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iPhone Tips and Tricks: How to mark all emails as READ or delete all email messages from iPhone

August 21, 2007 iPhone

Here is a way to mark all your unread messages as READ or to quickly delete all your messages from your iPhone instead of doing it one at a time.   
Blogged By:

Team Louish
As most people who have an iPhone and check their email on it, they know one of the major flaws in the software design is that you can not mark all messages as read, and you can not delete more than 1 message at a time. Aside from the fact you can not have more than 200 messages (per account) on your phone (actually.. for some reason, I've been able to trick the phone into giving me more, I've seen as high as 328 messages in 1 account, but that was when I was doing was weird tests to see if I could find a way to delete all messages quickly). If I'm wrong on any of my points in this blog, please comment and let me know.

A little background on my iPhone. I have 2 iPhones, one for me, and one for my significant other. The first phone I activated on the "Go Phone" plan, paying $98 a month for a measily 700 minutes. After buying my 2nd iPhone, I switched over to an exsisting family plan, adding 2 iphones to the account. I increased the minutes another 1400 minutes for $40 and each iphone was $30 ($10 for additional line fee, and $20 for internet). Making my total added cost $100/month. This gave me 2 phones and double the minutes. MUCH better than the Go Phone plans. (FYI, The speaker has already blown on the 1st iPhone, listening to a song too loud, but the Apple Store said to just bring it in and they'd swap out the speaker).

Handling EMAIL on the iPhone. OK. So whats the big deal. Who cares that you have to delete each message on at a time. Well, for some of us, we get 100's of emails every day. For me, I work at home, and I always have my email windows up, constantly checking new messages, replying, etc. When I leave the house, I want to be able to see what new messages have come in, etc. In most cases and devices, a POP3 account would be my answer, and setting my device to Leave Message on Server. But in this case, Im not using POP3 accounts, Im using GMAIL, and GMAIL Hosted Apps for your Domain, besides, my problem isn't checking mail, its deleting mail quickly so I can allow more messages to come in, and to get rid of my phone telling me I have 600 unread messages (3 accounts at 200 messages each).

I have 3 accounts I check on the iPhone.
  • My Gmail account
  • My email account via Gmail Apps for your domain
  • Another regular POP3 account

The way I have these accounts configured is via POP3. On the iPhone, in Settings, I clicked MAIL, then ADD ACCOUNT, then OTHER, and manually configure the phone with 3 pop3 accounts. In Gmail (AND my Google Apps account) I set my account to "POP3 access" so I could access my gmail account via pop3. This method worked fine (for a while, my google apps account started to not check new messages after about 2 weeks, but thats besides the point)... this doesn't solve my main problem, which is Deleting multiple messages at the same time.

My first attempts at finding a good solutions to quickly deleting all the messages in the mail program of the iPhone was to delete the accounts on the phone, then resync the phone with iTunes while telling itunes to force the account to overwrite the phone mail data. This was a quick process, kinda annoying, but I figured it would work. Well it didnt. When I deleted the accounts from my iPhone (that had 200 messages in it), then I re-synced the mail accounts from Apple Mail forcing it to overwrite the data on the phone (my apple mail program had 0 messages), it successfully put my accounts back on the phone (username, password, settings, etc), but magically my 200 messages reappears. (Meaning when you delete a mail account on your iPhone it's not really deleting any of the messages. I even tried rebooting the phone in between deleting the account and resyncing, thinking maybe it was in some sort of cache and it needed to be cleared. Every way I tried it, it didn't work as I wanted. At times, I even found the some of the messages would re-download, causing many duplicates (which was weird because the pop3 account actually had 0 messages in it). So this method failed, you can not delete email messages on your iphone by removing the account then resyncing. (Which is stupid, this should work).

