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push notifications

In recent weeks, the team behind the popular messenger WhatsApp have been aggressively pushing out updates for Windows Phone, including a somewhat major overhaul of behind the scenes plumbing.  But if there was one area where people always had complaints about the app, it was with its notification system not working reliably.

We’ll spare you the details of why notifications sometimes fail on Windows Phone, but we can say that things are at least improving. In fact, the Nokia team working with WhatsApp to develop the service has certainly been a positive influence on the app, making it more dependable.

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The Telerik team, the brains behind the popular developer tools for Windows Phone and other platforms, has announced push notification support for Windows Phone. Every feature supported by the Windows Phone OS is now implemented in Everlive, enabling developers to take full advantage of the functionality in Microsoft's mobile platform, while being able to fully support iOS and Android.

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We know many of you have wisely switched to Outlook.com for your email, but for some, either due to legacy or workplace requirements, Google’s Gmail is a necessity. While you can certainly add Gmail natively to Windows Phone, there’s no doubt that it lacks all of Google’s punch.

Developer EcoMerc has made a nifty Gmail app for Windows Phone, appropriately called ‘Gmail’. What makes this app unique is it’s reportedly based off of “…the exact same codebase as the official Gmail for iPhone/iPad”, meaning this will feel kind of like a true app for Windows Phone users.

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Push notifications (also called toast notifications) are those pop-up messages you get from certain apps – the ones that say you’ve got a game invite, a weather alert, a new tweet, etc. Even if you don’t have an app that supports them, you’ve probably seen them appear whenever you get a text message or voice mail.

Windows Phone 7 always had issues with push notifications though. Not the hardwired SMS alerts and such, but pushes from games and apps. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, and everyone’s experience seemed to differ.

When Windows Phone 8 rolled around, we hoped that would change. Unfortunately, at first glance it did not (for games, at least). While the pushes from recent Xbox WP release AlphaJax have driven some WP7 users crazy, some Lumia 920 owners like me simply haven’t seen those notifications (and yet others have). Thankfully, pushes aren’t completely broken on WP8. They’re just bugged, and there is a way around it.

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Birdsong, a Windows Phone Twitter app, experienced a little technical difficulties with Live Tile and push notifications. The developers have worked diligently over the past few weeks and the new push notification service went online just a little while ago.

Birdsong is a nicely laid out Twitter app for your Windows Phone that supports multiple accounts, threaded conversations, geo-tagged tweets, off line viewing and much more.

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In September of last year we wrote about the startup created by two ex-Microsofties called Buddy.

Buddy is a cloud platform that has support for all the major mobile Operating Systems (and HTML5), and makes it really easy to integrate web services into your app. With a few lines of code you could add a high score list, or get push notifications and Live-Tile updates out to all of your users, and that is just the basic stuff. There is support for a wide range of other usage scenarios which you can checkout in their documentation.

Here is the basic flow that they provide for a global high-score list:

Up until now there were different price tiers based on your usage, starting at a free account which provided enough API transactions for most small apps. But to celebrate reaching 5000 signed-up developers, the service is now totally free until August!

Check out the newsletter below:

Buddy Announces 5000 Developers
... and a pre-v1.0 launch gift!

We have great news that we want to share - but first, since our launch in beta last September we've been THRILLED with the support we've received from the mobile app development community the world over.

In fact, we're pleased to announce that we now have 5000 developers on the Buddy Platform - so thank you to every single one of you for your support, your feedback and your contributions so far!

The Buddy team has been working super hard (in fact so hard, that we need more people! Click here to learn more about opportunities to join our team), and we're in the final prep stages before we emerge from beta and release our v1.0 product.

To celebrate, we want to give our developers FREE access for all accounts consuming less than 2 million API calls per month - and we're going to continue doing so until August! So if you've been thinking about building an app on Buddy - there's never been a better time to get your feet wet.

To get started, download our free full code samples for iOS, Android and Windows Phone - these are full apps that will compile and execute - and tinker away from there!

Thanks again for your support, and we look forward to sharing more info on our post-v1.0 launch pricing shortly!

