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Using iPhone with Dovecot IMAP and SSL

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Versions and assumptions:

I tested this solution using Dovecot 1.1.7 on a Linux 2.6 kernel.

OpenSSL is version 0.9.8h.

iPod Touch firmware 2.2.


dovecot.conf: (dovecot -n)

protocols: imaps
ssl_listen: 993
ssl_cert_file: /etc/ssl/dovecot/server.pem
ssl_key_file: /etc/ssl/dovecot/server.key
imap_client_workarounds: tb-extra-mailbox-sep
auth default:
driver: pam
args: *
driver: passwd

iPod setup:

See this tutorial for guidance:

Settings->Mail, Contacts, Calendars->Accounts

Create your account with Add Account... as normal (choose Other).

In the advanced tab:

Important note it seems it is a known issue that on both OSX (10.4 and 10.5) and iPhone mail clients don't seem to handle non-standard ports for SSL or TLS very well which means using the default port of 993. Some notes on this I found:

"Just to confirm the bug also affects the iPhone (tested on firmware 2.1), at least for IMAP:

(a) Standard port with SSL => Works (b) Standard port without SSL => Works (c) Non-standard port without SSL => Works (d) Non-standard port with SSL => Error

In case (d), the iPhone complains about a timeout error after some time, while the IMAP server indicates a SSL/TLS handshake problem."

This is the error I saw in the maillog from Dovecot:

dovecot: imap-login: Disconnected (no auth attempts): rip=, lip=, TLS handshaking: Disconnected

Troubleshooting notes:

SSL dumper:


I also found this note in my searching however the original site has been down for several days of the publishing of this update so here is the Google cache results:

"Outsmarting dumb IMAP clients · 455 words · 2008-01-31 14:37

I have several dozen IMAP mail folders (stored on the server as Maildir++, which Dovecot supports). When I’m on the go with my iPhone, I only want to see a few of them. IMAP provides a way for clients to “subscribe” to specific folders, so I figured that was the basic idea. As with all things IMAP, subscription information is stored on the server; by default, Dovecot keeps it in a file in the top-level Maildir. To avoid interfering with my more full-featured IMAP clients, I needed a way to get at my top-level Maildir with the usual permissions, but with a separate subscriptions file. Dovecot’s passwd-file authentication scheme made this easy. After the default passdb passwd stanza in /etc/dovecot.conf, I appended this:

passdb passwd-file {

  args = /etc/dovecot/%d/passwd


Likewise for userdb. Then I created /etc/dovecot/ with the following format:


The iPhone has no UI for manipulating subscriptions, so I logged into my webmail app as and set up everything the way I wanted. Unfortunately, it turns out there’s a reason the iPhone has no subscription UI: it doesn’t care about subscriptions at all. It just always shows you every folder it can possibly show you.

Needing to take a different tack, I kept the idea of a separate IMAP login for iPhone purposes and tweaked the details. Alongside the real Maildir++, I created a separate Maildir++ specifically for the iPhone, with strategic symlinks to my real inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Trash folders:

$ ls -la Maildir-iphone total 1264 drwx------ 2 schmonz users 1024 Jan 31 00:37 . drwxr-xr-x 27 schmonz users 15872 Jan 30 21:59 .. lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 18 Jan 30 22:14 .Drafts -> ../Maildir/.Drafts lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 16 Jan 30 22:13 .Sent -> ../Maildir/.Sent lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 17 Jan 30 22:13 .Trash -> ../Maildir/.Trash lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 14 Jan 30 22:06 cur -> ../Maildir/cur lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 14 Jan 30 22:06 new -> ../Maildir/new lrwxr-xr-x 1 schmonz users 14 Jan 30 22:06 tmp -> ../Maildir/tmp

And I changed the line in /etc/dovecot/ to this:


I reopened Mail on the iPhone. After a moment, it showed only Inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Trash, and they had the same contents as on my Mac. I marked something as read in one IMAP client, and the other noticed the change shortly thereafter. Once convinced I was working safely with my real mail, I symlinked in the handful of other folders I wanted to see on the iPhone.

It would be nice if iPhone Mail grokked IMAP subscriptions. If and when it does, I can roll back to my first attempt and undo this hack. In the meantime, it works."

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Page last modified on April 03, 2012, at 08:56 AM EST