Then I realized, why not use IMAP. Yes I know Gmail doesnt offer IMAP, and neither does Google Apps for your domain. BUT, you can get free imap accounts anywhere, and all we're doing is forwarding a copy of our messages to this imap account. No one will see the IMAP account details. With IMAP, on your computer, you can easily mark all messages as read or quickly delete all messages in 1 click. This change to the IMAP server will be reflected on your iPhone. For those of you who do not know what IMAP is, here is an explination. When you have a POP3 account, you check your mail with a program like Outlook, or Apple Mail. The email gets download and deleted from the server and placed on your computer. There is now only 1 copy of the email, which is on your computer. If your computer crashes, the email is gone. The problem with checking POP3 accounts with your computer and iPhone, once the message is downloaded to your computer, your iphone wont be able to receive the message. With IMAP, the message is left on the server, and the phone/computer is simply receiving details about the message while the message remains on the server. This way, if you mark a message as READ, you delete it, it is actually marking the message on the server, not your computer. So when you load your mail on the iPhone, the iphone will check the server for updates, and it will see that the message is marked as read or deleted. With this method, you can easily open your mail program (outlook express or apple mail, both programs are free and already installed on your computer, and both support IMAP), you open your mail program, mark all messages as READ or Delete them, then on your phone, all the messages will reflect your changes. The way to set this up in Gmail, is to simply FORWARD A COPY OF YOUR INCOMING MAIL to your free imap account. Then setup your iPhone with your free imap account settings. You can put your gmail or google apps for your domain email address, so when you send email, it will always say the correct address. You dont have to worry about it showing any of the imap details. Below is a diagram:

In this example, we're going to pretend the email account we want to check on our iPhone is LOUISH@TEAMLOUISH.COM, and we're going to assume this domain is a Google Apps for your domain account, meaning, GMAIL is handling the MX records, and you check your mail with Gmail (with your own custom logo in the corner, instead of Gmail's logo).
The email is sent from your friend, lets say
Gmail (or your pop3 account) receives the email, then follows the servers instructions (in Gmail, you can set it up so a copy of all your mail is forwarded to another email account, this is the open we are doing.) Many places offer a free imap account, if your a email user, I will set one up for you for free as well. So, create a IMAP Account, then forward your gmail to this new IMAP account.
Your imap account receives the email. Set this IMAP Account up on your computer, AND on your iphone. All settings are as common as a POP3 account, so setting it up shouldnt be difficult. Where ever you get your free imap account from, they should provide you with the settings. When you add this IMAP account to your iPhone, make sure to use your REAL email address (in our case, LOUISH@TEAMLOUISH>COM), as your email address. So, your settings will look something like this:

On The IPHONE: Click Settings, Mail, Add Account, OTHER.
Name: Your Name
Description: Gooogle Apps Account
Incoming Server
Host Name:
User Name:
Password: *******
Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP)
Host Name:
User Name:
Password: *******

As you can see, I used my REAL email address as the "Address", this is because we want to send mail as our real account, not the free imap account. You are checking your mail with the imap account, but sending as your gmail account.
Since Outlook (or Apple Mail) will show the same email messages as your iPhone, you can now easily mark all your messages as read, or even delete all your messages, and your changes will immediatly be reflected on your iPhone. (On the next mail check, you might need to go into the mail account on the iPhone and click refresh). When you have multiple accounts, with 200+ emails and you need to quickly delete them all, using IMAP is much faster. Some web sites even allow you to view IMAP accounts online, through a web browser. So if you are concerned with not wanting to use a PC to mark all messages as read or delete them all, you can find an online IMAP reader, and use Safari on the iPhone to delete all your messages through the web browser. Because IMAP messages are stored on the server, it doesnt matter where you mark the messages as READ or delete them, they will be reflected in all locations that is checking that IMAP account.

iPhone Tips and Tricks: How to mark all emails as READ or delete all email messages from iPhone Here is a way to mark all your unread messages as READ or to quickly delete all your messages from your iPhone instead of doing it one at a time.  


