PushMail: How Apple should be doing iPhone e-mail

 

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During my two weeks with the Palm Pre, the one thing I missed the most was how it notified me of new e-mail on all of my accounts via push. Any time an e-mail arrived in my inbox — regardless of which account it was — the Pre would light up and show me a short preview of the e-mail. If it was junk mail, I could avoid having to open up my mail just to be disappointed (same goes for random e-mails from friends or colleagues that aren’t time-sensitive).

On the iPhone, even with OS 3.0, there are only two options for push e-mail: MobileMe (which I have, and use for personal e-mail) or an Exchange account. But even with those, I’m still not getting the same experience from the Pre — I still have to actually unlock the phone and go into Mail (which kills the battery faster) instead of the iPhone displaying a preview notification.

That is, until I found the PushMail app.

Simon Patarin’s PushMail is the model of simplicity — there’s only one screen (below) with an option to either login to the service or register. (It’s so simple that iTunes displays the size of the app to be “0.0 MB”!)

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Once you register, you set up your e-mail accounts to also forward to yourusername@dopushmail.com. When you do, PushMail will use the push notification service in OS 3.0 to throw up on-screen notifications (such as the one at the top of the page) as each e-mail arrives. You can choose to either ignore it, or unlock the phone and fetch your mail. The app doesn’t actually push the e-mail to your phone, it just alerts you as each e-mail arrives — for e-mail addicts like me, this is a godsend, and I’ve already noticed my battery life has improved as a result. (Apple should, at the very least, build this into the iPhone OS so it works with regular push e-mail, too.)

In my experience over the last month or so, PushMail has yet to fail me. The notifications arrive immediately, even moments before they’re pushed to my desktop Mail.app via IMAP-IDLE! It works beautifully with my Dreamhost-hosted Tempevideo.com addresses as well as Gmail. (Sadly, AOL does not allow e-mail forwarding, so my rarely-used address there doesn’t throw up notifications, but that’s not the fault of PushMail.)

Prior to finding PushMail, I tried another method, which was using a free trial of the Mail2Web.com Mobile Email service (first 60 days free, $4.95 per month thereafter). This allows you to forward your e-mail to their Exchange servers, then you can set up the iPhone to receive it via push. It was great to notify me of new e-mail, but then I had the problem of having the same address getting e-mail in two different places. And it still didn’t throw up notifications as new e-mails arrived, which was the whole point.

Best of all, PushMail is currently a mere $2.99 (it was actually $4.99 when I bought it, but even that price is well worth it)! There are no subscription fees, that’s the lifetime price of admission. Once you register, the app itself is essentially useless, so I moved it out of sight to the last page of my apps since it “just works” without further need of opening it unless you need to change your registration for some reason. It’s easily the best, most useful purchase I’ve made since the App Store opened. If you’re an e-mail junkie, definitely give it a look!

(Oh, and AOL users: There is another method to get push notifications using Prowl, an iPhone app that takes your desktop Growl notifications and pushes them to the phone. Of course, the bummer of that method is it requires your desktop computer to be running — which means, no notifications when it’s off or sleeping. But it’s a handy app to have as well if you’re a heavy Growl user.)

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2009 at 1:15 pm and is filed under Apple Talk, Gadgets, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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