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First Look: Boxcar 2.0 – Push Notifications for Twitter, Facebook, and Email

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If you haven’t heard of Boxcar, then you’re really missing out. Boxcar has been offering one of the best push notification solutions for Twitter apps since it launched right after iPhone OS 3.0 became available. You can read my earlier review of Boxcar here.

Jonathan George, the developer of Boxcar, has provided me with the opportunity to preview the upcoming 2.0 version, and I am more than impressed. With the 2.0 version, Boxcar adds push notifications for Facebook messages and comments, and the ability to push notifications for any email account.

I’ve been using Boxcar 2.0 for the last week, and the experience has been stellar. When you first launch Boxcar, you go through the easy process of linking your Twitter and Facebook accounts to your new Boxcar account, and then select which types of notifications you wish to receive. The notifications are quick, and generally appear on my iPhone before my MacBook Pro.

The purchase of Boxcar 2.0 (or the upgrade for existing users) includes the use of one service (for instance Twitter notifications or Facebook notifications). Boxcar takes advantage of In-App Purchases for users wanting to add additional services. For example, with the purchase of Boxcar 2.0, you can set it up to send push notifications for your Twitter account. Then, if you decide you also want to receive notification for your Facebook account, you go through the in-app purchase to add this service. Once you add the service, there are no recurring charges.

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Boxcar can push notifications for Twitter mentions and direct messages, along with your entire timeline (though I wouldn’t recommend this setting if you’re following more than a dozen or so people). Boxcar 2.0 works with just about every iPhone Twitter app available, including Twitterrific, Tweetie, TwitterFon, SimplyTweet, Twittelator, Birdfeed, and many more.

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A new feature allows you to set up push notifications for Twitter searches and trends.

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Boxcar uses Facebook Connect to link to your Facebook account, and can push notifications for messages and wall posts. It also works seamlessly with the new Facebook 3.0 app.

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To receive email notifications, you set up your email account to forward a copy of incoming messages to a secret push.boxcar.io email address. Boxcar doesn’t keep a copy of any messages, they only use them to generate a push notification with the sender’s name and message subject line. Unfortunately, Jonathan tells me that Apple has prevented the app from being able to launch the built-in Mail app for email notifications, though it can launch the Gmail web interface, which I actually prefer as it provides a more complete Gmail experience.

Boxcar 2.0 includes many new sound effects, and each service can have a different notification sound so you can tell them apart. I’m actually very pleased with the available sounds, they are unintrusive yet noticeable and distinct.

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My only gripe so far is actually one with the overall push notifications system and not specific to Boxcar. With the increase in push-capable apps I’ve started using on my iPhone, I’m receiving quite a few alerts throughout the day. If I don’t hear one, or don’t look at it, and another comes in, the prior alert is gone, with no way to look at it. I’d wish Apple would add a note to the bottom of the alert, saying something like “2 more alerts have been received” and provide an alert log to review them. Boxcar, though, has provided an in-app log of all alerts received through the app, which has been quite useful.

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Boxcar 2.0 is a major upgrade in functionality, and at only $2.99 for the app and $0.99 for each service, is a steal. Boxcar is one of my favorite iPhone apps, and I recommend it to anyone who uses Twitter and/or Facebook as it will significantly enhance your social communication to be more real-time. I’m still so-so on the email notifications, simply because I receive so much email that the alerts are too much. I’ll probably have to create some filters to only get notified on certain messages.

If you haven’t yet checked out Boxcar, why not? You can find it on the iPhone App Store here, and check out Boxcar’s website here.

Boxcar 2.0 should be available soon! Stay tuned, we’ll be sure to let you know just as soon as it’s on the App Store.

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