24 August 2007 - 12:16:23 - Memphis

I know this was all about mail, and my question is if I can somehow cut and paste I have typed up my resume on the phone and want to be able to send it to people on Craigslist for web developement jobs, but if I tap the send note to e-mail button it has to be a contact in the phone or written out by hand, the time it takes to copy a craigslist e-mail to the iphone mailer I might as well find a computer and send the mail there. Thanks for the help!

9 September 2007 - 15:16:53 - Team Louish

As of now there is no copy and paste on the iphone but some new firmware updates are coming soon that are suposed to be really cool, so who knows whats going to happen in the future.

22 September 2007 - 14:28:36 - Mike

I agree 100% with this article and I'm very glad that you posted this. I've just tried the IMAP set up with, and it's working beautifully. Thanks ;)

3 October 2007 - 0:36:51 - salesman

nice fix, i had changed one of my web based accounts to IMAP, just not gmail yet, thanks for the tip. one question on IMAP however, at home in macmail or on the iPhone i cannot see sent items now in IMAP vs POP. only if i send through webmail does it save it in sent items but it must be on the server, right? how do i set it to see it?



3 October 2007 - 10:09:12 - Team Louish

Well, every time I send a message from my iPhone, I get a copy in my gmail account. On the iPhone I have "Always BCC myself" checked. When Gmail see's an email from you to someone else it conciders it a sent item. So you will have a copy in gmail, maybe not your iphone though, I dont even see a sent folder at all on my iphone. Do you?

5 October 2007 - 22:03:48 - Eilon

I am very interested in deleting all my mail (gmail, yahoo) in one shot, that comes automatically into my iphone. I just need to be sure that it doesn't delete them off of my actual email accounts. Also, I am not tech savvy, and everything you are saying gets a bit confusing.

Is there a way of backing up your contacts without having to do the entire sync process on itunes? Its really annoying since it ends up putting back contacts on my phone that I have already deleted. I just want to back up what is currently in my address book (since I always add new people).

One other thing, is there a way to attach contact information when sending an sms? It seems ridiculous that its not easily available (not to mention that I can't send an sms to multiple contacts). Thanks in advance. Cheers.

19 January 2008 - 22:39:17 - ss

I am interested in finding out if you ever need to delete unwanted email address from iphone? How do you do that?

4 May 2008 - 22:43:42 - Jessica

THANK YOU! I had over 3000 emails on my iPhone and now they are all deleted! This was VERY helpful.

12 July 2008 - 2:48:30 - Johan ELtes

Gmail (Google Apps) does support imap natively. Yu just need to activate in in your settings.

18 July 2008 - 5:52:32 - SpeedyGeek

To delete more than one message at a time...

In the inbox view, where you see all your email messages, click the Edit button at the top right. You can then click the messages you want to delete. Then click Delete at the bottom left.

29 July 2008 - 9:07:00 - Captain Truth

I have a wierd one that maybe someone can help with. On iPone, I go to create an email, in the "to" box I start entering and a list of email addressess show up ... only problem is that there is one, which appears TWICE, for someone who I HAVE DELETED FROM MY CONTACTS! How do you get rid of this? And why is it appearing TWICE?

6 August 2008 - 10:46:39 - ContactG

Great blog.

How multiple email accounts setup, including Exchange.

How can i quickly access emails back and forth vs having to back out of each account?

Is there an APP or someting for the home screen that allows direct access to each email inbox?

Been looking but no luck. Thought I'd ask.

27 August 2008 - 22:06:49 - ipodtouchman

It is hard to believe that a company such as Apple, who spends so much time delivering great products, screws up on something as basic as e-mail. However, they have managed to do it. By not providing a method to delete multiple e-mails, Apple has introduced the most inferior e-mail client to date. Apple, please correct this most grevious oversight (To be honest, it is hard to beleive this is an oversight. If deliberate, it makes me wonder why it was left out).

13 November 2008 - 8:41:06 - Smartworker

I tried all sorts of 'touch' screen gestures to see if I could get the phone to delete all e-mail - but nothing worked! Amazing oversight and exposes the one weakness with the interface - access to a deeper level of functionality. The sort of things you get when you right click the mouse button in Windows. Still - the phone is still a joy to use. Can't imagine ever going back to a conventional phone with teeny buttons.

