the top left to return to the Sounds screen.