Thursday, March 26, 2009

How will Apple handle iPhone death by the Push Notification?

Rene Ritchie from the iPhone blog posted up a very interesting question entitled "Dear Apple: How Will You Handle Death-By-Push-Notification?"

The iPhone OS 3.0 is promised by Apple to arrive on summer this year, and among the most talked about features beside those user-friendly features, is the Push Notification service. It is basically Apple's workaround for background process which is demanded by iPhone software developers, in short the Push Notification will alert users whenever there are new messages coming in. But Rene thought something about this service that might actually causes more problems than solution and most probably death to the iPhone itself, here it is:

"It’s summer 2009 and iPhone OS 3.0 has just been made available via iTunes. ... Then it happens. 20 new Twitter DMs. 3 co-workers IM you. Every tech blog you follow updates about iTunes not crashing this time. Your calendar reminds you about that meeting coming up. And your entire FPS combat team all invite you to come join their game. Suddenly Push Notification is trying to pop up 30 text boxes all at once — while you’re in the middle of an urgent phone call."

Rene got a point there, even though we don't know how the Push Notification service implemented in real use because the iPhone OS 3.0 software has yet to be released, Apple has not disclosed any details regarding how the long awaited service will handle many notifications at once. It seems unfair to say Apple might not see this kinda problem coming from miles away, not to say that Apple has been prepping this service since the introduction of iPhone OS 2.0, and they say it is ready now.

But for sure, it's very interesting to envision how the Push Notification will take shape when it's coming along with the software update. Now from here on, everything I'll say is under the AS IF condition because they're just predictions. For you who read my previous post about this new Push Notification service in the upcoming iPhone OS 3.0, here's a quick reminder of the three kind of the Push Notification types:

  1. Iphone_30_appstore_push_notificationbadges overlay an app icon on iPhone home screen (like the red unread message count icon over Mail app),
  2. sound alerts,
  3. text alerts that visually appear like text message alert.
I'd say the iPhone OS 3.0 will keep the old way of handling the incoming messages, it will stack the messages like we have now with the current software, but if user dismisses the messages then those will be shown as red-colored circle badges with numbers on the top of the related app icons. Only after user decides to open those messages by launching the related apps, then the app will tell Apple's server that the messages have been opened to reduce the un-open messages left. Because like what I've mentioned in my previous post, that the app only maintain connection with Apple's server only if it's running.

Suffice to say, users won't loose the dismissed messages but still don't solve the hassle if there are over 20-30 messages coming in and you need to check them one by one via related apps. Apple's answer if asked, is probably will recommend users to use the new Spotlight feature to quickly search for the un-open messages. But even with Spotlight, users will probably (again...) have to remember what messages coming from which apps, or need to remember the key words from the messages. Unless the iPhone's Spotlight can perform like the one in Macs, where for an example all the users need to do is write "new message" then Spotlight will show them in alphabetical order or according to the oldest first or newest ones.

It'll be interesting to see how Apple will wrap this up in a nice little bundle of package called iPhone OS 3.0, because no matter how it'll be handled, the iPhone will always be compared to its closest rival: the Palm PrÄ“™ with its multi-cards system. Just like what Rene has said: "Both the Google Android with its top-down slider and the Palm Pre with their bottom loaded notification area provide a far less obtrusive and simultaneously more persistent — and dare we say more elegant? — notification solution." ;-)

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