Blog Post

The Problem With Push: What’s Going on at Apple HQ?


Something’s rotten in Cupertino, and Apple (s aapl) fans running the 3.0 firmware are beginning to get anxious as a result. I’m talking about push notifications, of course, which have yet to dazzle and amaze most iPhone owners running 3.0. A few apps are trickling in with some push features, but by and large, the headline apps that would provide game-changing push functionality have been left out in the cold.

If you’ve been monitoring “push notifications” on Twitter like I have to try to catch new apps as they come out, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The majority of talk seems to be vitriol against Apple for not approving the push-enabled version of the popular Beejive instant messenger, which has been under review for at least a week and a half now. Also in high demand is IM+, also currently under review, and AIM. Basically, people really want an IM client with push, and also a Twitter client, though I’ve yet to see any conclusive proof that there is definitely one that is either pending review or in the works.

News now comes from a site that was trying to monitor and aggregate all live apps which include push notification, They received word from an iPhone developer that Apple is to blame for the delays regarding push-capable apps. Dominik Balogh, who worked on the app NotifyMe, which uses push to remind you of to-do list tasks, reportedly received an email from Apple App Store staff claiming that the problems are on Apple’s side of things, and that they haven’t worked through all of the push bugs just yet.

Note that some apps, though, are live and are working fine, such as Tap Tap Revenge 2, among a growing list of others. I’m still running the AIM Developer preview released prior to 3.0’s official launch, and it is working like a charm, with virtually no lag time. That tells me that Apple’s servers are up and running, so the problem is probably more an anticipated one than something that’s already having an effect. Balogh describes a problem in the MacRumors forum having to do with feedback check, which he explains there, but it only happens 4 percent of the time, and probably wouldn’t justify a complete freeze on heavy-use push apps alone.

My bet is that Apple is only now realizing how much it will have to scale its infrastructure to deal with the volume that will come with push support for widely used apps like Beejive, which would presumably be making very frequent calls to the server for each user. The 3.0 release was attached to a pretty fixed timeline, so it isn’t terribly surprising that not everything was ready for launch. Better a little catch-up on the back-end than significant bugs and failures on the user’s side, like with the 2.0 launch. That said, gimme my Beejive push!

29 Responses to “The Problem With Push: What’s Going on at Apple HQ?”

  1. Bob Smith

    which would presumably be making very frequent calls to the server for each user

    I certainly hope not. The whole point of push is to eliminate client-side polling.

    I’m still not clear why I would want Push email rather than IMAP IDLE.

    • IMAP IDLE *is* push notification, just not through Apple’s servers.

      In the context of the iPhone, the issue with IMAP IDLE is that it maintains a relatively constant connection to the IMAP server, which sometimes causes issues when hopping from GPRS/EDGE to 3G to WiFi and back again. However, the fix is fairly simple, establish an IDLE connections through the mobile network (not ever WiFi), and only use that connection to monitor IDLE, if additional information is needed that isn’t in the IDLE response and WiFi is available, fire up another TCP session and pull the information via that session.

  2. My guess is that a large number of apps have attempted to get themselves updated for 3.0 in one way or another (new features, bug fixes etc) and apple is totally overwhelmed trying to get them through the approval process. It might have nothing to do with push notification.


    • This isn’t the case. WebIS’ Informant released a bug fix and approval has been held up 2-3 weeks now, but after the bug fix was released they released a “Lite” version of the app which is identical in every way except that it only synchronizes a few days’ worth of calendar events, the Lite version was approved.

      In other words, whatever is going on is causing apps to get approved out of order, some apps are getting held much longer then others.

      Informant (full and lite) is not using push either, so it’s not just push notification apps that are being held.

    • Plus, Apple should see this coming, after all they were telling the developers “test your apps to make them compatible” by releasing the goldmaster to them a week before the public, so it’s obvious they would have a massive number of reviews to attend. Either they forgot this or there’s something much worse else.

  3. A Twitter client, Tweetie, is pending approval for more then a week also, what is more revolting is that it’s not a push-enabling update, it’s a serious bug correction that should be available 1 day after submission and we’re still waiting…

    I’m sure Apple made some bad mistakes on this 3.0 release and are hiding them from us, but these delays are revealing something…

  4. Piotr Bielaska

    I wonder why is Apple making all these efforts and putting so much money into this service. Wouldn’t be easier to just allow for an apps backgrounding…

  5. Oh Blah Dee Blah Dah

    RE: “My bet is that Apple is only now realizing how much it will have to scale its infrastructure to deal with the volume that will come with push support for widely used app… ”

    This is why Apple is building it’s East Coast server farm in North Carolina at approximately twice the expense of a farm that Google or Microsoft would spend.

  6. Olivier Suritz

    I’ve been testing the push-enabled beta of AIM… and it works pretty well… as long as you’re not connected on a computer: because of the always-on nature of the push notification, unless I open the iPhone and sign-out EVERY message I receive once logged-in to the desktop client will trigger a notification on the iPhone. You can easily imagine how many notification that is after a 15-min conversation!!

    • So, clarify something for me. When you sign into AIM on your desktop it does or doesn’t send you a notification message telling you that you are signed on somewhere else and ask you to press the number “1” to sign you off the other location??

      This sounds like user error to me…

      Or I am missing something….I dunno because I don’t have this app to test…

  7. Apple needs to get its act together — ’cause really, we need our geo-tagged, video uploading, push notifying twitter client NOW.

    It’s a matter of life or death here.


    (P.S. Seriously, they’ll update the apps soon enough. We can wait a week.)

  8. I used to be a proponent of push notifications that would solve the lack of backgrounding for apps like Beejive. But I’ve given up trying to defend Apple here. They have failed to deliver on this twice now, and after missing the first deadline the silence was deafening for A LONG TIME! This did not help anyone’s attitude toward Apple’s approach on this.

    In theory I still am a proponent of Push Notifications for apps like IM apps, though I have repeatedly said that Apple should *also* allow user selectable background apps like Pandora Radio, which won’t be helped by Push notifications AT ALL!

    In any event I am SOOOOO tired of Apple dragging their feet on this!