iPhone: How to Bulk Delete Emails

One of the common complaints about the iPhone is the inability to bulk delete email messages. This is a fundamental design decision that Apple has made. Unlike the BlackBerry, the iPhone is simply not designed to remove a large amount of emails at once. If you find yourself trying to bulk remove emails, continue reading for some of my suggestions.

Certainly, the iPhone has the ability to delete email; however, no easy option exists for bulk removal. Apple has decided not to include this as an option within the iPhone operating system at this time. Unfortunately, there is not an easy solution to this problem.

If you are receiving enough email to require bulk deletion, your email workflow is likely very inefficient. Instead of wasting time sorting and deleting all this email, you should invest some time in methods to improve your email management. Here are two different methods I would highly recommend:

1. Gmail.

By passing your old email through gmail, you can create a powerful method for reducing the amount of unnecessary email that eventually hits your iPhone.

Old Email –> Gmail –> iPhone

Gmail has powerful filtering and spam removal techniques for cleaning up your email. Setup a free gmail account. You can add your existing email account to gmail through Settings -> Accounts and Imports. After you add your old email to gmail, delete your old email account from your phone and add the new gmail account instead. The iPhone automatically configures gmail so setting up gmail on the device is very easy.

Additionally, you can log into gmail in your browser to create filters to automatically sort, process, or delete emails before they hit your iPhone as well. By passing your old email account through gmail, you can drastically reduce the amount of time and energy you spend on email management.

2. IMAP

Most of us are not using just our iPhones for email management. If you also access your email from other devices, then using IMAP will save you a lot of pain. Instead of IMAP, most people use POP technology for email. Through POP all the devices receive all the emails. With POP, deleting a message one device does not remove it from the other.

With IMAP the emails are maintained on the server and each device just access these emails to read or manage. Thus, if one device using IMAP removes an email, that message should be removed from all devices. Therefore, by using IMAP, your iPhone will receive the benefit filtering and spam removal benefits of all your other devices.

graphic showing imap vs pop

For example, many people use Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail. Both of these applications have excellent filtering and spam removal. By using IMAP instead of POP, when an email is removed through Outlook or Mail, it will be deleted from your iPhone as well.

Conclusion:

I certainly see the benefit of being able to bulk select and delete emails on the iPhone. Unfortunately, it is currently not possible. However, if you are manually deleting hundreds of emails a day on your device, then something is fundamentally wrong with your email workflow. By investing a little time in setting up gmail and/or IMAP, you can prevent the bulk of email from ever hitting your device.

Good luck. I look forward to reading your ideas about this…

 

About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • HelloGBO

    With POP, deleting a message one device does not remove it from the other.

    Did you mis-speak? I think you meant the opposite. POP deletes it, IMAP doesn’t.

    • http://www.tech-recipes.com David Kirk – Founder/Editor

      I don’t think so. With POP once you download it to your device, what you do with that message on that device will not affect what happens on your other device(s).With IMAP if you remove a message from one device, it will remove it from the other as well. This is because you are actually removing it from the server… and each device is just accessing the server to manipulate the email messages.

  • Gerrit O

    At least in Outlook 2007, unless you explicitly say you want a copy left on the server, POP deletes it from the server when it is downloaded.
    From what (little) I’ve read about IMAP (I haven’t used it), downloading leaves mail on the server unless instructed otherwise. I’m hoping I’ll be able to use IMAP with a gmail account on my iPhone4 for that reason, but haven’t tried it yet.

  • http://twitter.com/ShirleyPeters Artist from Sydney

    You are assuming that the unwanted emails are spam? No, I’m talking thousands of work emails that have collected on my husbands phone while he was sick in hospital. They have already been dealt with and are stored on his home computer. He doesn’t need them on his iPhone. How to delete thousands??

    • Anonymous

      If you mail host allows IMAP, switching over to that system will always keep mail messages in sync on all your devices.

  • Matt

    Hello,

    Great article and it’s true that if you have hundreds of email a day, you kind of have a problem lol!

    My problem is that I just updated my Iphone 4 to iOS 5, and suddenly all my 2000 emails are now unread?! How is that even possible?! Now theres no way I can delete them with the edit button, can you imagine how long it’s going to take me?!

    Do you have a solution please?

    Thanks!

  • Nola

    What is happening is e-mail that is old and read already keeps getting restored to my Iphone. On the settings the display says show the most recent 50 e-mails. I need to get that off and can’t. I only want to get new e-mails – not emails that are old. Help – this is driving me crazy – I could spend all day deleting this mail and than it automatically restores another 50 old e-mails.

  • Nola

    What is happening is e-mail that is old and read already keeps getting restored to my Iphone. On the settings the display says show the most recent 50 e-mails. I need to get that off and can’t. I only want to get new e-mails – not emails that are old. Help – this is driving me crazy – I could spend all day deleting this mail and than it automatically restores another 50 old e-mails.

  • Carolyn

    I’m having the same problem as Nola. I always have 50 messages showing up on my iPhone email – I clear them and get the next 50 restored from the past. There doesn’t seem to be a way to stop this! The interesting thing is that this didn’t start until a week or so ago – before that when they were deleted from my laptop they disappeared from my phone as well. So what changed?

  • Bogdan

    Nice article!

    Tks!

    Bogdan

  • http://kencory.ca Ken Cory

    I just delete my accounts on my iPhone and recreate them. The iPhone will then just download any mails left on the POP server.

  • Jim Sills

    I just transitioned from a Blackberry to an I-Phone and in the process of uploading my work Outlook, the system loaded over 18,000 old e-mails that have been preserved on our main server for historical purposes. I guess I’ll be deleting old e-mail for the next several months. It would be nice if Apple could figure out how to “bulk delete” for situations like this.

  • dina

    Well, I agree with your answer, used filters in my past job when emails weren’t as important, and thanks but not everyone has the same workflow. I use my phone email for short periods of time because I travel for work. I don’t want to add a ton of filters because the once a month I go on the road for 1-2 weeks I need all my emails to come through-I don’t have an issue with junk mail. My emails are 90% necessary. But since I work 10 hr days I usually check my email about the 3rd day of my trip and then in a few more days. Problem is I get over 200-300 emails a day. Plain and simple having a bulk delete is a simple function and it was a huge mistake to not include it. I could change how I work but why should I have to when other devices have what the users want and not what Apple thinks users should deal with. Apple should be ashamed of themselves and I prefer not to give them an excuse.