Friday, June 05, 2015

3 Usability & Troubleshooting Tips for Using Email on iPhones

Accessing email on a smartphone is a convenient time saver.  The ability to check email at any time is invaluable whereas checking email only while sitting at a desk is a thing of the past.  Now more than ever people are responding to emails while in the field, working remotely, and before and after normal working hours.  This post discusses one of the most common issues people run into when accessing email on their phones and two usability tips which help organize important emails and save time.

The Dreaded Password Issue - Email Will Not Update
The most common problem users run into when accessing email on a smartphone is having an email account fail to update.  Sometimes the user receives an error stating the password is incorrect or the connection to the server failed while other times there is no error message at all.  Whether there are error messages or not, this issue is most commonly caused by an incorrect password.  

If the password for the email account is reset or updated using any other device, the password must also be updated on the phone for the email account to work.  When email accounts are initially set up on smartphones the password for the account is entered and stored on the phone.  When the password is changed the stored password becomes invalid.  To update the password for an existing email account open:

  • Settings and click on "Mail, Contacts, Calendars"
  • Click the name of the email account exhibiting the issue
  • If the account details do not automatically display, click on "Account" at the top (the protocols used for each type of email account are responsible for the differences in account details)
  • Scroll down to the Password cell
  • Backspace over the existing password and type in the current password

  • Click "Done" to save the new password
  • Open Mail to test the email account settings

Flagging Emails
Flagging an email is useful to mark specific emails for easy access at a later time.  To flag an email, from inside an email click the flag icon in the bottom left corner and select "Flag" in the pop up menu.

To access a flagged email later open Mail and click the Flagged inbox.  Flagging emails allows emails to be quickly accessed later regardless of how many emails are delivered to the email account after an email is flagged.  Emails that are commonly flagged are:
  • Personal or work emails needing to be followed up on later
  • Order and shipping confirmation emails (to track orders)
  • Special offerings like sales and discounts
  • Account information and confirmation emails
To turn on the Flagged inbox if it is not enabled:
  • Open "Mail"
  • In the Mailboxes pane, click "Edit" in the upper right corner
  • Touch the check box next to "Flagged" to turn on the inbox

  • Click "Done"

Hundreds of Emails Show Up as Unread - New and Recovered Accounts
When email accounts are initially set up every unopened email shows up as unread.  This normally makes sense except for in a few cases.  If an email account normally checked on a smartphone is added to a new smartphone, many times emails opened on the previous phone will appear as unread on the new phone.  This happens because the emails opened on the phone were not opened in the email account, but instead copies of the emails were downloaded onto the phone and opened there.  This also happens when email accounts are recovered, which can happen if hardware fails unexpectedly.  Instead of opening emails one at a time, mark them all as read at the same time.  

To mark all emails in an email account as read at once:
  • Open Mail and click on the email account
  • Click "Edit" in the upper right corner
  • Click "Mark All" in the bottom left corner
  • Touch "Mark As Read" in the popup which will immediately mark every email in the account as read

Accessing email on smartphones is efficient and convenient, until it isn't.  Running into password problems can be frustrating and time consuming when you do not know what is causing the issue.  Oftentimes it seems nothing has changed, and perhaps nothing has changed on the phone directly.  Still, it is important to remember any changes made to an email account outside of the phone also affects the email account on the phone.  Flagging emails is a huge time saver because it makes it easy to find important emails at a later time no matter how many emails we receive each day.  Lastly, marking all emails as read is a time saver and allows incoming emails to be noticed and attended to.  Whatever ways and reasons email is accessed on phones, being more efficient is always welcome.

With summer coming use the extra time to do something fun!

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