Send and Receive Email on Your Phone

Send and Receive Email on Your Phone

Send and receive email on your phone using your regular email account.

To send and receive email via SMS and MMS [Hack #59], you need to use the wireless operator's special email address, which is tied to your phone number. While this is convenient, it does not address the needs of most email users, especially business users, who need to manage email in multiple existing accounts while on the road. To access regular email on a Nokia phone, you have to configure the phone with your email server and account information. In this hack, I will teach you how to do that. But first, let's go over some basic concepts regarding the Internet email infrastructure.

To access email on your phone, you also need to subscribe to General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) 1x data services. On some networks, the MMS access point provides access to email as well.

Email Basics

When you send and receive email messages over the Internet, your email client software on the PC or on the phone primarily needs to communicate with two types of email servers over the TCP/IP protocol:

Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) server

Takes email messages from your email client and sends them to the recipient's email server. To avoid being exploited by spammers, most SMTP servers require you to have an account with them and to authenticate yourself before you can send an email message.

POP or IMAP servers

Give you access to your email accounts. Your email client software logs into the POP or IMAP server periodically, using your username and password, to check for and retrieve new messages.

Typically, your SMTP and POP/IMAP servers are hosted by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or by your company's IT department. If you use web mail (e.g., Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail), you typically need to pay for the privilege to directly access their mail servers.

An open source program called YPOPs emulates a POP3 account over your free Yahoo! Mail account on your own computer. For more information, visit

Use the Native Email Client

Nokia phones have a built-in email client in the Messaging application (Series 60) or the Messages main menu (Series 40). In Nokia terms, a pair of SMTP and POP/IMAP settings is a mailbox, since it provides a complete configuration for sending and receiving messages via an email address.

2.1 Set up your mailboxes.

Setting up mailboxes is quite easy on both Series 60 and Series 40 phones.

On a Series 60 device, you can just launch the Messaging application and choose the Options Settings Email Mailboxes menu. Then you can select and edit any existing email message in the Inbox. Or, you can use the Options New mailbox menu item to create a new mailbox for an email account. The Messaging application's main screen lists the phone's native Inbox (for receiving SMS and MMS messages) as well as all configured mailboxes. Email messages are pulled into the mailboxes, not into the native Inbox. The Options Settings Email Mailbox in use menu item points to the default mailbox to use when sending email messages.

A Series 40 phone can hold 520 mailboxes (i.e., email accounts). You can activate a mailbox via the menu path Messages Message settings Email messages Active email settings (or via Messages Email Setting Mailbox in use for older phones). The email Inbox (in Messages Email Inbox) on the phone retrieves messages from the currently active mailbox, and all outgoing email messages are sent via the SMTP server in the active mailbox. To edit the settings for a mailbox, you need to first activate it and then select the "Edit active email settings" (or "Edit active mailbox") menu in the email settings screen.

In the mailbox settings screen for both Series 60 and Series 40 phones, you need to enter the following information:

  • Your email address

  • An SMTP server address and its access credentials

  • A POP/IMAP server and its access credentials

  • The data access point to connect to the email servers

Figure shows the settings for one of my mailboxes on a Nokia 6600 phone. The security setting specifies whether the phone uses encrypted connections (SSL) to connect the email servers. You should always try this option first, and disable it if you get an error. SSL protects your username and password from eavesdroppers. Although it also transports your email messages securely, the moment a plain-text email message hits the wide-open Internet, it becomes susceptible to eavesdroppers.

Email settings for a mailbox

In Figure, the SMTP server and POP/IMAP server share the same GPRS access point and the same username/password. Some devices (e.g., the Nokia 6230 phone in Series 40) allow you to specify a different GPRS access point, and a different username/password for the SMTP server and the POP/IMAP server, respectively. Many phones also support the Authenticated POP (APOP) protocol to retrieve messages. Under APOP, the user-name and password are sent in encrypted format to the POP server. APOP provides protection against network sniffers that intercept clear-text passwords.

