iPhone 2.0: .Mac "Push" Email?


Ask and ye shall receive, dig deep into the code and ye shall find fresh-baked Apple-y goodness.

No sooner did Apple drop iPhone 2.0 SDK Beta 5, than the developers began scouring it for any hint of what's to come, and as usually TUAW serves up what they found:

A certain, unnamed individual sent us some pictures of the latest build of the iPhone firmware showing .Mac push e-mail. The picture shows the main Settings page with a new button: "Fetch new data." When you click the button, you are taken to a list of your mail accounts, where you can choose between either "fetch" or "push." According to Mr. Anonymous, while .Mac is offering push e-mail, you are currently not able to do contact or calendar syncing.

Check out TUAW's gallery for the pics.

Boy, Apple is pushing the features fast and furiously. We already knew about "push" via the Microsoft licensed ActiveSync, which offers full Exchange support, but complementing that with .Mac for non-Exchange users? Very nice!

(Of course, much as I love Back-to-My-Mac, iSync, iDisk, and other .Mac features, it really needs a more competitive feature-set upgrade -- Imagine Google-like offerings and capacities with Apple's ease of use and integration! -- especially for the rather steep $100 a year.)

June really can't come fast enough!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone 2.0: .Mac "Push" Email?


What I do not understand about all that push mail hype: The normal, simple IMAP protocol has included push mail for years now. I had push mail on my Treo from a normal IMAP account of my employer using a normal e-mail software (chattermail). And it worked like a charm.
So why the heck should I have to pay for .mac to get push mail if this also works with normal e-mail accounts...? Or just be restricted to mail providers like Yahoo who are affiliated with Apple? (Which does, btw., not work reliably at all...)
I do not like to see Apple crippling standard IMAP features of their e-mail software to make money from some non-standard applications and protocols like .mac or from exclusive deals like the one with Yahoo. THIS is what this article should be about, and not "YEAH we get push mail via .mac". But it looks like as a former PC user I have not quite tuned in into the "all Apple does is wonderful" chorus of you Apple fanboys....

Hi RolloM,
My understanding is that regular vanilla IMAP does not offer "push-like" functionality. For that, we require support for IMAP IDLE. IMAP by itself is the same as POP; it is either on, polling the server for new messages, or off and not knowing whether new messages have arrived. IDLE adds an in-between state, where it issues IDLE commands to pick up new messages is a pseudo-"push-like" experience.
For this to work, however, the service provider has to support the IDLE on their end, and many don't, including Gmail (I don't remember if .Mac already does, but if they don't Apple is adding support as a feature, which would make it more valuable for iPhone users). It is rare enough among freemail providers that Yahoo was the only one to take a stab at it in time for the iPhone. If/when Gmail does it (and remember, they just barely got a somewhat kludgy implementation of IMAP running very recently), we'll probably see support for that as well.
True push, like Blackberry connect and Microsoft ActiveSync literally have the server keep track of the client and push notifications or messages directly to the client, no polling or command requests required.
On a side note, it's very important that there are 2 kinds of IMAP, standard and IDLE enabled, because some of us, like me in Canada, pay HUGE premiums for data and if my phone was constantly polling a server, my data bill would require me to remortgage my house...

I agree that Apple needs to get on the ball and implement the simple IDLE protocol for IMAP (that's what makes IMAP mail push if both the server and client support it). I really wish they'd do push Gmail. Seems like Apple is buddy-buddy enough with Google. (I don't know if Gmail mail servers implement the IDLE protocol, but they should.)
Getting off on a tangent, I find it interesting the balancing act Apple does between Google and Yahoo on the iPhone. Google is the default search engine and there's Google Maps, but Yahoo has push email and powers the weather and stock applets. And Apple TV supports Flickr (Yahoo) but not Picasa (Google). I wish Apple would let Google have push Gmail on the iPhone and include Picasa support on Apple TV.

In defense of Yahoo push on the iPhone, since the last outage a few months back I have had no issues what so ever. Look at all the Blackberry outages within the last year...

