I'm always amazed when a new app fits so seamlessly into my routine that it's as if it has always been there. That's the case with Mail Notifier from Enflick. The productivity app provides push notification of email and it works beautifully with Windows Live (Hotmail), AOL, Gmail and any IMAP account.
Bear with me while I roll back time to start from the beginning. Unlike many iPhone owners, push notification is not a feature that I waited impatiently for or even wanted. I have enough alerts vying for attention throughout the day, I didn't want to open my phone only to be bombarded with another 17 badges showing RSS feeds I haven't read, Rolandos left to save, Facebook Mafia requests, or any of the myriad app notifications that developers have included to remind me of all things I haven't done today.
Mail Notifier is the first app to change my mind about push technology. The app handles alerts in a way that is familiar and only as intrusive as I want it to be. Even better, that annoying little badge (which read 389 at last count!) can be turned off without affecting live notifications of new email messages.* Brilliant. Mail Notifier provides just the details I need, without the nagging badge of guilt! And, the notifications really are live, often arriving quicker on my iPhone than they do on my desktop for the same IMAP account.
Getting Mail Notifier up and running is the same as setting up the built-in Mail app. You'll need to enter your username, password and, if using an IMAP account, the mail server settings.
Using Mail Notifier is ruthlessly simple too. Getting an email notification is just like getting an SMS. A semi-transparent window will pop up with details from your newest message — which email account it was sent to, who it's from and the first few lines. You can control what info is displayed independently for each email account in the Mail Notifier settings menu.
You can also set a distinctive audio alert for each email account. This makes it easy to determine if an alert really requires attention even if you can't see your phone's screen. For instance, I know that when the Bicycle Bell rings it's probably a client because that's my business email. But if my device is "barking," then it's just my personal email and probably not as urgent.
You can also set up a "silence period"
At first, I expected a bit more from Mail Notifier and was surprised that I couldn't use it to actually respond or send messages. It's not an email program. Apple doesn't let apps access the mail program or duplicate the functionality. (However, if you're using Gmail, Mail Notifier can be set to open into webmail.)
After the initial surprise, I came to appreciate the simplicity. If Mail Notifier could send replies, it would be just like my regular email program — I would avoid it until I had time to read and respond to the messages. Instead Mail Notifier delivers just the right amount of information. I can glance at the screen and quickly make a determination whether an email requires immediate attention or not — usually the answer is not — so I can continue with my current game task.
The iPhone changed my life. And now, Mail Notifier is changing my relationship with email. Instead of dreading the daunting task of sorting through a "million" messages, I can triage all day. All the important emails get answered and I can take of the rest at my leisure. Mail Notifier has taken the stress out of email.
Push notification for email on the iPhone seems like a no brainer, but for me it took an app like Mail Notifier to see that a little push can be a good thing.
(* If you want to go badgeless, then be sure to turn off the badge notifications before you fire up Mail Notifier. Go to Settings > Notifications > Mail Notifier. This setting manages badge updates. Turning it off will stop the badge from updating, but won't remove the badge. So, you need to catch it before the app runs so that it doesn't detect your unread messages. If you miss this step, you can still uninstall/reinstall the app to start over, but you'll have to input your email account info again.)
Watch the Mail Notifier video demo to see the app in action: