Starting on a personal note, one of the big hurdles in moving from an Android platform to an iPhone was figuring out how to transfer all those Google-based contacts into iOS without entering them individually. Thanks to Google Sync, it's possible to port years worth of addresses and phone numbers into Apple's slick "Contacts" app in one big lump. However that's coming to an end soon for consumers.
According to Google, consumers won't be able to set up new devices using Google Sync starting January 30, 2013, but existing Google Sync connections will still continue to function. Meanwhile, Google Sync will continue to be fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education – users of those products will be unaffected by the change in support.
"Google Sync was designed to allow access to Google Mail, Calendar and Contacts via the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol," said Venkat Panchapakesan, VP of Engineering. "With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols."
In other words, Google is no longer supporting Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync protocol on a consumer level. Product Manager Jeff Ellingson said back in September that CardDAV enables 3rd party clients, like the iOS contacts app, to sync your Google contacts. "By supporting IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV together, we’re making it possible for 3rd parties to build a seamless Google Account sync experience," he said.
Instructions on how to sync Google Contacts to an iOS device using CardDAV is located here. Please note that this method is only available over SSL for Apple devices on iOS version 5.0 and above.
Meanwhile, Microsoft's Dharmesh Mehta, Senior Director of Product Management, said that the company was surprised to find out that Google is dropping consumer support for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). According to Mehta, the move is seemingly pushing those using the free version of Gmail to get a business account, or degrade their mobile email experience by downgrading to an older protocol.
"An older protocol doesn't sync your calendar or contacts, doesn't give you direct push of new email messages and doesn't have all the benefits of Exchange ActiveSync," he said. "So if you want a better email, especially on your phone or tablet, it's time to join the millions who have already made the choice to upgrade to Outlook.com."
Exchange ActiveSync was first introduced in 2002, and has since continued to improve, with a number of optimizations specifically for mobile devices, including tablets. Features include Direct Push which updates the device when an email is received, AutoDiscover support for remembering server names, calendar and contact sync (unlike IMAP and POP), and more.
"POP and IMAP were designed decades ago, were considered state-of-the-art at the time, and are still used by millions of people," he said. "Both were created before mobile phones really even existed. To have a great email experience in 2012, a protocol needs to do more than just send and receive messages on a PC. It needs to work really well on a variety of mobile devices, to sync not only email but also your calendar and contacts, to do this automatically, and in a way that preserves battery life."
Mehta said consumers should upgrade their mail to a service that "puts the consumer first and gives you a great mobile email experience." That, of course, is referring to Outlook.com.