<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/boxcar-title.jpg” />Boxcar has just released a version 4.0 which really cements their place as the premier “Push” app for iOS devices – iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Boxcar has been out for a while now and is gaining in popularity.
With this new version, the look and feel of the Boxcar app has really been taken to the next left. Boxcar’s mantra is “speed” – they aim to be the fastest push notification app on the market.
So what is a “Push” app? A push notification app is an interface to Twitter, Facebook, RSS, e-mail, Growl or other services which will send instant notifications to your device. For example, as soon as someone mentions your username or any other term on Twitter, a Facebook message is sent to you or an new post is published to your favorite blog – a notification is instantly sent to your phone.
When you sign up for Boxcar you are presented with a list of applications that are compatible with their service. The list of applications currently include:
- Google Buzz
- App Recommendations
- Google Voice
- Email Account
- Twitter List/Search/Trends
These apps work natively with Boxcar to send push notifications to your device. Within each service (also called a provider) you can specify which app you want to handle the alert after receiving it – for example with Facebook you can choose the mobile website, the Facebook native app, or any of the other options it provides.
Right now, Twitter and Facebook both have Push notification built into their clients. However, if you want to get notification from some of those other services there is no good way to be notified where you are instantly alerted with a popup box that the new item has come in. For those who must be “in the know” having these push notifications can keep you on top of the latest trends. Boxcar also adds additional notifications on top of Twitter and other services that not even their native apps support.
The Boxcar app itself is free and can be found on the App Store [No Longer Available]. There is an option to disable advertisements for $4.99 but I never saw an ad pop up, so I am not sure how often they are presented. You can also set certain time periods for “Quiet hours” where it will not send you any notifications, which will be helpful while you are trying to sleep.
When you choose to use Boxcar instead of the native app push notifications, you give up one thing (ease of use) while gaining control over where and what you get from each app. It also makes it easier to manage your notification in one place rather than checking the individual settings of each app to see what you want to have forwarded.
Adding Custom Notifications
One interesting aspect of Boxcar is that it is very expandable if you have a service or app you want to receive notifications from. If you are a programmer, Boxcar provides a robust API where you can add in your own providers to send alerts to your device. If not there is still a relatively easy way to get your notifications to show up.
Through the Boxcar Email integration, you can set up multiple “email” providers which will send an alert to your phone. It creates a unique email address at Boxcar that will pop up an alert with the email message as the subject whenever a new email is received at that address. That means if your web application has an option to notify you via email address, you can have it send a push notification via Boxcar.
If you are a Gmail user (or other email provider that supports them) you can also use Filters very effectively to send notifications via Boxcar. I was able to get Google Voice text messages forwarded to Boxcar through this method.
You can also forward Growl desktop notification messages through to Boxcar. We have covered Growl previously and now you can have all of those notices forwarded to your mobile device should you decide you want to.
The notification possibilities are endless with Boxcar. With their open framework and easy of use it is very easy to get started, yet very power when you figure out how to get new types of notification into the system. Boxcar has delivered 500 million notifications so far and from what I can tell they are growing exponentially. Do you have a unique use for Boxcar? Let us know in the comments below!