25 November 2008 - 6:49:30 - Geoff

I am looking at the Iphone but it will not sort the address book by company and then last name. It only will sort by last name and then first name or vice versa. Any suggestions

25 November 2008 - 12:11:31 - Team Louish

Hey everyone,
Keep in mind, when I wrote this blog originally, Apple did not have the "bulk delete" feature.

Like SpeedyGeek said, to delete multiple messages now, when you click the EDIT icon, you can select multiple messages then click Delete.

I still use all my accounts via Gmail and IMAP. This way, I can control all my deleting when I am logged into the web mail interface. The iPhone is just an extension of my gMail. This also works for Google Apps for your Domain email addresses (like free email addresses).

Geoff, I dont think you can sort contacts via Company name... would be nice though. I do know you can make Groups. Maybe you could put each contact in a group, then view your addresses by Group.

ContactG, there is no way to quickly switch between Email Accounts, other than clicking the back button in the top left.

17 February 2009 - 15:25:04 - Chris

There is an easier way.

Just log into your account at a computer.

Go to your spam folder.

Select all the Spam from that folder.

Delete all the spam.

Go into iphone and click spam folder.

It will update and remove all those messeges.

13 April 2010 - 9:43:58 - Inkatechnology

Hi. My iPhone isn't allowing me to delete my inbox. A window is popping up saying that the message cannot go in the trash. Can you please help me? Send me the solution please. Thank you.

11 June 2010 - 6:42:46 - aaron

The text on your site is super hard to read. Lighter gray on darker gray at 8pt makes me have to squint and I swear, my sight is pretty good. Even the 10pt is tough. Thanks.

8 July 2010 - 10:54:44 - PopMark

or, keep your POP accounts, jailbreak your phone and install PopMark

14 September 2010 - 4:22:34 - realbigfans

hi.. wanna ask about mark all as read on iphone. The blackberry can do this (mark all as read) but the iphone can't do this. If i read from the article above, it needs the computer to mark all as read. I want do that on my iphone. How can i do that on my iPhone? Thanks :)

4 March 2011 - 8:23:57 - ZeeP

This is kind of related, since it has to do with iPhone inbox: How can I view only unread messages? sometimes they are way down...and they can be hard to find.

4 March 2011 - 8:39:05 - ZeeP

This is kind of related, since it has to do with iPhone inbox: How can I view only unread messages? sometimes they are way down...and they can be hard to find. Thanks for your help!

11 March 2011 - 2:02:43 - Create Facebook Application

Hey Author:I have a my iphone 4...I want to generate backup but my iphone doesn't suppor me to generate backup so help me out man.

17 June 2011 - 2:47:37 - Inkatechnology

you need to access the file system to do it and as there is no way (besides jailbreaking that is) you can not do it

30 July 2011 - 13:23:42 - limtohhan

Just to point out :)
1. It is possible to circumvent the 200-email limit, using Microsoft Exchange (or the Hotmail equivalent) or some other push (rather than fetch) service. Push pushes as many emails (between 1 day's and 1 month's worth, or unlimited), unlike fetch which fetches at most 200 emails. Hope it helps :)
2. Gmail does offer IMAP, though perhaps it might have started after this post was written. Would be nice to update the post in order not to confuse :)

23 October 2011 - 2:27:05 - Matt-O

Ok, i have found a good solve of the mark all as read problem. Open up your first email. Then quickly hit the down button untill you reach the last message. You dont even need to wait for each message to open. This is still annoying however Much less annoying.


28 October 2011 - 9:19:49 - Lancelot

Yea, it's not a business phone. I'm using the iPhone 4 and it still cannot perform the basic email management features. Also, typing is slow compared to a BB and is prone to errors. It has a long way to come to catch up. Push from exchange, I have over 700 emails, so, no limit there that I've seen