Why Do Gmail Conversations Break in Windows Phone?

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“For goodness sake, not again!” is perhaps the most polite reaction I can repeat to those moments when Gmail conversations “break” on my Windows Phone. The galling thing is that it happens with only one account…

I use my Windows Phone pretty extensively for work and this means having several email accounts set up. I have these grouped using linked inboxes, so that on my Start screen I have two icons for email messages, one for work, and one for personal. It’s a system that works for me.

The problem is that with one of my email accounts, I can’t reply to colleagues without breaking the email thread. The result displays HTML code in my response, making it difficult for my recipients to read the message; an appropriate word, as the result is a mess.

Who Is Responsible?

The browbeating I’ve had as a result of these messages is understandable. I’ve played around with settings, raised support cards online with Microsoft and Google (good luck with that one…) and deleted and restored the email account in question, to no avail.


What is a particularly odd element to all of this is that I use five Gmail accounts in total, and this problem only occurs in one of them.

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Additionally, it is a fault that harks back to Windows Phone 7, something that you might expect to have been resolved in the modern Windows Phone 8; I certainly did when I upgraded to the Nokia Lumia 920.

However, the fault doesn’t happen with Hotmail/Outlook.com accounts. It also doesn’t occur with ISP email accounts or those provided by Yahoo!.

Only Gmail.

It’s Not Just Email: Microsoft Vs. Google

Since Windows Phone came along, there have been several disagreements between Microsoft and Google concerning services and apps.

Perhaps most famous among these is the rolling out of a new sync tool to replace its Exchange sync support. Fortunately for Windows Phone users, Google extended the service through December 31, 2013, which means that the sync method now favoured by Google, CalDAV and CardDAV, should be rolled out to Windows Phones in time via an update.

More recently and just as concerning, however, is the spat concerning the Microsoft YouTube app (Google won’t develop its own apps for Windows Phone) in which an upload tool was featured for the first time. Although there is a standalone YouTube uploader produced by Nokia for their Windows Phone devices, this app caused ructions with Google, mainly due to the presence of a video downloader tool.

Fortunately, the problem only lasted a few days, with the two companies spending some time on finding a resolution (the dropping of the downloader function) to the pleasure of Windows Phone users worldwide, who up until now had been uploading videos using email

How I’ve Attempted To Fix The Break

In order to combat the problem, I’ve looked into the settings of my “breakable” account and compared them with the settings of one of my non-breaking accounts. Unfortunately, this reveals little – none of the differences that I’ve found can be attributed to the rather embarrassing fault.

Googling the problem suggests that those suffering from the issue should alter their messaging settings on Windows Phone – the implication being that the threaded conversation is what is causing the problem.


This can be dealt with by opening the email inbox, then Settings > [ACCOUNT NAME] and ensure that Conversations are set to On. There should also be a check in the box below this to ensure replies and emails are synced.

Success with this fix is limited, however.

Is there another way?

The Google Exchange Fix

Some have attributed this (and other) Gmail problems on Windows Phone to the Google implementation of IMAP2, which is regularly (and for some, mysteriously) updated. So the obvious solution would be to avoid using IMAP, right?

When you add a new account on Windows Phone, there is a facility to create a Gmail account. You can also setup a hosted Gmail account (for websites that use Gmail as their email tool) with little trouble. Windows Phone is also equipped for automatic setup.

While researching the bug, I stumbled upon a syncing issue between Gmail and Windows Phone devices that could only be resolved by hard resetting the phone or setting up the Gmail account as an Outlook Exchange account. Having used the account setup in this way for a few days now, I’m reasonably confident it should work for you too…

To begin, you’ll need to delete the account you’re having difficulty with. This is best done by opening Settings > Email & Accounts, long-tapping the account in question and deleting Delete.

Next, tap Add an account > Outlook, then enter your Gmail address and password. Tap Sign in, which will fail, but display a second screen with more options. Add the username, then tap Sign in; this time, you will have the choice of Try again or Advanced. Tap this, checking the information already entered is correct. Skip Domain, leaving the field blank, and enter the server address as m.google.com.


(Note that if you need to configure other settings, you should use the Show all settings button.)

When you’re done, tap Sign in. The account will begin to sync, and the tile will be added to your Start screen.

Should this fail, there is always the option of accessing Gmail in the Windows Phone browser, or using an app such as Gmail Free or Gmail Buddy.



So far so good with this fix, but why should one single Gmail account cause such a big problem?

The truth hasn’t been revealed, and neither Microsoft nor Google have even admitted that the fault exists. Of course, a quick search through Google’s search results will confirm the issue…

Now, not every user experiences the problem. I only manage to ruin entire email threads with one Gmail account, so it may be that you are not affected at all. However, if you know someone who uses a Windows Phone and regularly totals email threads with bizarre HTML coding hiding obscure messages, please point them in the direction of this post as I would be very interested to see how the fix described above works for them.

Similarly, if you have any feedback, comments or suggestions, please share them below!

Image Credits: Angry woman Via Shutterstock

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