Slow Down Email For A Better iPhone Experience

Slow Down Email For A Better iPhone Experience

Lifehacker reader Stuart Bowden made himself more productive and got better performance from his iPhone 3GS with a simple email tweak. It’s a tactic to consider even if you’ve got a much newer phone.

Picture by Wesley Fryer

I’ve been a long time iPhone 3G user and have been trying to find ways to avoid upgrading. But then I found a much easier way to make the iPhone 3G perform better, and it has some unexpected benefits.

All you do is switch email retrieval to manual. Go into Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Fetch New Data, and tick Manually. You can leave Push notifications on, although there isn’t a lot of use to them on the iPhone 3G (in my experience).The obvious benefit is that the battery lasts days now, and you can use the phone as a phone again. And there are really no disadvantages.

OK, that needs clarification: the main downside is that it takes a long time to retrieve email (about 30-50 seconds). However, the iPhone 3G already took that amount of time anyway.

Control email and get your life back

There is another really big advantage: by turning off the email on your phone, you’re not constantly being tempted to look at it andyou can connect with reality again. Being connected with reality isn’t something that I’ve really explored in a while. That will sound very strange, but I’ll try to explain.

I knew I’d been missing out on real events, not so much missing them, but missing the feeling of being part of them. In retrospect, attending social gatherings and hanging out at home would feel similar to watching a TV program – I was happy to be there but always had the feeling that I wouldn’t miss anything from my life if I just got up and went home. My emotional connection to the events in my life was far less than I would have liked, and I could sort of tell, but couldn’t put my finger on why. But once I stopped assuming new email would arrive, life got much better.

Initially I was quite worried that by switching off auto-retrieval I’d miss something important as I wouldn’t get messages straight away, but I realised that the mail I access using my phone isn’t business – it’s only personal email.

The point is this – I’ve been able to regain some sanity in my life and reconnect to what’s going on around me. I feel less stressed by switching off the auto-retrieval email it as well. Even though I can still *get* email with my phone, I no longer feel tied to it and it seems it’s one less thing to worry or think about.

In any case I’ve felt pretty great since switching to this arrangement and recommend it highly. In fact when I upgrade my phone I’ll keep it set to manual retrieval just to make sure I can keep tabs on the real world.

Had a similar experience to Stuart? Found other ways to stop email intruding on your life? Tell us in the comments.


  • I’m worried that this needs to be posted.
    Has this seriously not occurred to every single person who has a mobile phone, ever since the mobile phone became ubiquitous? Before e-mail on smartphones there were text messages and (gasp) actual phone calls inturrupting IRL interactions. The “e” (or “i”) in front of a device/service doesn’t alter the basic issue of on-demand 24/7 contactability.

    Here’s a radical idea: turn the phone off sometimes.


    • Agreed, it’s very worrying. I thought that it was a valuable realization, and shared it in the hope that others who have also fallen victim to their own connection-lust, might wake from their stupor.

      Time will tell I suppose.

  • and the phone sales guy laughed at me when I told him I was ditching my iphone. he was still happy to sell me a samsung dumb phone though.

    the world truly is a bad mix match of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Have phone, get your location/movements tracked remotely (1984), have smart phone with cool games and email to distract yourself (BNW) from the knowledge that your are being tracked.

    • Actually it’s a misprint – I wrote “3G”, but an S was caringly added by the LifeHacker editors in order to reduce my public disgrace 🙂

      Luckily I have a 4S now (as of Monday), and can feel lots less embarrassed, well so long as I don’t keep talking to SIRI while walking down the street….”Play We are the Dead.”

      ‘ ………. We’re today’s scrambled creatures, locked in tomorrow’s double feature’

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