So if you aren't looking forward to forking out for Azure (or learning it for that matter), now is a great time to jump on board. Hit the source below to sign-up.

Source: Buddy platform

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We love ourselves some 4th & Mayor, the wildly popular Foursquare app for Windows Phone which has outpaced the official app. We're now happy to announce that version 3.1 is live in the Marketplace. What are the biggest changes? Only the ones you have been asking for the most:

  • The back of the app tile is now a Live Tile leaderboard
  • Toast notifications when friends check-in near to you

That right there are some cool features for such a great app. We're busy taking it through its paces right now, so we'll let you go download it here in the Marketplace for free. Oh and since it is free, if you ever feel like buying the developer, Jeff Wilcox, a beer for his efforts, you can do that very easily by clicking this link.

There's much more too though with version 3.1 with the full changelog after the break...

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Look, we're not going to make a mountain of a mole hill here: we know this video technically doesn't mean much and the developers (the folks behind CarbonWP) also know it's not a real test, but still...it's cool to see.

All it is a push notification sent to both the iPhone and a Windows Phone. Lo and behold, they tie for receiving the message at the same time. Does that make one phone better than the other? Certainly not. But does it make Windows Phone look pretty decent for being able to hold its own against Apple (in this one test)? Sure does. Plus, it makes CarbonWP look pretty sweet too, we suppose.

Anyone else have experiences with the iPhone and Windows Phone receiving notifications? Sound off in comments with your thoughts. Thanks, TechJunky79, for the link!

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Microsoft's Channel 9 has posted a nice video demonstration of all the push notifications and Live Tile change coming in Windows Phone Mango. In addition, they interview Thomas Fennel, who's in charge of that aspect of the OS (we saw him speak at MIX11 in a similar demonstration). To recap the changes from our earlier coverage:

  • Local notifications: these aren't push, but instead are purely local--great for alarms, reminders, "note tiles", etc.
  • Deep Toast: Say 'Weather Bug' gives you a flood toast notification, when you click it, it can now take you directly to the flood alert, instead of just opening the app. This is very cool.
  • Multi-tiles: One app, 'X' amount of tiles. For example, you have a news app with World, Local and Political news, you can now create individual Live Tiles for each category, or whatever the dev allows
  • Live Tile limit bumped: Currently, you can only have 15 Live Tiles on your phone. Starting with Mango, that goes to 30.
  • Tile flip: When a notification comes in, the Tile can "flip" with a back image (see video)
  • Improvements: Reliability, performance and efficiency (15 min polling, down from 60) have all been adjusted and made better

We've already seen how BBC News Mobile and the Weather Channel are looking to take advantage of the new system and our very own WPCentral app is currently being "Mango-ized", as a few of you lucky beta testers are now experiencing. In fact, we may have a video demo tomorrow of our new "flippy tile" and push notifications.

The interview with Fennel is quite interesting as he explains their motivation, reasoning behind the decisions and things they are looking at for the next version of the OS, expected to be "Tango". And on the Channel 9 page, they link to a bunch of resources on the new system, which is worth checking out if you're a developer.

As a side note, we can say after running "Mango" for the last seven weeks, we haven't had a single "end point failure" with our Live Tiles or push notifications, which means despite have nearly 15 Live Tiles they are all working perfectly. So for those who currently are experiencing Tiles not updating, hold tight as Mango fixes this and fixes it good.

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Last we covered the app 'Package Tracker' a simple but colorful program that allowed you to input a package tracking number and then enabled you check its status. We gave the app some great praise, mostly due to the UI and ease of use (plus, you can basically use it for free if you track less than 3 packages at a time).

However, its competition, 'Parcel Tracker' (see review) has added a killer feature: push notifications and a live tile. That makes Parcel Tracker a more "set it and forget it" app because now it'll notify you every time the shipment gets updated.

We've been using it for the last few days and it's worked pretty solidly for us, giving us a nice counter for missed notifications and in general, makes tracking our packages that much easier. Parcel Tracker is also better for international users because it has way more carriers available (of which you can disable for a shorter list, natch).

