As reported late last night, some Gmail users are seeing IMAP support appear in the settings area of their account. This morning Google confirmed: IMAP just launched, and if you're not seeing it yet (like we're not, boo-hoo!) you will soon, as they are "rolling it out to everyone in the next few days." What does IMAP mean and what's the implication for you iPhone users? Image by News Blog. Unlike POP access, IMAP is a two-way syncing mechanism between your email client and Gmail. That is, if you mark a message as read in Thunderbird, for example, it will appear as read in Gmail. (Here's more on why IMAP is better than POP.) Gmail's IMAP support even syncs message stars, labels (as folders), as well as their Spam and Trash folders. Here's a list of IMAP client actions and how they will be reflected inside Gmail.
Check out some screenshots of this in action from Rafe Needleman from CNET's News Blog. Question for Gmail/IMAP users: If a message has TWO labels, does it appear in both folders in your IMAP client? Answer: Yes! Also, if email is sent from the desktop, it gets the Sent label and appears in your inbox.
Gmail's supported IMAP client list includes Thunderbird, Mail.app, Eudora, Outlook Express/2003/2007 and Windows Mail, as well as the iPhone.
That's great news for iPhone users. No more marking as read twice, or not being able to work with labels. Here's a video courtesy of Google on how to set up and use IMAP on your iPhone.
If all of this sounds yummy but you've never used IMAP before, see Gmail's Help Center's IMAP section for setup howto's and frequently asked questions.
Having been a loyal IMAP user for years before switching over to full time web-only access to Gmail, this is a very exciting option. I may resurrect my desktop client again for true synchronized Gmail use! You try out Gmail's IMAP support? Thoughts? Let us know how it goes in the comments.