Switching to Three Australia for my cell phone service was an excellent decision. I get excellent call rates, good coverage, fast and cheap internet (thanks to UMTS), and as an added bonus I get a free IMAP email account with which I can receive unlimited emails (with attachments), and for $3 send unlimited emails (also with attachments) as well, regardless of size, without affecting my data plan. The phone that I purchased when I signed up was the Sony Ericsson M600i, which as I said in my 750v review had issues which is why I returned it. The one thing it was quite good at was receiving emails almost instantly using the IMAP Idle function. IMAP Idle works by keeping an open connection between the client and server. When accessing folders and messages in an IMAP account, the connection is active an open for new messages to be delivered (or the user alerted to their presence without downloading them).
IMAP Idle comes in when that activity is not present. The client sends an “idle” command to the server to let it know it is waiting for instructions. When new mail arrives at the server, it sends a response to the idle command letting the client know that new mail has arrived. The user can then be alerted to that fact. If the idle command has been in effect for a certain period of time it will send another command letting the server know that it is still there. This keeps the connection from timing out from inactivity.
In practice it is a very good system, and offers functionality similar to Blackberry enterprise email (without the calendar and contact features), and doesn’t require the user to pay for a Blackberry server or service.
This brings me to my issue. Having used IMAP Idle for several months I grew to love it, and would often turn to emailing people instead of text messaging because it was free and fast. I would be instantly notified of their response. I have my Gmail account setup forward a copy of my incoming emails to my IMAP address, so that I can receive them for free on my phone as well. With my move to the Treo 750v, and Windows Mobile 5, I have yet to find a reliable solution to give me IMAP Idle. There are only two applications that I have found that support IMAP Idle: vgsmail and WebIS Flexmail 2007.
is a simple application that gives Inbox the ability to use IMAP Idle. This little program does the receiving and sending of the messages, and puts the output into Inbox.
Basically it is a small icon on your today screen, that links to the application where you can shutdown, restart or reconnect the IMAP connection, as well as monitor the connection. There is also a wizard that you run when first installing to setup your IMAP settings (you don’t do it in Inbox).
Its somewhat reliable, but I would often find it doing nothing about incoming mail. It seems, however, to have been abandoned, with no contact links on the applications download/instruction page, and a deadlink. A Google search will find the and contact details, but it doesn’t make any mention of vgsmail that I was able to find. The last update was over 6 months ago, and that was a beta version that did not work for me. I was tempted to purchase it, but this uncertainty has turned me away. With some updates this could have been a good solution, but for $22 with seemingly no future updates and questionable support, I gave this a miss.
is a powerful replacement for the builtin Inbox application, offering amongst other things support for HTML email and (according to the site) IMAP Idle.
In practice however it the functionality is quite unreliable. While it works sometimes, it seems to forget after short while that it is supposed to be connected to the server, and doesn’t receive any new mail. Similar issues are posted on WebIS’s forums, so it seems I am not the only one having this difficulty.
On an unrelated note it also handles new mail notifications strangely. Each email is given a new notification bubble, which leads to the rather ridiculous situation shown below.
So far these are the only two applications that claim IMAP Idle capability, but they fail to deliver where it counts. When Flexmail fixes the problems with IMAP Idle I will definitely give their application another try, and it looks to be quite a powerful email client for Windows Mobile. I would also try vgsmail again if its problems are fixed, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen any time soon (if at all).
What does everyone else think about the state of IMAP Idle on Windows Mobile? Is it something that you would find greatly useful?