IM Works, but What About Those Timeouts?
BeeJive, for example, is a great IM app - and so are eBuddy (iTunes link) and IM+ with Push (iTunes link), two other push-enabled IM apps that were released in the last few days. These apps are intuitive, connect to most popular IM networks, and work just as advertised. But when it comes to push notifications, there are just too many little things that are holding these apps back.
By default, BeeJive, for example, will log you out of your account after just 20 minutes. So once you have finished a chat session, you will just be offline again and no new messages will be pushed to your phone. You can push this timeout limit up to 24 hours, but this setting is buried at the bottom of BeeJive's long list of options. The eBuddy IM app doesn't even have this option and just automatically logs you out after 30 minutes.
There are probably good technical reasons for this, but this behavior just isn't what we expected when we first heard about push notifications.
News Updates are Nice, but What About Customization?
While the AP Mobile app (iTunes link) does push out news updates regularly, it is also a bit of a letdown. There is, for example, no way to customize when you want to get alerts and which alerts you want to get. You can't just subscribe to tech news, for example, or updates about the latest celebrity deaths.
Still no Twitter Apps with Push
We are also still waiting for the first Twitter apps that support push (at least for replies and direct messages), better calendar apps (Remember Milk is the only one in the App Store so far, and it requires a pro account), apps that can push out alerts when an RSS feed updates or when new email arrives, or apps that are simply innovative and beyond our current exepctations.
Maybe Push Just Isn't the Solution?
While getting the current updates is nice, compared to having to open the app and see what is new, there is so much more that could be done with this technology. But for the time being, either Apple is holding back the most interesting apps, or developers just aren't able to use it in really innovative ideas.
We have talked to a number of companies that are producing geo-aware apps, for example. But because these developers aren't able to remotely wake up an app and pull in data about your current location, there really isn't much that they can do with push notifications at this point.
If only the phone could also run cron jobs, for example. Then that could start an application at regular intervals, in addition to push notifications, and developers could do so much more with this technology.
Of course, we are still in the early days of push on the iPhone, but so far, we have been quite disappointed with the current crop of apps. Hopefully, this will only be a stopgap solution anyway, and by the time the next generation of iPhones comes around, Apple will just allow apps to run in the background.