The app does fetch for $1.29 so we still like 'Package Tracker' for those of you who only use these kinds of things on occasion. But for those of us with Amazon Prime (hallelujah!), you'll probably want to give 'Parcel Tracker' and its push notifications a trial. Keep in mind though, the developer of 'Package Tracker' has said live tiles/notifications for his app may come as well. We'll keep an eye out.  Grab 'Parcel Tracker' here.

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Live Tile updates bug? [Developers]

Doug Rathbone, a Web Applications Consultant, has published an article on his blog recently outlining a bug he has come across when developing on the Windows Phone 7 platform with regards to the 260 character limit for toast (push) notifications for live tiles, which can reportedly be a pain when pulling a tile from an SSL path that contains security keys and other parameters.

He has gone into depth about the problem and attached a sample app that one can use to reproduce the bug and "experience all the fun". Of course, if this was an issue with long paths in URLS, URL shorteners such as bit.ly could be extremely effective. A very good read nonetheless.

Source: Doug Rathbone

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We covered Rowi (free) a few weeks ago when they rolled out their fast-user lookup while writing a new Tweet (it really works brilliantly). At the time, we mentioned that the Rowi team was gearing up to release a paid version which loses the ads and gain push notifications/Live Tile functionality.

Well, that day is here as the full version was released over the weekend. We had an early look at the app and give it high praise for it's speed and minimalist appeal. The push notifications/Live Tile has been work very well for us and the overall "clean" look to the app is a nice departure from some other clients.

The app fetches for $2.99, which is a bit high for a Twitter client these days. But, even at that price, the app delivers and works exceptionally well. In other words, if you're a fan of the still-available free version aka Rowi Lite (with ads), you'll want to take this one for a trial spin.

Grab it here in the Marketplace.

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We love some good competition around here and GoVoice, the original Google Voice application for Windows Phone 7, has gone 2.0 this morning making it quite attractive for those who rely on Google Voice services.

The big change is the use of GVMax, a donation-supported service that will handle the "pushing" of Google SMS and voicemail notifications to your phone (here's an overview of the service by LifeHacker). In conjunction with the live tile counter, GoVoice is the most full featured Google Voice app currently on the market (though we imagine the similarly named GVoice is going to try and play catch up real soon). You'll have to take a few minutes to set up GVMax, but it's quite painless from our experience.

The program is currently $2.99, though the developer, Nick Yu, is aiming to make it free while the push-service will cost $1.99 a year.

We'll be doing a review roundup of all the Google Voice apps currently available shortly. Stay tuned. Click here to open Zune Desktop to grab the free trial.

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Want to know all the details about Windows Phone 7's 'Push Notification' system? Since 3rd party multitasking is officially a no-no on our new OS, Push Notifications (PNs) will play quite a role in how our after-market software interacts with the internet.

Luckily Microsoft's own Developer Blog has detailed everything from defining what is a PN (and perhaps more importantly why they went with them), how they work and how to use them on a WP7 device.

The articles are written for the developer and even consumers who will be able to make sense of material, so don't be afraid if you have 30 minutes to kill to jump right in. (Okay, the last two parts get very technical) Quite a few interesting nuggets of info await!



[via Vincent Leung .NET Tech Clips]

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We've gathered a bit more information on how push notifications on Windows Phone 7 series work. The notifications will come from Microsoft via a service offered free to developers. Our big question, though, was what the user experience will be like. From what we can tell, it will be "mixed' (pardon the pun).

Microsoft tell us that there won't be a "notification management app," which is to say that how notifications will surface is apparently going to differ app-by-app and user by user. Microsoft focused on the fact that many (or most) of the hubs will have a 'What's New' section where you'll be able to see new alerts. Hubs/apps that you've promoted to the Start screen will naturally display notifications in live tiles. Beyond that, though, it doesn't sound like we'll have an similar to Android or webOS, where you'll be able to see all your missed notifications and alerts in one place. We'll see if we're misinterpreting that when we speak with Microsoft one-on-one later.

On the bright side, from the demo we watched during the keynote today, it doesn't appear that notifications are 'interruptive,' so they won't force you to act on them before you get back to the work you're currently doing on the phone.

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