Our Top Seven Favourite uses of Push Notification

Push Notifications

Push Notifications took a lot longer to get onto iPhones than Apple had initially promised, and when they came out I think it took a little while for people to get used to the idea — much like it took game developers a while to get used to handling and creating games around the accelerometer (I hated a lot of early iPhone games because of this). Josh, Patrick and I got together and have listed a few of our favourite uses of Push Notification, as well as our reasons for thinking they’re so kick ass.

If you’ve got any more of your own sweet push notification candidates, please leave the app name (and your reasons, too) so we can pool info. ;)

Boxcar - What seems like a pretty small app is actually probably the single most used app on my iPhone. For the most part, you won’t really interact with Boxcar per se, but rather the push notifications you can receive via Boxcar that will launch you into other apps. For me, I use Boxcar to receive push alerts for Twitter mentions and direct messages, and then tapping on the pop up alert takes me directly into the Twitter app of my choice. I also receive push alerts from Facebook updates, which then launch the Facebook app upon tapping on them. Boxcar can be configured to push a variety of different alerts, with different sounds, quiet times, and the ability to control what app gets launched for each alert. In this “behind-the-scenes” fashion, Boxcar is the most interacted with app on my iPhone. An excellent implementation of push notifications.

LetMeKnow - LetMeKnow is a push alert app that does exactly what its name says: it lets me know about things. Again, not necessarily an app you’ll interact directly with very much, it’s more about the alerts you’ll receive letting you know things. For instance, you can get push notifications for weather conditions, child abduction and Amber alerts, updates to web pages, server downtime alerts, CraigsList item alerts, alerts letting you know about changes to YouTube videos, stock changes, Twitter mentions and DMs (though Boxcar implements this particular function much better), immediate notification of RSS feed updates, and push email alerts for any account. With such a variety of possible alerts, LetMeKnow provides an excellent way to stay in the know about things while out and about. Set it up once, and rest assured you’ll be alerted to the things you need to know about.

Beejive - This is an IM client and I won’t go into how great it is here, but I will mention something that it does very nicely in terms of push notifications: only vibrating and showing a pop-up for first new message. I’ve used IM+ before and it kept vibrating with every new message, and I found this got annoying very quickly. Beejive just rings and vibrates on the first message and then rings once every message after that. It can get noisy if you’ve got chatty friends, but at least your iPhone won’t be simulating an earthquake (or something else) in your pocket. Like most other IM applications, the notifications allow you to close them up or open the chat window to reply to that specific contact.

Mailtones - This app focuses purely on delivering push e-mail notifications, and although it won’t launch anything for you, it does a good job of giving you lots of options. There are quiet options, black lists for emails and domains you don’t want to hear from, and — as the name implies — quite a few mail tones to choose from. Most of them are really long and loud, but there are some gems in there, too, and it was a good idea to provide so many options. I’m surprised that more developers aren’t catching onto this.

PushGmail - PushGmail is awesome because it’s fast, very simple to set up (no forwarding required), and it gives you the option to launch your Mail app (straight to compose screen, not inbox — SDK limitation) or to load the web Gmail interface within the PushGmail app. The alert sound is actually pretty cool, but it’s way too loud by default, so watch out.

BNO News:  This is the Breaking News Online app – that offers up the fastest alerts on the latest breaking news round the world.  It’s consistently faster than any other news app I’ve seen.  It also offers multiple alerts as stories develop (though not so much so as to be annoying).
RSS Player:  An app that lets you keep up with podcasts much more effectively than the built-in iPod app.  Latest version does push alerts – lets you get alerts for up to five favorite podcasts for free, allows you to choose which ones you want to receive alerts for, and you can choose to be able to get alerts for more via in-app purchase.  I think this app does both push and in-app purchase quite well.

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