Why Gmail Sucks for Apple Users! Part 2

by | Oct 8, 2015

Gmail-FailEver wonder why you are using so much server space on Gmail? Or why your Gmail syncing is so slow on all of your Apple devices? When you delete a message, do you wonder if it’s really gone? Maybe so, maybe not.

Your Gmail account has a catch-all area called “All Mail”. This is where all of your messages are stored. If a message is to be found in a different location, such as the Inbox or the Sent folder, then the message is tagged with a data label such as Inbox, or Sent, or Trash.

When you go to your Inbox, what’s actually happening is that the All Mail area is being filtered by the label “Inbox,” and you only see messages tagged as “Inbox”. When you delete a message from your Inbox, the “Inbox” label is replaced with a “Trash” label. And hypothetically, when you empty the Trash, then the message is actually deleted from your “All Mail” folder… maybe so, maybe not.

Basically, Gmail tags messages with labels so they can be filtered by the view you choose. In the Gmail web interface, folders are referred to as Labels and behave similarly to what we call Smart Mailboxes in Apple Mail. If you create a new Mailbox in Apple Mail, Gmail creates a label and filters the All Mail area by that label/folder/mailbox name.

When using the Gmail web interface, to delete a “folder” (referred to as a Mailbox in Apple Mail), the actual command is “Delete Label.” This removes the label/tag from all messages and deletes Mail’s “Smart Mailbox” that filters by that label, but it leaves the messages themselves in the All Mail folder with no labels attached to them…now forever lost in the abyss of the All Mail folder.

Gmail is the only email service that leverages this unique “labeling” system. And historically, third party Mail applications such as Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook or even Eudora have had a huge challenge in how to handle mail both the normal way, and the Gmail way.

Since few people understand how it works, it’s no surprise that Apple has had a hard time figuring out how to make Apple Mail leverage IMAP to interpret Gmail’s “Labels”. The complexity of Gmail’s labeling system has made it impossible for any third party mail application to “do it right” over time.

I created my own Gmail account to test this, and it seems that Apple Mail currently handles all of this label manipulation correctly. But I have a strong suspicion that it hasn’t always been handled correctly in the past when POP was the standard email protocol. I have seen a lot of Gmail users who keep their Inbox cleared, but have in excess of 8 to 10 thousand messages in their All Mail area.

Here is an image of an extreme example. This client’s Inbox has 6 messages in it, but her All Mail folder has 108,640 messages in it. And she thought she had deleted all of those messages over time!

Gmail Inbox All Mail
Is this a big deal? Does it even matter that there is more digital junk floating around in our All Mail folder? Actually, YES. You have probably never noticed, but your All Mail folder may be syncing onto all of your multiple devices, including your iPhone and iPad. A single email message is pretty small. About.com says they are, on average, 75 kilobytes**. Let’s do the math: 108,640 messages * 75 kb = 8,148,000 kb = 8.1 gigabytes. She had no idea that her computer, her iPhone, and iPad were syncing and storing over 8 GB of email messages that she believed she had already deleted.

Once there are thousands of unlabeled messages in the All Mail folder, it is very challenging to clean them up. Here is a support article from Google explaining how to do Advanced Searching using their labeling system: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/7190?hl=en.

This allows you to filter the All Mail mailbox yourself using simple searches such as in:inbox, in:trash, in:spam to find things in these areas. You can use has:userlabels, has:nouserlabels to find things that do not have user defined labels applied (meaning, they are not in a folder or Mailbox somewhere).

So…WHY? Why would Google do things so differently than everyone else. It actually makes sense for Google, since labeling and relabeling eliminates the need to physically “move” messages from mailbox to mailbox, essentially saving Google quite a bit in processing time and resources.

But be aware, Google has built an empire on data mining. Every search, every email, every everything that flows through their “Free Services” such as Gmail or Google Search is carefully tracked. The statistics are compiled and sold to other companies so they know how you think and behave online. It is in their best interest that you don’t throw any emails away. They want to know what you get, what you delete, what you click on, etc.. For them it is no big deal, since they have tons of storage space. But for iPhone users that only have 16 GBs of precious space on their device, it is a huge problem.

