Why using an iPhone with multiple mail accounts is not as simple as it should be

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Whilst balancing childcare duties with work commitments last week, I was working some pretty irregular hours but wanted to keep tabs on my e-mail – so I connected my iPhone to the Exchange Server at work.

Nothing unremarkable there – iPhone v2.0 software includes Microsoft ActiveSync support and it worked – as it should. Unfortunately it still leaves a lot to be desired – not on the Exchange Server side but with Apple’s mail client implementation. For a company which is so focused on user experience, they don’t appear to have thought too much about this one…

You see, I have two mail accounts – one for home/small business (using Google Apps Email) – and one for work (using Microsoft Exchange Server 2007). The iPhone lets me configure multiple accounts and both work well – especially Exchange Server which has excellent push e-mail support (I often hear a message arrive on the phone before I see the notification on my Windows PC), remote wipe (according the the iPhone and iPod Touch Enterprise Deployment guide – I’ve not tested wiping my device from Exchange just yet but I can see the option there!) and more.

Mobile device view in Exchange Server 2007 web access - showing an iPhone

My problem is that, even though the mail client supports multiple accounts, switching from one Inbox to the other involves navigating five screens (out of one Inbox and up to the account level, then back to the Accounts screen, into another account, and finally into the other Inbox).

That’s not all – Apple seem to think that the reason for having multiple accounts is to bring all of my e-mail into one place – but surely if that’s what I wanted I would forward one mailbox to the other and access a single Inbox? Instead, I deliberately keep my work and private life separate (albeit on one device). The iPhone updates the new message indicator on the home screen to include the sum of all accounts (fair enough) but it only seems to allow me to set one signature for all accounts – and I want to use different contact details (e-mail address, phone number, job titles, etc.) for different accounts.

You see that’s the trouble with Apple products: they look great; they’re really simple to use (mostly) but sometimes you can oversimplify things and impact on flexibility.

One thought on “Why using an iPhone with multiple mail accounts is not as simple as it should be

  1. I thought I was missing something and in fact was totally confused as to how messages I was sending from within my second account seemed to being delivered as if sent from my prime account (first account I set up). Apple have missed a trick here.


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