During the World Wide Developers Conference in June 2008, along with announcing the availability of the iPhone 3G, Apple also announced a feature of the iPhone OS aptly dubbed the “Push Notification Service.” The iPhone would be “pushed” updates from third-party vendors with the intent of automatically updating data in their applications. The idea would be to alert users with a badge overlaying an app’s icon, custom sounds or even message dialogs.
The application of the Push Notification Service is limitless but some ideas are fairly obvious. One function I know many folks are anticipating is the ability for instant messaging applications to continue to receive updates in the background, even when the application is no longer running. As new instant messages arrive, an icon badge would overlay the application, incrementing each time a new event occurs.
But what happened to the Push Notification Service? Has Apple given up on this highly anticipated feature?
For all intents and purposes it would appear Apple has stopped development on the iPhone OS Push Notification Service. The feature was initially announced in WWDC 08 but to-date Apple has not communicated a single mention of the status of development of the service. Not a peep.
After WWDC 08, Apple Senior Vice President of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, stated the feature would be completed by September 2008. The world expected the high profile feature as part of the iPhone OS 2.1 release. Little did we all know at the time that we would be severely disappointed.
At the end of July 2008, a mere 2 months after being introduced, the iPhone Push Notification API finally saw the light of day as it was seeded to a few select developers as part of a pre-iPhone OS 2.1 build. In an updated developer build seeded in late August 2008, still in anticipation of the iPhone OS 2.1 release, Apple pushed a new seed to developers – this time completely stripping any remnants of the Push Notification API from the OS.
Developers silently wondered if Apple had opted to remove the feature or if it was just overlooked. Maybe it needed additional development before being redeployed to developers. Who knows? Speculation abound, Apple kept quiet – mum was the word.
September came and passed, and the iPhone Push Notification Service was nowhere in sight. November came and passed. We saw the release of iPhone OS 2.2, and yet the elusive Push Notification Service continued to remain in seclusion.
Here we are today – February 6, 2008, and still no mention from the horses mouth. The most highly anticipated feature addition to the iPhone OS to never be completely developed remains a mere mystery. Has Apple given up on the iPhone Push Notification Service or is there something more complicated at play here?
Presumably, the Push Notification Service was removed from the iPhone OS due to memory demands on the already taxed, battery-life challenged device. The iPhone has limited memory availability and does not currently allow applications to run in the background. Contrast that to Windows Mobile, which executes applications simultaneously, with all apps running in the background.
The reason the iPhone operates in this manner can be chalked up to mere memory management – you, as the user, never have to be concerned about the device running sluggish because there are 13 different applications open concurrently. With Windows Mobile, you can open that many applications accidentally, and quickly watch your RAM be gobbled up like a shipwrecked sailor eating his first meal on the mainland. As with all things Apple, simplicity wins over complexity. Surprisingly, it works quite well – application launch time is much shorter on the iPhone when compared to Windows Mobile devices.
There is rumbling around the internets lately, about the possibility of the Push Notification Service being reintroduced in the near future. Potentially when a new, more powerful version of the iPhone is released this summer Apple will add Push Notification to an iPhone OS update. Unfortunately, Apple has yet to comment – this should not come as a surprise.
Although everyone continues to anticipate the addition of Push Notification, because of the exciting applications that will surely have the service to thank for their success, it is important to allow Apple to ensure they get it right the first time. We, the users, and Apple both do not want another MobileMe debacle. The implications of screwing up Push Notification will be far more damaging to Apple than MobileMe.
It’s time to be patient – Apple needs to properly complete the feature so it functions without ever being noticed by the end users. Seamless yet functional integration is key to the success of the Push Notification Service and the iPhone. The OS experience is what sets the iPhone apart from every other mobile device offered on the planet today.
Have you been patiently awaiting the Push Notification Service? If so, what are you most looking forward to seeing developed once the feature becomes available?