Now, goto your Gmail account on the google.com website and compare number of emails in your Inbox and the number of emails in your All Mail folder. If the difference is surprising or not what you expected, leave me a comment with the numbers so we can compare. And as always, get in touch if you need help fixing it!


Read Why Gmail Sucks for Apple Users! Part 1

About Jamie Pollock

Jamie has worked as an independent business and tech consultant for many years, assisting large companies and small businesses in developing a wide variety of strategies and solutions. His past clients include Jantzen, Symantec and Intel, just to name a few. With an innate ability to explain complex topics, expertise in all things iPad and iPhone, and an infectious sense of humor, Jamie is a master at helping people become confident in everyday technologies.



  1. Nathaniel j Villa

    Gmail is considered to be the most productive, convenient and popular email service, maybe syncing the Gmail account with that of the iPhone and macOS sometimes causes issues but the majority of the same can be resolvable, unless and until its an issue associated with Gmail, you are good to go.

  2. Roy Crane

    About a month ago my gmail account was denied sycning with my iMac iOS mail app. tried to read gmail account to my iMac iOS mail app to no avail. It keeps getting rejected as being unable to verify account in my safari browser. I’m going to try and with to an all Apple mail account as per the suggestion I read in this excerpt. Thanks for providing a new way to approach and circumvent the problem.

  3. Suzie Wolfer LCSW SEP

    Thanks Jamie for the insight on how and why google does what they do.

    Had to chuckle a bit: I was on a brief tech support call with apple care and was asking about a problem with using too much ram and he said “Google Chrome is actually like a great big virus on your computer.” And he suggested not using it. So I closed chrome and my macbook pro speeded up!

  4. Julia

    Great Article. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I have my mail forwarded from (one of my) “Gmail” accounts to an Apple Mail app on my desktop (I guess its an app) which I installed as Thunderbird a few years ago when I was told that Eudora was no longer compatible so that I could retain all my Email files. My Email files go back to the year 2000 and I have a many-layered filing/storing system. As a former “Spiritone” customer, I have certainly had my “issues” getting Gmail up and running as the primary IMAP address. – but so far, the problems you have described have not been troublesome to me. My issues have been trying to forward a gmail account to another gmail account and a couple other small things… However, today, my MAIN question to you is this:… You mentioned Eudora in your article and inferred that it handles the transition between gmail and a desktop retrieval system. Does that mean that Eudora still a viable option (has it been resurrected in some manner?) I LOVED that program and really would be THRILLED to reengage it with my High Sierra OS. If so, please tell me how I can obtain it and integrate back into my geeky life 🙂 Thanks ever so much!!

  5. Eric

    good piece, just cleaned mine and went back to Apple Mail. Have 20000 folders and around 450.000 emails.
    Works fine on Apple.

  6. Sari Gallegos

    Sorry, I was trying to write MAC MAIL… (instead of Apple Mail) and autocorrect created mammal…
    Any ideas on how to restore my APPLE MAIL functionality through reverting gmail messages back to the inbox so my unified APPLE MAIL INBOX will work again would be highly appreciated. Also, I would love to know if anyone else has experienced these issues, or if it was just me. Unfortunately, many highly important emails are being shunted to gmails updates and promotions categories… too many to regularly keep track of.

    Thank you for this informative article and for your time.

    • Jamie Pollock

      I am so sorry to hear of your troubles. Unfortunately, I do not have a cure. I am not a Gmail user and the problems you are currently having is exactly why I am not. I will try and do some research but I am often too busy keeping up with the annual changes Apple makes to also keep up with Google and how to they implement their technology. Between labels and now categories, I am not sure how Gmail and Mac Mail are mapping things or how to get your issue straightened out, especially if the Apple Care folks could figure it out.

      • Sari Gallegos

        Hello Jamie. I am sorry I missed your reply (years ago now). Thank you for responding. In the end, I found the emails somehow moved to a gmail personal folder… it was a matter of moving them back to the inbox. I have not turned on my ipad since! All the best.

