One of the only reasons I’ve stuck it out with my MobileMe account, despite numerous quirks, annoyances and outright failures, is push email. For the iPhone to be useful to me as a business device, I need it to keep me up to date on my email in real time (or as close to it as MobileMe’s push can achieve). Contact and calendar syncing are nice, but both can now be done using your Google information if you’d rather not pay the $100 annual MobileMe subscription fee. Gmail push would complete the picture, and it could be on the way.
And by could, I mean it definitely exists, as demonstrated by TechCrunch’s hands-on with the app that makes it possible. Yes, it’s via a third-party app, and there is no official word from either Google or Apple that Gmail push on the iPhone has finally arrived. Not surprising, considering the money Apple stands to lose in MobileMe subscriptions if Gmail, which is not only incredibly popular, but free, manages to replicate the one trick MobileMe still has up its sleeve.
The app, called GPush, is the product of a development company called Tiverias, and it uses Gmail’s IMAP IDLE feature and Apple’s push notifications to deliver near-live updates from your Gmail inbox. All the app itself does is provide a login screen, after which point you never really have to open it again. Once set up, it will display text alerts containing the sender address and subject from each new email you receive. That is, if it’s allowed to.
The question surrounding GPush isn’t whether it can pull off what it claims to be able to. That it can do just fine, as TechCrunch’s tests prove. The question is, will Apple ever allow GPush to exist in a form that’s widely available to all users via the App Store? Cupertino has a vested interest in blocking Gmail push, since some users (like me, for instance) might walk away from MobileMe were it to become available, resulting in an obvious loss in revenue.
If Apple does block the app, regardless of what (if any) excuse it cites as the reason for the rejection, it will cast even more doubt on the already suspect App Store submission review process. Basically, it seems like the only reason to keep IMAP IDLE support out of the built-in Mail app is to block Gmail push, so it wouldn’t surprise me if GPush never sees the light of day. Let’s hope I’m wrong.