All the way back in 2009, I reviewed the Notifications app for ReadWriteWeb and wondered if it was going to be the best push notifications service for the iPhone. At that time, it had more features than Boxcar, which was still in its infancy and is still its closest competitor today. Notifications was the first app of its kind to use PubSubHubbub to speed up notifications of updated news feeds. Over time, Boxcar ended up trumping Notifications in terms of features and the difference in speed became negligible. Now, however, Notifications is back as Push 4.0 for both the iPhone and iPad ($0.99 - iTunes link) and while its feature set hasn’t changed much from the early days (Twitter, email, RSS), the developer Fabien Penso has worked hard on making it the fastest push app out there – and, I’m happy to say, he succeeded.
To speed everything up, Penso now uses his own PubSubHubbub setup, as well as a custom fetcher and parser for feeds that aren’t real-time enabled yet. In addition, he delivers his pings to Apple himself, without using a middleman like Urban Airship.
Push 4.0 obviously doesn’t have support for the plethora of services that Boxcar currently offers. To me, that’s not really an issue, as I only use these kinds of services to get news updates from Twitter and RSS feeds. One feature that is missing – and that many users will likely want – is Facebook support. According to Penso, that’s high on his list and will likely make it into one of the next revisions of the app (maybe as early as the end of this week). Support for Foursquare updates is also coming soon.
The app does, however, feature all the other tools you would expect, including support for virtually every major Twitter app and the ability to reply to tweets right from within the app. Besides working on the app’s speed, Penso also redesigned the user interface from the ground up.
It’s worth noting that all of this come at a (small) price. When you buy the app, you only get support for email and Push’s own API. Support for every other service costs an additional $0.99 through an in-app purchase.
What matters most to me, however, is the speed of the app. For RSS feeds, it’s much faster than its competitors and Twitter messages and emails arrive almost instantly (you get a custom address to forward messages to that you want to be pushed).