Sometime soon, Facebook 3.03 for the iPhone will be available in the App Store. It should be a small update with some bug fixes. The bigger news is what will be coming soon after it: Facebook 3.1 for the iPhone, complete with Push Notifications.
While we’ve long suspected that this would be a feature in the next major iteration, developer Joe Hewitt confirmed it tonight on Twitter. And that feature will make what is already one of the best iPhone apps out there, even better. The lack of Push Notifications is probably the biggest complaint users have about the app, right now.
Facebook with Push Notifications could be significant in another way as well: It could well be the most popular app people are using with the functionality. Why that matters is that it could start showing everyone what some of us iPhone power users have realized for a while: The Push Notification management system beyond a certain threshold is basically useless. That is to say, when you’re getting a large number of Push Notifications on your iPhone, it’s almost laughable how bad the built-in system is for trying to figure out what you just got notified about beyond the most recent message.
That’s why Boxcar, a Push Notification app, is so great, it has a main dashboard where you can see a full list of your recent Push Notifications. I realize that I’m hardly representative of the average user, but I often find myself looking over this list after a few days, and there are a couple thousand Push messages accumulated. But sadly, this only works for notifications run through Boxcar. So if you have say, a notification from Foursquare, one from AIM, and one from BNO News, none of those will be in that list.
Boxcar (which also already does Facebook notifications, by the way) also doesn’t solve the issue of smartly displaying various kinds of messages on your main screen when they come in. For example, if I have a text message that comes in, but a Push Notification after it, the Push message will override the text message, so I will not know I have a text at all unless I unlock my phone and look at the Messages app.
There also badly needs to be a universal “quiet time” setting, when no Push Notification are sent to your phone. Several apps are starting to build this in, but that’s just more management for users to deal with on an app-by-app basis; it really should be a universal system setting.
The Push system is such a mess right now, that many of the most popular developers are letting others deal with it. Loren Brichter, the guy behind the excellent Twitter app Tweetie, tells us that he’s tabled Push Notifications for the time being, letting others like Boxcar handle it, because it’s a potential headache.
With iTunes 9, Apple completely revamped the way to organize and manage apps on your computer. It was a much needed, and welcomed change. The next step is to completely revamp the Push Notification management system. And I think Facebook with Push Notifications will go a long way in highlighting that need.