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Summary:

iPhone OS 3.0 brings a lot of new features to the table, but I could’ve easily gone on living without all of them, copy and paste included, except for push notifications. Push is the killer feature that elevates the iPhone platform to a whole new level of usability, both as a standalone device, and as a piece of companion hardware to your existing workstation setup.

The iPhone has taken the place of an entire screen in my current home office configuration, freeing up a whole display for more productive use. Here’s a breakdown of the apps that make this possible, and how I use them.

iphone3gsIn the past I’ve been known to speak rashly. I actually declared the BlackBerry the victor in matters of mobile device web working, but a recent development in the iPhone world has me wanting to recant. Those of you familiar with my Apple  leanings will no doubt utter, “Hmph. Figures,” and wash your hands of me, but I beg you to bear with me and learn the reason for my latest team change.

iPhone OS 3.0 brings a lot of new features to the table, but I could’ve easily gone on living without all of them, copy and paste included, except for push notifications. Push is the killer feature that elevates the iPhone platform to a whole new level of usability, both as a standalone device, and as a piece of companion hardware to your existing workstation setup.

The iPhone has taken the place of an entire screen in my current home office configuration, freeing up a whole display for more productive use. Here’s a breakdown of the apps that make this possible, and how I use them.

Beejive IM — Death of the Desktop IM Client

For me, IM can be a terrible time thief. Generally speaking, I intend to use it primarily for professional purposes, especially during the day, but having a desktop client constantly open and in plain view, it becomes hard to resist the urge to chat with a pal who’s just popped on for the first time in a few months, for example.

Thanks to Beejive with Push for the iPhone, the temptation isn’t nearly as strong to engage in distracting IM conversations. Using Beejive, I have an always-on solution that can stay out of sight, and therefore, out of mind. Even if someone contacts me, I find it much easier to politely ignore their advances when they come via my iPhone than when messages pop up on my computer’s display.

Remember The Milk — Task Management I’ll Actually Use

I have a problem with most GTD apps. Actually, the problem is more with me than with the apps. I just don’t use them, for whatever reason, for any length of time. I’ve tried a wide variety, but no combination of features seems to result in an experience that I’ll stick with.

Push has changed that. With Remember The Milk (Toodledo also offers push notifications, if you’re more inclined that way), I get an alert at a scheduled time when a task is coming due. It’s a small thing, but it’s enough to make the difference between paying attention to my task management software and not. It keeps me on schedule when I’m working at home or on the road.

Prowl — Growl Goes Mobile

Growl is a great utility for when I’m actually seated in front of my main work computer. It’s an OS X notification utility that works with an incredibly long list of applications to keep you informed, even when app windows aren’t in the foreground. What Prowl does is take some or all of those alerts and turn them into push notifications that you receive on your iPhone.

Which means that regardless of what I’m doing or where I am, I can be aware of anything my home workstation wants me to know. This includes Twitter @ mentions and direct messages — a much-requested push feature from iPhone Twitter users — and push email notifications that actually display the title and content of a message, rather than just modifying the icon like the iPhone’s built-in Mail app currently does. That means less time spent opening and checking emails that may or may not require immediate action, and more time focused on the task at hand. Best of all, you can set priorities and arrange it so that you won’t receive push notifications unless you’re actually away from your computer, to reduce redundancy and fluff.

The iPhone Arrives as a Business Tool

Not that I wasn’t using the iPhone for work before, but this is the first time it’s acquired the status of an integral part of my web working machinery. Heretofore, it’s been a nice, supplemental nice-to-have, but push is the killer feature that makes it a necessary device. Kudos, Apple, for providing an update that’s only just begun to hint at its eventual utility.

What do you think about Apple’s implementation of push on the iPhone? Do you find your device more useful now, or, if you don’t own one, does it add to the phone’s appeal?

  1. The concept of push is awesome and the backend implementation is awesome, but I find the actual device implementation pretty bad: I don’t want an alert to steal focus when I’m using my phone for notifications.

    P.S. tell readers they need to enter an email address to comment. It’s not hard.

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  3. Michael, what would you suggest as a better front-end implementation? No text alerts when you’re actively using your phone?

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  4. No text alerts at all: I feel like Apple just took the easy route with the device implementation – using UIAlertViews.

    I think they should have done something less intrusive like the Palm Pre and its dedicated notifications area: perhaps integration with the status bar at the top (extended height, like during a call or internet tethering). That way allowing multiple notifications and the ability to launch their designated app later.

    Right now you have to either dismiss the alert or launch the app: there’s no way to come back to notifications – even worse: when you receive a notification when the device is locked, there’s no way to launch the designated app after the display timeout – the notification appears again, but has no option to launch the app.

    Sure the concept is awesome and there’s a whole lot of logistics behind it, but that’s my weird perfectionist view on it.

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  5. Saratoga Sam Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    Does it work? From what I’ve heard and read, that it’s not a very useful or dependable feature.

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  6. Push will be really useful when I can say which emails are important enough to give me an alert. Right now, I have to use text messages for important alerts such as when a server is down, but alerts from email will be much better.

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  7. You do realise that iphone push isn’t a wonderful game changing feature but a poor work around for a phone that doesn’t multi task.

    Think about it for a second. If your apps could run in the background in a “service” mode then they could poll the info they need rather than having to push notifications etc.

    Give me one example of where push isn’t just a stupid work around. In the meantime have a read about why iphones suck. You’ll soon realise you wasted your money on a pretty toy.

    http://www.iphonessuck.com/

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    1. What are you on about? Firstly, polling is a work around for push! Its far more efficient to communicate only when data is available, rather than asking every five minutes if something has changed only to be told no.

      Secondly How on earth could push work with out running a program in the background? If you are browsing the web, and a notification comes in, are you saying the safari deals with it?!

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    2. Kimble is a tard Tuesday, June 8, 2010

      Hi Kimble, you are a retard. If you can stop frothing at the mouth with apple-hate long enough, go read how Push actually works. It is a service and it can end up eating your battery much faster because it is always listening, i.e. it keeps the wifi card running if it’s using that and it sends a TCP heartbeat every 15 min or so.

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  8. Yes, Push Notifications are adding significant functionality to iPhone apps, making them more useful for users and increasing engagement over time. This subject deserves more attention, especially as more apps come out and we see new use cases (a somewhat recursive example of this is Bargain Bin – http://appsto.re/bargainbin/info).

    Shifting gears, iPhone developers who want to implement Push services (APNS) will be interested in checking out our iLime API for sending Push alerts (http://www.ilime.com) that launched over the weekend at iPhoneDevCamp in California.

    Also, the first 25,000 pushes sent each month are free, which can be a quite cost-effective service for many apps, and helpful for testing. :-)

    Any questions, feel free to email info@ilime.com or follow @iLimeBuzz.

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  9. I’m set up for g-mail, syncing contacts to Google, syncing Calendars to Google… it all works perfectly and with push turned on, it happens in near real-time. In fact, me and my wife have access and sync each other’s calendars on our iph… I can add an event to my iPhone calendar and in a matter of minutes, it displays on her iPhone calendar. You are awesome, Google.

    The last thing I’d like is sync’ing my Chrome bookmarks to my phone (it’s already syncing between home and work).

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  10. Another push notification service, similar to iLime is http://www.appnotify.com/

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