July 26th, 2012

I Want it Now! Why Mobile Push is Better

Most people synchronize email, calendars, contacts, and even tasks with their mobile devices and their service provider.  This allows them to see all of the same information on their computers and while on the go.

There are essentially three ways that synchronizing mobile devices discover updates and changes to contacts, new email messages, etc. On my iPhone, these are represented in the “Fetch New Data” settings area as

  • Push – where the server informs the device that there are updates waiting
  • Pull / Fetch – where the device checks periodically for changes
  • Manual – the device checks only when you request it

Manual: Don’t Do Anything Unless I Ask!

In manual mode, your device never checks for updates or new email until you ask it to.  Asking it to check, typically means “opening your email application” or “checking your calendar and hitting sync”. If you don’t do that, you are not made aware of new email messages or new appointments that have been sent to your provider’s servers.

This method works well if you do not need to be aware of your mail, or if you get so much mail that it is a waste of phone resources and very annoying to be constantly downloading it and being made notified of new email.  Manual mode is also very kind of your phone’s battery — as it minimizes the work your phone must do in order to synchronize your information.

However, many people want to be made aware of new email messages and to have other information always up-to-date.  For them, manual mode just will not work.

Pull / Fetch: Check once in a while

The “pull” for “fetch” mechanism is the one most frequently used by devices to perform updates.  In this method, you configure an interval (e.g. 15 minutes or hourly) and your device will automatically connect to the server at this frequency and check to see if there are any updates.  If there are, it will update itself.

Pull works just fine; however, if you want to be informed “right away” of new email messages and such, then you will likely set the fetching interval to be small.  Every time your device “wakes up” and checks for updates, it burns though some of your battery — the more frequently it is checking, the faster your battery is drained.  And, if your signal is poor, the battery drains even faster.

Push: Just tell me if there is something new

With “Server Push”, your server is in charge of the synchronization.  When it sees that there is new email or changes to contacts, calendar, or task data, it sends a signal to your phone to wake up and synchronize itself.

Why is this good?

  1. You get notified of updates and changes almost immediately.  Much faster than you could ever have via “fetch” or “manual” checks.
  2. Your phone battery is happy — your phone never has to wake up and connect to the server unless there is actually something to do.  Pull is wasteful as most of the time there is nothing to do; push is very efficient.

Push is ideal as it keeps your device updated in near real time in a way that is very kind to your battery.

Push at LuxSci for Email and Collaboration Data

LuxSci’s Premium MobileSync service supports server push for email, contacts, calendars, and task data.  It also supports pull and manual fetch modes, if those are desired. Premium MobileSync is the only service we offer that includes true Push Email.

Basic MobileSync includes push for contacts, calendars, and task data, but requires use of IMAP or POP  for mail checking.

LuxSci IMAP does not support true server push, though it does support “IMAP IDLE” which does a good job of simulating push.  The downside of IMAP IDLE is that it is not well supported by many email apps — so use of true server push with Mobile Sync is much more reliable.

POP email access has no concept of push — it only works via a manual or periodic fetch.

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