BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIMM) is giving app developers access to the company’s flagship “push” technology, via a new API, announced today. This as Apple rolls out a similar feature this summer for its iPhone apps.
Like Apple’s push notification system, RIM’s means an app maker can push information in real-time to phones. For instance, a messaging app can receive instant messages live, as they’re received. And based on the way we understand the systems, unlike Apple’s, RIM will also let developers push content to phones, so users don’t need to wait to download it. This could be useful for sending photos or audio or video clips as they become available. For instance, a sports app could automatically download your favourite team’s highlight videos as they become available — so you can watch them whenever you want.
RIM doesn’t have to make this feature available, but it’s helpful. Unlike Apple iPhone apps, BlackBerry apps can run in the background, so they can keep pinging a server for the latest information while you’re using other apps. But using push notifications instead of background processing does save a significant amount of battery life — Apple’s excuse — so it might catch on. (So far, no major BlackBerry developers have announced support for it, but RIM includes four smaller coders in its press release, such as “The Hockey News” app.)
Developers will have to make some changes to their apps (and perhaps their server infrastructure) to support the push system, but for many, it could be worth it. So a smart feature for RIM to support. (Assuming it can handle all the new traffic and keep its email push system in working order.)