Multiple Mail Accounts on Android

One of the benefits of an Android tablet is being able to compose email almost as easily as if I was at a PC.  I have a number of e-mail accounts and was happily using Google’s GMail app up until yesterday.  In part, it was because it could handle the three types of accounts I’m using:

  • corporate Microsoft Exchange e-mail on remote cloud host
  • consumer Google Mail account(s) using two-factor authentication
  • hosted e-mail server

I have looked at e-mail apps on Android before, in part because the original Google and Microsoft e-mail apps couldn’t handle multiple accounts.  But when I cleared my tablet yesterday and was re-installing, I found that my Google GMail app would no longer accept one of my accounts.  So the hunt was on again for a replacement.

[UpdateI found a better replacement – VMWare’s Boxer]

No GMail

This is the nicest e-mail client I’ve used.  Unlike Google’s other e-mail app, Inbox by GMail, which supports only GMail accounts, this one has loads of flexibility.  The default Android one is a bit clunky and, while you can manage a number of accounts in it, it’s not as appealing a user experience.  When I reinstalled GMail and added my Google account, I was all set.  Then I attempted to add back my hosted account.  Because the host uses a secure SSL certificate on its site, but my e-mail is set up to use my domain name, there is a mismatch.

Google GMail Android Certificate App In the past, you could select Manual Setup and tell the app to accept any SSL or TSL certificates.  But this feature no longer works that way.  When you click the Manual option, it takes you to a screen that shows only your username, password, and server.  When GMail tests the certificate, you fail and that’s the end of the configuration.

No K9 E-mail

K9 E-mail has been my “go to” e-mail app, and I used it prior to Google’s app offering multi-account support.  I like it for lots of reasons:  it’s open source, supports multiple accounts, has a nice interface.  It provides the same unified inbox, so I can see e-mails coming in from all accounts, and I can send from any account.

This feature can’t be under-emphasized.  I have spent the last year using the default Android e-mail app for my corporate e-mail and the GMail app for everything else, and even that little amount of switching requires knowing nuances of both programs.

K9 failed me though, because I have turned on two-factor authentication.  Normally when you create a new account, you’re prompted to put in a code, and then your authentication is complete.  K9 doesn’t support that, instead requiring you to create an application-specific code in your Google Account interface.  I have not used it, in part because I tend to agree with this post that the code – which you put in as a password – seems to be less secure than two factor is meant to be.

Back to Basics

One reason I had not just automatically resolved to use the default e-mail was that I had also decided to stop checking my corporate e-mail.  It’s the least good alternative.  However, it has one benefit:

  • I can check my corporate e-mail and sync my corporate calendar
  • It accepts two factor authenticaation
  • It allows me to accept any SSL or TSL certificate

So that’s what I’ve done.  I’m back to the default app.  By cutting out my corporate e-mail, I have all of my personal e-mail accounts dumping into the unified inbox.  This isn’t as convenient as seeing each one individually, but you can do that by clicking the Inbox menu at the top, which expose all the accounts running in the app.

One glitch is that, if I create a Microsoft Exchange account through Settings and disable all sync except e-mail, it doesn’t seem to work.  I would like to still sync my corporate calendar without the e-mails.  You can disable sync in 2 places – one is inside the e-mail client, where you can disable sync for everything BUT e-mail, and one is in Settings – but the client is so far ignoring it.  I may end up having to get a calendar sync-only app instead.