BoxcarBlog

  1. Boxcar Developer Push Introduces Phonegap Support

    Boxcar Developer Push Introduces Phonegap Support

    We have been offering a push service for mobile developers since close to a year. We have been supporting Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) since the very beginning. However, our SDK only provided support for natively written applications, leaving mobile developers using popular web technologies to package their applications.

    We are happy today to announce that we know support Phonegap / Cordova push on our Boxcar Developer Push platform. You can generate your native APNS or GCM credentials as usual and use the SDK to pass them to your phonegap application using our Boxcar Push SDK.

    We provide a modified version of Phonegap build generic push plugin to make it more flexible. It is still generic and platform agnostic but supports flexible handle on push notification that was missing on Android.

    The code of our changes of Phonegap generic push plugin is published on Github: PushPlugin.

    We design our changes to have minimal impact on the Phonegap / Cordova plugin, but to be really good, we realize that this plugin will require more changes. You can expect to see more contributions to it from Boxcar team, in near future.

    Interested by push support in your mobile application ? Contact us !

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  3. BEYOND PUSH NOTIFICATIONS: MOBILE AS THE NEW HOLY GRAIL OF ONE-TO-ONE MARKETING?

    This is a very good article from Thomas Husson (Forrester) explaining why push is a very special capability for your application:

    It means that the users that have opt-in to receive push from you should be very special to you. You need to treat them as such.

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  5. Boxcar Apple iPhone Event Live Page

    Today, Apple is expected to announce their new iPhone devices. To follow bloggers reactions to the announcements, we have compiled a list of some of my favorites Apple sources (both Twitter people and news sites). We are tracking those sources and publishing their Tweets and articles in real time.

    Boxcar Apple Live Twitter and RSS stream is available on live.boxcar.io. Enjoy and let us know what you think and if we missed some great sources.

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  7. Optimizing Erlang applications: emysql

    The new Boxcar will be about performance. For those interested in gory heavily developer-oriented details about what we are doing on the platform, you can refer to this ProcessOne blog post.

    Do not click if Erlang and scalability oriented development are not your thing. You have been warned ;)

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  9. Top 5 events that show push notification landscape is changing in 2013

    Push notification landscape has been relatively quiet for a few years since Apple introduced push notification in 2008. Google Push system (GCM, aka Google Cloud Messaging) was the only important change that happen to that sector, but it has not been widely adopted yet. It still feels like a nice-to-have option for most Android developers.

    This year however the push notification ecosystem is evolving and traditional push for developers service providers need to change gears: Urban Airship, Parse, Pusher, Push.io among others are getting disrupted.

    Here are the top 5 elements that helps understand and anticipate the shift: 

    1. Both Google and Apple introduced major improvements in their notification service

    Google introduced many changes during Google I/O 2013 in their push notification service. Among those changes, notification synchronization and upstream notifications provide vastly enhanced user experience.

    Apple also added new features during WWDC conference 2013. The most important one is the ability to truly awake an application by sending a notification, granting it processing power without the need for user interactions.

    The bottom line is that push providers need to develop fast and focus on the push business to be able to stick to the new round of changes in the push notification API provided by each mobile OS provider.

    It also means that both Apple and Google push notification services are getting more and more different and pack more and more features. A good platform providers cannot just implement the lowest common features set available in each platform. They need to offers API that allow to target mobile platform specific features. This is difficult and requires skills and continuous improvements on their push platform.

    2. Push notification is key to the mobile application experience

    Push notification is now admitted as a key feature for better battery life in mobile environment. The changes introduced by both Apple and Google makes smart use of push notification a mandatory service for a vast majority of mobile apps. Going from a nice-to-have feature, the push notification is increasingly becoming the link between an always running server-side back-end and a smart, user-friendly and battery efficient mobile app.

    This is probably the most overlooked feature in the upcoming iOS 7. Improvement in the way background applications behave is the element that will really change how end-users use their devices. Push notification service is the most important component for background apps as it is the most flexible way to control when the mobile app will be doing its client-side background processing.

    3. New push services are being launched: true cross platform requires more platform support

    All traditional players support iOS (while some strangely focus only on Android). However, beside iOS the cross platform support is quite inconsistent and sometimes very limited even for the second platform: Google Cloud Messaging.

    Today, a modern push notification service need a very broad scope:

    • Apple support: iOS Push notification, including the new iOS 7 features.
    • Google support: GCM push notification, including XMPP notification, upstream notifications, and notification synchronization.
    • Native web apps support: with Phonegap build compliance.
    • Microsoft push for Windows Phone 
    • Kindle Fire is big enough in US and UK that it is now important to support Amazon Push Service.
    Supporting a large number of push backends is more and more critical and limiting to only a small subset of the available features is not an option anymore for developers.

