Who else wants push e-mail, even when it’s not supported?

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Push e-mail seems to be the in thing these days. O.K. It’s the in thing ever since berries started to grow batteries and sold by phone companies. And since then, the iPhone has caught up as well. Unfortunately, it’s only available on Microsoft Exchange, Apple’s MobileMe, Gmail (via Google Sync), and Yahoo Mail.

However, if you are have more than one email accounts that uses Exchange ActiveSync, or, if your email server is not supported by the iPhone, then there’s no more hope…. or maybe NOT!

If you are envy with your friends who are on email services that provides push notifications, well, there’s hope for you.

I too are in the same predicament. Here’s what I have configured on my iPhone

  • 5 x Google Apps Standard Edition powered personal configured using the Gmail preset
  • 1 x Work email configured manually on IMAP
  • Exchange ActiveSync account configured for my main personal email (1 of the 5 above) for contacts and calendar synchronization

In order to get push e-mail from my Google accounts, I need to upgrade to the premier edition of Google Apps. But I’m too cheap for that. And my work e-mail actually do support push via NotifyLink which uses Exchange ActiveSync for that. However, I’m also using Google Sync to synchronize my contacts and my calendars over the air.

So I’m pretty much stuck without push too for quite a while. That’s until I discovered a couple of applications that made my day! These applications however do not magically enable the iPhone truly to support push e-mail on Gmail or your own email servers. Instead, they are designed to send you push notifications so that someone is sending you emails and then fetch them knowingly on the mail app.

Solution #1: BoxCar

BoxCar is one of the many iPhone applications that provides push notifications for e-mails. The nice thing about BoxCar is that it provides push notifications much more than just for e-mails, but also for Twitter, Facebook, RSS, Atom and even Growl! And here’s the best part for cheapos like me, the first service you use on BoxCar is free! Any additional accounts you create will cost you $0.99 each.

Some of the nice features of BoxCar is also the ability to set the quiet time when you don’t want to get notified. Perfect for my work e-email!

Here’s how BoxCar works. When you create a new notification service for e-mail accounts, you’ll be provided a forwarding address which looks something like [email protected]. What you’ll need to do is to create a server side rule or filter to forward e-mails that you want to be notified of to that unique forwarding email. That’s all to it!

And here’s a tip, if available, you might want to set your server side rule to cc/bcc e-mails instead of forwarding them to your unique BoxCar forwarding e-mail address. This is because by forwarding, you’re email account would appear as the sender in the push notification instead of the actual sender. It’s useful to be able to know who is the sender as well as the subject to determine if you want to immediately load up the mail app on your iPhone.

As for me, I’m using BoxCar to notify me of my incoming work emails. And it works very well with notifications being sent almost instantaneously as soon as an email reaches my mailbox.

Solution #2: IM+

IM+ isn’t exactly what you’ll think of when you’re looking for an application to help you send push notifications for e-mails. However, it’s ability to connect to Google Talk as well as Twitter has an added advantage. And yes, you’ve guessed it (I wonder why :)), IM+ too supports push notifications for Gmail as well as Twitter!

So when IM+ was on sale at US$2.99 during the recent holiday season, I immediately grabbed it! So now, I’m able to receive push notifications for all my Google Apps Gmail accounts. This beats the Google Sync option if you have more than one Gmail account as the iPhone only allows one Exchange ActiveSync account to be configured. Go figure…

In addition to that, it’s also great to be able to get push notifications for any tweets that mentions my Twitter ID or when I get direct messages on Twitter.

For Twitter, the setup and configuration is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. However, most users do get confused how you’d set it up for your Gmail accounts. The trick is to setup your Gmail accounts as Google Talk accounts and set it to push new e-mail notifications. That’s voila, you’ve now got mail notifications!

Since I’ve gotten IM+, it’s been pushing me new e-mail notification almost instantaneously each and every time I get new mails.

Alternative Solutions

BoxCar and IM+ may work for me, but perhaps, it may not for you. But fret not as there are other applications that you can find in the App Store that performs such tasks as well. GPush and PushGmail are some examples for getting Gmail push support. However, as of this article, these applications supports only one Gmail account. If you need more, BoxCar or IM+ is your option for now.

So that’s how I’ve been getting my emails notifications. Sure it’s not as great as getting true push emails and I’ll still need to fetch them with the mail app. But here, I do know when someone is sending me emails and I also continue to maintain my Google Sync for my contacts and calendar. I’m happy, so what more can I complain about?

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