  7. Sari Gallegos

    Hello, I have been using apple-mail with gmail imap accounts for the past couple of years with varying success. I habitually quit and restart mail when I get the off-line triangle warnings, and am used to that by now. My problem currently is driving me nuts. I added an updated iPhone 6 and an iPad to my imap, and I used gmail from the iPad to send a message. The next day, my entire inbox (17,000 messages) moved to a gmail/macmail label which only had a few emails in it. (specifically Receipts/computer subscriptions). It was a label I had created on gmail I believe, and I had dragged and dropped a few emails there in the past.
    I moved everything back to the inbox and noticed that no email at all had entered in the past 24 hours, but semi magically, it began to show up again. I later realized that now, only some of my mail shows up in gmails inbox, the rest is diverted to that same receipts category and/or updates and promotions in the default view. (on gmail, I have those categories unchecked, so they should be still showing up in the inbox… but they aren’t). Apple mail, of course, doesn’t recognize categories, so now I have to look under all-mail to see my new messages from gmail. They are now failing to show up in the unified inbox as well. I made a smart mailbox for all mail received since October 28th, but now my unified inbox on my iPhone is no longer complete.
    I was reasonably happy with my universal inbox on mammal and iPhone and now I am searching for important emails all over the place. I did check and there’s no filters on either system that should cause this to occur. I spent 2 hours on the phone with Apple Support and they still don’t know what happened, and unfortunately, my last backup to time machine was a month prior to the event, so I can’t revert…

  8. kd

    My Gmail Inbox was erased and not by me : On the morning of March 29 2016 when I went to my Gmail account and my in box was empty.
    I checked if there was a breach reported, no. I changed my password anyway. I did some research. lost of guesses as to how inboxes are erased, hundreds of incidents. I filed a Gmail form reporting the vanished inbox and received a Gmail reply that the mail is gone. “We received your request to recover deleted emails from your account. Unfortunately, the emails were permanently deleted, so we’re not able to get them back for you”. What?
    How is that possible? Why can’t, won’t Gmail restore the mail ? Wasn’t that a benefit of a cloud application?

    • Jamie Pollock

      I am sorry to hear of your experience. Unfortunately, I do not have any good answers for you since I am an Apple expert not a Google expert. I am surprised to hear that they had no recourse in covering your lost emails. I would expect them to keep backups for you.


  9. Jim Worrall

    Inbox: 683. All Mail: ~1500.

    Very interesting pair of articles; thank you. The “insecure apps” thing has caused me lengthy bouts of frustration. But it’s not just older Apple Mail versions that are affected. I have El Capitan with the latest update, and they periodically have blocked me. I finally found the setting for “allow insecure apps”.

    I struggled with Gmail from the beginning with the folder structure and how to delete things. Thanks for the advanced searching link. I looked it over but couldn’t find any way to select messages with NO labels (only with no user labels). I can’t figure out how those messages got unlabeled to begin with. And some of the stuff with Sent labels also has Inbox labels – I can’t figure it out at all!

    • Jamie Pollock

      The messages with no labels seem to be created when you are on an iPhone using Gmail and instead of a Trash option, there is only an Archive option. From what I have gathered, Archive equals remove all labels and leave it in the All Mail folder. I often recommend people instead use the Move option and Move the message to the Trash. Not convenient, but it works. If I ever figure out the magical Search equation for all message with no labels, I will post it here. Good Luck!


  10. Lantz

    I just setup Mail on a Mac and ran into the issues your article speaks of. Following your advice to turn on less secure apps worked and the Gmail account is working in Mail.

    Any advice on getting the Address Book 6.1.3 on Mac OS X 10.7.5 working with Google? When I go to Address Book > Preferences > Accounts, the Sync with Google option isn’t working.

  11. Jamie Pollock

    Goto your Gmail account and compare how many message are in your Inbox and how many are in your All Mail folder. If the numbers don’t make sense, then post a comment with the numbers here!

    • Royalwise

      Also, make sure you are looking at total messages and not just the unread messages number that is in the red badge alert!


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