2.2 Send a message.

To create a new message on the phone, choose the Options Create message Email menu in the Messaging application (Series 60) or the Messages Email Create email menu (Series 40). You can select any recipient from the phone's Contacts list or type in any valid email address in the To and Cc fields. The body field of the email composition form is pre-populated with your email signature, if you have one. Type in your message and select the Options Send menu to send the message using the currently active mailbox settings (see Figure).

On Nokia Series 60 phones, you can also add nontext attachments to an email message. See "Handle attachments," later in this hack.

Sending an email message from a Nokia Series 60 phone

2.3 Receive messages.

On a Nokia Series 60 device, you can simply open any properly configured email mailbox from the Messaging application's Main menu. The phone connects to the Internet and checks for new messages on the remote POP/IMAP server. Or, you can select Options Connect to force a connection.

On a Nokia Series 40 device, select the Messages Email Retrieve menu to retrieve messages from the currently active mailbox. The retrieved messages are available under the Messages Email Inbox menu.

For all new messages, the phone retrieves only those message headers that show the sender's email addresses, the message dates, and the message subjects. It does not automatically retrieve the message bodies or attachments. This saves bandwidth and greatly improves the email client's response time. If you want to view an individual message, you can retrieve the message body by opening it (see Figure). You can also select commands from the Options menu to retrieve all messages or marked messages.

Opening the message and retrieving its body content

2.4 Delete messages.

Since the Nokia phone first retrieves all the message headers from the remote POP/IMAP server, it retrieves the message bodies only when you specifically instruct it to do so (e.g., by opening a message). So, when you delete a message via the Options Delete menu, you have two options:

  • If you choose to delete from the phone memory only, the message body is deleted. But the message header remains in the phone memory. You can still see the message in the email message list, and if you open it, the phone redownloads the message's body.

  • If you choose to delete the message from both the phone and the server, the message header is marked with a delete sign in the phone's email list. The next time the phone connects to the server, it instructs the server to delete the message immediately.

Figure shows the process to delete a message from both the phone and the server on a Nokia Series 60 phone.

Deleting an email message from a Nokia Series 60 phone

When deleting a message, the Nokia email client behaves differently from most desktop email clients. Desktop email clients can be configured to delete the message on the server several days after the message is deleted locally. That allows you to recover deleted messages from the server if you need to. The Nokia phone's native email Inbox is always a mirror of the account on the server. The deleted messages are erased from the server immediately after the phone connects to the server the next time.

2.5 Handle attachments.

Originally, email messages were just plain text. Later, Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) technology was developed to encode arbitrary binary files into text, and hence allowed the files to be sent as part of the email message (i.e., attachments). The Nokia native email client on Series 60 phones supports MIME attachments for both sending and receiving email messages.

The current generation of Nokia Series 40 phones (e.g., the Nokia 6230 camera phone) does not support attachments in email. You can still use MMS to send media files from the phone to an email address [Hack #59]. But you cannot receive files in email messages.

Figure shows how to add an attachment from the phone's Gallery. Notice the difference in the header bar in the first and last screenshots (i.e., after the attachment is added the message size is larger, and a paper-clip icon indicates there is an attachment).

Adding an image as an attachment to an email message

You can open and save the message attachments, if there are any, from the Options menu (see Figure). If the phone recognizes the attachment file format as a supported media format, it provides the option to save the attachment file to the phone's Gallery.

Opening a message attachment

If the attachment is in a format the phone does not support, the phone will not allow you to save it to the Gallery. As shown in Figure, there is no Save option for the PDF file attachment.

No Save option for an unsupported email attachment (PDF in this case)

If you install a PDF reader program [Hack #39] on your phone, the PDF reader will register .pdf files (and their appropriate MIME types) as "recognized" file formats. Then you will be able to open PDF attachments using the reader program from within the Messaging Inbox.

You can still send the attachment to another device or computer. Or, you can use a file browser, such as FExplorer [Hack #20], to get the attachment file directly from the mail folders.

