By: Hillel Fuld
After years of using a BlackBerry as my primary mobile device, I recently switched to iPhone 4. Some might say I went over to the dark side, but I say, if the phone can do everything the BlackBerry can and more, then why not? Call me a fanboy if you want to, but I did not go Apple for the first three versions of the iPhone but when the 4 came out, it simply met all my needs.
The one thing I was seriously worried about (anyone who follows me on Twitter can confirm this) was the email. I am an email addict and many of the services I use daily (Ahem Twitter) have shortened my attention span and patience. I want to know when I get an email and I want to know immediately. BlackBerry is best known for its seamless email experience and the ability to have new mails pushed to your device in real time. I wanted that on the iPhone too and I got it with Boxcar.
Boxcar is a free app (was not always the case) that sends you push notifications as soon as new email arrives. You can then choose to read the message on the Web, in Boxcar itself, or do nothing and open the Mail app manually. I would have liked to have an option to open the message in the Mail app but due to Apple’s ridiculous restrictions, that is not possible.
Boxcar does not only send you notifications about new emails, it works with Facebook, Twitter (multiple accounts), RSS, and Growl notifications. I personally use Boxcar for email and Twitter only and despite my very specific needs and likes in regard to receiving notifications, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy this app.
The one thing that I did not like in the beginning was that Boxcar does not actually log into your account to know when new mail arrives, it actually provides you with a unique email address to which you forward all your email. As I said, I did not like this method as much as real push, but after a month of using it, I actually prefer it. For starters, at no point do you have to provide a username and password to Boxcar. The app has no access to your email account.
In addition, the need to forward emails struck me as annoying and unnecessary but as soon as I understood exactly how Boxcar worked, my concerns were put to rest. Boxcar does not actually store your email, it just receives the new message and notifies you that you should check your inbox. This system is more secure and since setting up forwarding in Gmail is a two second process, I know now, this is the way to go. It is important to remember that when setting up the forwarding in Gmail, to leave the message in your inbox and not delete it, since again, Boxcar does not store messages.
In addition to the superior email notifications you receive with Boxcar, I found the Twitter notifications to be extremely useful as well. I configured the app to notify me of new replies and DMs, and I find that the notifications come immediately, which often makes people wonder how I reply so fast on Twitter. What really impressed me about the Twitter integration is how many choices of apps Boxcar supports. You can choose what app to open when you receive a new reply or DM and the choices are many. In fact, I am pretty sure Boxcar has every single Twitter app as an option.
Another huge advantage of Boxcar is the ability to configure different sounds for different accounts. This is something I had on BlackBerry that made it easy to know if an email was work related or personal. The iPhone does not support this and it is a much needed feature.
Since Boxcar is free and it adds so much rich functionality to iOS devices, I really cannot think of any reason not to download it. By the way, I just covered the way I use Boxcar, but the app is loaded with features and customization options, so you can really use Boxcar the best way you see fit.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Boxcar. Have you tried it? Is there a better app out there for push notifications? Please let me know in the comments or you can always hit me up on Twitter, I will reply immediately, go ahead, test me.