Sunday, September 13, 2009

App Review: GPush and PushMail

App Review: GPush and PushMail

Don’t want to pay for MobileMe and have to use a email address? I’ve been using the latest apps that bring push email (sort of) to your iPhone.
GPush and Pushmail are currently racing up the App Store, so which would I recommend?

Forthcoming Updates to GPush
Premium version allowing multiple GMail accounts
Custom notification sounds
Tap on notification to launch the message in Gmail within Safari (not native Mail client)
Tap GPush icon to go to Gmail in Safari

Forthcoming Updates to PushMail
Badges and custom sounds
Tap on notification to launch the message in native Mail client
More display options, such as only showing “From” or “From” and “Subject”, not the start of the message
Quiet time – mute notifications for a set period (nice!)

Privacy concerns
Both developers seek to allay concerns about privacy. With GPush you’re giving up your GMail username and password. With PushMail, all your email will go to your address, but this isn’t a full email account though; all emails forwarded are only held long enough to sent you the push notification, then discarded. Neither approach is ideal, so if you want pushed email without forking out for MobileMe, then you’ll have to think about which approach you prefer.

The biggest benefit?
As well as getting quicker notice that you’ve received an email, saving battery life is the biggest benefit. Turning off Mail fetching your email every 15 minutes to an hour saves a lot of power. Push notification does maintain a persistent connection to Apple, but I’ve found the battery drain to be far less than frequently checking email through the Mail app.
You may also want to turn off the sound that Mail makes when it actually downloads the emails (that you’ve already been notified of).
If you don’t like to be disturbed you could set up GPush, for example, not to pop up a notification or play a sound, but just update its badge. Position the GPush app near Mail, and you’ve got a way of unobtrusively checking for new messages without overly draining the battery.

The verdict
Neither app actually brings push email – you only get a notification, and still have to download the actual email by launching Mail app. But it’s good enough and saves a fair bit of precious battery.
The downside is that there isn’t a way of stacking notifications on either app – so if you get two notifications come in, you’ll only see the second one displayed. This is a limitation of the SDK as far as I’m aware. The workaround is to badge the GPush or PushMail (when the latter is updated) icon with notification numbers.
My recommendation has to be PushMail. Even without the problems that GPush are having, PushMail is a service that you’ll unobtrusively use everyday, so it’s worth the extra money. It also allows for plenty of customisation, so long as you’re happy to set up filters to forward your email. If they can fix their problems, users who do not want to fiddle with filters or forwarding should probably go with GPush.

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