Use an HTML Email Client

In recent years, many email clients began supporting Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) formatting tags in messages. An HTML message can have rich fonts, layout controls, hyperlinks, and inline images. The inline images can be included in the same message as attachments. While the Nokia native email client handles plain-text messages and attachments very well, it does not support HTML rendering or inline images. To view HTML email messages on your phone, you need third-party software.

When I have a choice, I always try to avoid sending HTML email messages, since they are not compatible with all email reader clients.

3.1 ProfiMail.

ProfiMail is a Symbian-based email client application for Nokia Series 60 devices. It is developed by Lonely Cat Games and is available for sale and trial at The process to set up mailboxes in ProfiMail is very similar to the setup process for the native email client.

ProfiMail renders HTML markup in email messages. If you have a multipart message with several text and image components, ProfiMail renders the components in the order they appear in the message. So, you can have images between paragraphs of text even if you do not use HTML (see Figure).

A ProfiMail feature many people like is the ability to display messages in small fonts. That fits more message content in a single screen. For instance, ProfiMail splits the screen into a message header panel and a message body panel to ease message navigation (see Figure). However, the problem with small fonts is that they are very difficult for seniors or vision-impaired people to see [Hack #48].

ProfiMail in action

ProfiMail also comes with a built-in file management program for the Symbian OS. It is very similar to the FExplorer file manager [Hack #20]. Using the file manager, you can save any email attachment (e.g., images, PDF documents, Word documents, etc.) directly to your phone memory or MultiMediaCard (MMC) card. Compared with the Nokia native email client, ProfiMail allows you to open more types of file attachments. For instance, you can open and browse zip files or the text in a Microsoft Word file.

Finally, ProfiMail supports rule-based filters that can automatically classify incoming messages based on their subject line, or on the text content in the body. You also can configure ProfiMail to automatically delete messages that it thinks are spam.

3.2 EmailViewer.

ProfiMail is a "heavyweight" email client that works only on Series 60 phones. What if you need to display HTML messages and attachments on a smaller Series 40 phone? The EmailViewer program ( is the answer. It renders HTML messages, as well as common document formats for email attachments, such as PDF files, zip files, and MS Word files. EmailViewer is a Java application, and it works on both Series 40 and Series 60 phones.

Under the hood, EmailViewer utilizes a proxy server to do all the heavy lifting. The proxy server fetches the message, renders it into a stream of bytes in a compact and proprietary format, and then delivers the bytes to the client. The mobile client simply displays the data in the stream according to a predefined convention. There is no need to parse, decode, render, and then lay out the HTML content on your mobile phone.

You have to install a proxy server licensed from Reqwireless, or subscribe to Reqwireless's proxy service, for the EmailViewer client to work.

EmailViewer and WebViewer [Hack #50] are developed by the same company, and they utilize the same approach for proxy-based content rendering.

Web-Based Email

If you use web-based email services, such as Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, Gmail, and AOL Mail, you can check email directly from your phone's web browser. Most popular web-based email services offer WAP interfaces that work with almost any phone browser. The advantage of this approach is its simplicity. You do not need to configure the email servers on the phone. You do not even need a high-end data plana regular WAP browser will suffice in many cases.

Many ISPs or corporate email systems also provide web interfaces. But they are typically HTML-only. So, you need an HTML-compatible browser on the phone to access those services via the Web [Hack #50].

However, the WAP interfaces do not support all advanced features of the web-based email service. Figure shows how to check and retrieve messages from Yahoo! Mail's WAP service. HTML message formatting and attachments are not supported. But long messages are divided into multiple pages for easy reading on mobile phones.

Figure shows how to compose and send an email message from a Yahoo! Mail account. Again, HTML formatting or file attachments are not supported. If you click the To or Cc link on the message composition form, you will be able to select recipient addresses from your Yahoo! address book.

Getting email from Yahoo! Mail

Sending email from Yahoo! Mail

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