@Bad Ash,
It's not that Yahoo email has outages (does it? I've never noticed one), it's that the push email on the iPhone can be capricious- some times it just stops working. That doesn't mean you can't manually check for Yahoo emails - you can - but that the push notifications stop coming in (so you falsely assume that you don't have any new emails when in fact you do). For me, either restarting the device or putting it in and out of airplane mode or simply turning push setting off then back on clears things up. IMO it's been better since firmware 1.1.4 compared to earlier, but it's still not 100% reliable. Push email that you can't rely on to work isn't particularly useful to me. I couldn't tell you if it's Yahoo's fault or Apple's, but it's someone's fault and Apple needs to make sure it gets sorted. I sincerely hope that push email for Exchange ActiveSync and .mac work reliably.

It took Google YEARS just to get IMAP working -- and working poorly in my humble opinion as the translation of labels to folders results in an incredible waste of bandwidth and space as each message can be in multiple folders at the same time -- so IDLE may be a ways off for Gmail yet...
(I'm not sure how difficult/costly it is to implement either, as that may be a factor for "free" email providers -- if everyone is polling their servers all the time, it could be too "expensive" at scale)

If Apple is not going to interpret IMAP IDLE correctly, they should at least get the Fetch feature working correctly. Mine never pulls down new mail even when it is set to 15 minutes.

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Don't forward your Gmail messages to a yahoo email account and Don't use your Yahoo account to reply to Gmail messages: If you use Yahoo servers, instead of using Gmail servers, when reciving or sending Gmail messages, then there are Security and Privacy issues involved – The first one is that Yahoo does not provide a full encrypted session (SSL) when using their email servers, for both sending and receiving emails. Gmail offers Full Encrypted communications when using their email and servers from the moment you login to the moment you log off. This option is turned off by default, but you cam easily switch it on from the Gmail preferences menu. The Second disadvantage of using Yahoo servers, instead of Gmail servers, is that your iPhone IP Address is exposed, and that will not happen if you are using Gmail Servers – Because Google protects the identity of their users by removing / masking their users real IP address when sending or receiving email – This way you are not exposed to a hacker attack, and your location can not be determined by, per example, the person you communicate with or online profilers. So, if you are transmitting sensitive information using Yahoo wimpy servers – Then Don't do it!
Push Mail! – Push Mail! - Push Mail! What is the big deal about it? None - and let me explain you why: Even if you are using an Exchange account it is not like you will receive by the second updates, there is a delay of about 60 seconds when using Exchange email servers, and you can simply tweak your iPhone mail app to check your inbox every minute (even though that will be possible only by jail braking your iPhone) but it is possible, and that will be an alternative for those of you who waiting for an incoming email for more than a minute it is not acceptable.
The more expensive option, 60 to 80 dollars per year, is to use an Exchange provider if you are business or an individual transmitting sensitive information through your iPhone mail client, but again, you can also do that just by simply using a free Gmail account and using Gmail servers with the always use SSL turned on.
Another option, which is very useful to notify you of incoming email, depending on your email provider, is to set up your email accounts to be forwarded to your mobile phone operator email account, that will be something like that: YourMobileNumber @ YourMobileCompany dot com
Must Mobile phone operator provide you with a free email account at their domain dot com and some of them also provide a free service called sms to email, which allows you to write to any email account and to receive replies the same way – How is that for an ultra fast Push Communication without the Push.
You will then receive, almost immediately, an sms text message or an email from your Mobile phone email account, informing you of a forwarded message, the just open your iPhone mail app, login to the desire email account and Presto! That all happened in less than 30 seconds which no Exchange provider could match. You may as well use iPhone Safari to login to your email provider instead of using the using the iPhone mail client. You can also see on the sms alert who is the sender of the email, part of the message and from which of your forwarded email the message is coming from, and then you can decide to reply at that precise moment, later or not.
The above may also save precious battery life and be more Eco friendly for a few seconds:

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