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The joy of finding out your can log onto your company’s wireless network may be short lived if you discover you’re now trapped inside their firewall. You’ll likely be able to browse the internet but you’ll probably not be able to send nor clear your external email using the iPhone’s Mail application.

You could ask your networking people to open up the appropriate ports, but let’s get serious here — they shut them down for security reasons in the first place.

On the up side, you’ll be able to clear your company’s internal email and browse your intranet — without having to VPN in!

So how might you work around this? You could consider trying to tunnel out of your company’s network by subscribing to a personal VPN service like witopia.net — something I thought of doing but did not try. Of course you’ll need your networking people to open some ports, of the less vulnerable kind, which hopefully they may be inclined to do for you. Witopia’s very responsive support people say it’s an iffy endeavor: It works for some and not for others. With their full money back guarantee it may be worth testing.

Let’s look at using your browser to access webmail …

Firstly the disappointment. MobileMe (what used to be .mac) won’t allow me to open webmail in the iPhone’s Safari browser, it redirects to a MobileMe page soliciting new subscriptions. Their regular webmail would be a mess inside such a tiny screen even if you could pan around it.

Google’s Gmail on the web, on the other hand, is a delight! No need to remember any special addresses, just navigate to google.com on your iPhone and you’ll be redirected to a special version of Google, one which offers you Gmail slimmed down, but yet utterly familiar and easy to use — maybe even easier than the iPhone Mail application, with fewer clicks to get things done.


There’s something “big” the iPhone Mail application can’t do: Navigate your Gmail mailboxes vertically, in a list view, and then swing horizontal when composing email for a bigger keyboard. Some would say horizontal keyboard offers a more comfortable grip and is easier to thumb with both hands: Improving both speed and accuracy. If you like Gmail webmail as much as I do, then you might consider this: Have your MobileMe email (and any other mail accounts you cannot access inside your company network) forwarded to a Gmail account — which you can then read via your iPhone’s Safari browser.

Of course you can’t read your email offline in a browser, but then the whole point of this workaround is exploiting the fact that you’re now online, all the time, at work.

What might the downside be? I haven’t tested them all, but attachments might be handled differently. PDFs open in the browser, but Word, Excel and PowerPoint slides may not open in preview and I think you’re not likely to be able to export photos into the iPhone Photo library.

( ) What about the iPhone’s App Store and iTunes?

The iPhone Mail application will handle multiple accounts better than signing into and out of different Gmail accounts via the browser. The iPhone cries out for being sensitive to it’s location, knowing where it is, what networks to sign onto and what email accounts to access when inside and outside of your firewalls. The Mail application needs to be able to re-order your accounts and make some accounts inactive without having to delete them.

If you want to be able to reply via Gmail using a different “from” address (e.g. the mail account you forwarded from) then log into the Gmail account (not on your iPhone now please) and under Settings>Accounts set up “Send mail as” with yourFromEmailAddress@somewhere.com as your default “from” address. Against “When I receive a message sent to one of my addresses” punch the radio button next to “Always reply from my default address”. That it, all done.

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