Talk Funnel

Ramin Firoozye's (occasional) Public Whisperings

Problems with Push

Posted by: Ramin on September 30, 2009

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I agree with most everything Karl Adam says about the limitations of the Apple Push Notification Service, especially the problem with its failure to stack notifications so they’re not missed.

I posted a bug report a while back (rdar://7054632) offering a simple solution to get around this particular problem: save each incoming push payload into Messages.app as a separate entry. That way if I get a push and don’t have time to get to it I can ignore it and come back to Messages later on and retrieve it and all received Push messages are kept until I choose to get rid of them.

The entry could be in the form of a special URL link that shows the alert message, but when clicked generates the same JSON payload format as a regular push event and invokes the app in the same manner so no extra coding would be needed (OK, maybe just a little bit of code on the server to check against processing duplicate requests). It would take care of a lot of problems with push usability.

An even more pressing issue I have with Push is if you are on a WiFi network behind a bunch of firewalls and more than one NAT server. This happens often in corporations or in homes with multiple routers acting as range-extenders. In these cases pushes fail to reach you — until you get back to a 3G network.

For some people Push is doubling as a remote event timer (since Apple won’t let us access the phone’s alarm database or submit local cron tasks). This makes it really hard to issue reliable time-based alerts.

If Apple would just open up true background tasks and/or timed alerts and let the user decide whether they trust an app to let it access those services (much like location-based or push services) a lot of these hassles would go away.

Also, a European friend brought up that whereas SMS is included in most phone plans, push incurs data usage charges. Could be a hassle if you’re traveling and continue getting pushes.

Over all, I’d say push on the iPhone is a work in progress. As much as I’m intrigued and excited by its potential, I’m frustrated by its current implementation and limitations.