Looking forward to iPhone OS 4.0

Here at Urban Airship, we’re really excited about the new functionality that’s coming out in iPhone OS 4.0. Specifically, we’re looking forward to an addition to the notifications concept that Apple has had in place since iPhone OS 3.0.

Before OS 4.0, the only way to alert a user from the device about something that was happening was through using remote push notifications.

With local notifications, however, applications can alert users of small specific tasks from the device itself. This is not only going to improve the user experience but also decrease developer time when building applications. These are both things for which we’re all in favor.

So, let’s talk about some of the use cases around when you would use local notifications and when you would use push notifications.

Local notifications provide an application with the ability to either immediately show an alert or schedule a notification to appear in the future. If you’ve ever gotten a calendar reminder on the iPhone, that’s basically what a local notification is. It’s perfect for things like to-do lists or short, time-based reminders.

Push notifications (or remote notifications), on the other hand, allow a mobile publisher to reach directly into the pocket of the user with updates that don’t have to be time based at all.

For instance, one of our customers, ComiXology, just alerted me yesterday that new issues of one of my favorite series, The Walking Dead, were available for purchase (and boy, do these comics look incredible on the iPad).

Another example is Gowalla – they send a notification when a friend checks in to a location. This not only keeps you up to date about what your friends are doing, it also serves to increase awareness about Gowalla.

And, of course, Tapulous, makers of the extremely popular (and awesome) Tap Tap Revenge series of games, lets users know about free content and contests that are happening in their application.

All of these are remote notifications that use our service, and they’re just a small handful of applications created by the thousands of developers that use our service.

Together, local notifications and remote notifications serve as an easy-to-implement, effective and affordable method of alerting users about new information and engaging them further into your application – and we haven’t even begun to talk about AirMail, which allows you to give your customers rich, immersive information with a persistent list of messages.

We’re nothing but excited about iPhone OS 4.0, and we can’t wait to see what our developers do with these new features.