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Get Push Email for iPhone

Preview of iPhone with Prowl

Email has evolved over the years for a reason. In this technology age, most of us are using more than one device to check for new messages – either on more than one computer, or on our cell phones. Synchronization is where it’s at. I need to be able to retrieve an email I sent from my desktop on my cell phone.

Fortunately, a protocol known as IMAP has enabled synchronized emails and folders for over a decade. But, one of IMAP’s chief limitations is that it requires you to connect or refresh your mailbox every time you want new mail.

Finally, Push Email (instantaneous notification) – which Blackberry users have had for years – is available to the masses on the iPhone. It sounds great, to be sure, but there are two glaring issues with Push.

The first is that while you may want instant notification for your email under certain circumstances, you may not want to wake up to an alert at 3:00 am when the latest travel deal email arrives. Or you may decide that you want it only if URGENT is in the subject line, or if it is an important message from your health care provider. Customization features across the board for Push are lacking.

The other problem, which is more subtle though more serious, is that Push notifications typically require access to your email account. Meaning, whoever is running the Push service  – which may not be your email provider – has complete unadulterated access to every email you receive. All password reminders. Private memoirs. Confidential financial information. Blackberry, Google, and Microsoft may be trustworthy, but it should scare you just a little to know that you are giving these companies access to all of your email.

For the iPhone, there is a fantastic way to enable Push email through a $2.99 purchase through the App Store of a program called Prowl. This is a fantastic utility that gets around both of the limitations with Push that I mentioned, although it comes with one of its own. To receive Push notifications, you must have a computer running Growl, which is a must-have app in its own right.

Since it uses Growl, you can customize your notifications to receive all kinds of Push notifications. Email, Calendar, Skype, IM, you name it. If you’re really tech-savvy, it offers an incredibly powerful platform for customizations. Prowl also offers the ability to customize “Quiet Hours”, and messages from Prowl look just like a text message with a preview of your email message.

The other benefit is that Prowl is only receiving a customized amount of text to notify you with – either the subject line or the subject line + a few lines of text. This is far more secure than simply forwarding a copy of every email you get, or worse, giving a company your email password.

I’ve been using this app for over a month now in conjunction with GMail Notifier + Growl, and I can’t recommend it enough. Until the iPhone includes standard features as “Quiet Hours” and SMS-type email previews, a $2.99 investment will buy you Push email that even a Blackberry user would be jealous of.

Posted on 13th of October 2009

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