    4. Large players like Amazon wants their share of the mobile back-end market

    Amazon launched today its mobile notification service for iOS, Android (Google flavor) and Kindle fire (Amazon Android flavor).

    This is a nice step that shows push is becoming increasingly important. This is mostly a catch up move as Microsoft had such service on Azure cloud platform since 2012.

    Big players will reshape the business equilibrium of the area, with aggressive per push notifications pricing.

    5. New niche players are entering the market with disruptive business model

    At ProcessOne, we feel that for the previous reasons, we have a role to play. We have been working on realtime backends since 2005. We found that Boxcar brand was a good opportunity to package a mobile developer push offer that is cost effective, offers state of the art push experience and truly cross platform experience.

    We believe our technology allow us to be truly effective in the way we manage push. This enables innovative and disruptive business model where the cost is not based on the number of push you send, but on the sending rate. Thank to our approach, our plans for push notification are fully unlimited in term of number of push sent and number of devices: You select a plan and you know in advance how much you push platform is going to cost you.

    The nice effect of our unlimited business model is that push is a feature that you can use without worrying about the cost. You do not have to restrict your usage of push just to fit your budget.

    Being a niche, pure player, we believe that this focus gives Boxcar a edge to lead the pack in features as well as in pricing.

    Conclusion

    From an important feature, push notification is becoming a key element in mobile developer infrastructure. It is not anymore a marketing, user engagement trick, and has now became the backbone of every mobile development infrastructure.

    This is only the beginning of more profound changes that the mobile back-end landscape will be seeing in the coming months. Push notification is now a critical capability.

    Read more about new Amazon Push Service

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  11. Boxcar reboot

    It has been a bumpy road for Boxcar during the past 12 months. We know it has been frustrating for the amazing user base that Boxcar have been serving during the past years.

    Boxcar short history

    Boxcar started as the first push notification service for the end user. Apple launched iOS push notifications in 2008. Boxcar launched soon after in early 2009. Boxcar 2.0 launched on 27 august 2009, almost 4 years from now. Users loved it and it had been an instant hit: Boxcar 2.0 Is A Must-Have For the iPhone. It’s The Best Push Notification App Yet.

    And in a sense the service has suffered from its own success. Keeping such a large scale service while adding new features is hard and a few years later Boxcar experienced serious reliability problems, despite new funding.

    After more than a year of frustration for its users, we are now at a turning point.

    Boxcar reboot

    Early this year, ProcessOne, a real time expert, looked at Boxcar potential. We asked ourselves: what is the core value of Boxcar and do we think we could revive it ? We looked at the amazing users that were still fans of Boxcar and decided this could be done.

    Yet, the task was (and is) gigantic. First we needed to review a large aging codebase on both the server and iOS.

    We then had to decide what to with it: Should we incrementally improve it to add reliability and scalability or should we play it differently ?

    A few parameters were taken into account for our decision:

    • Scalability and reliability need to be designed from the ground up.

    • The needs from the user right now are very different from the need of the users in 2009. Twitter and Facebook now support push notifications.

    • iOS itself has changed dramatically since 2009. Boxcar had been developed for iOS 2.0.

    So, we decided that we need a large deep work to make Boxcar push inbox state of the art.

    Boxcar is as of today a state of the art service for developers

    We know that reliability of a real time push service comes as the number one feature. It should be taken for granted. So, during the past month we have been gathering ProcessOne technologies to build a scalable and rock solid push service for iOS and Android developers. It send notifications in a very flexible way and is already in production for selected customers. We already handle millions of devices and millions of push notification per day with it, with a 100% uptime.

    This is going to be the core of the reworked Boxcar platform. By itself, it should hopefully bring hope to the fellow Boxcar users.

    We are making this platform available to a larger developers base. If you have a push project and would like to start using it right now, please, drop me a mail (mremond AT boxcar DOT io) with a description of your project. If it is exciting, you can join our pool of select companies that have access to it and build great apps and reliable services.

    Boxcar iOS push inbox

    We know that this robust and exceptionally fast push backend is not enough for you all users.

    We had started working on refreshing Boxcar iOS application. However, in last june something changed our plan. Apple announced iOS 7. And suddenly that plan was not making any sense anymore. Changes introduced by iOS 7 are so dramatic, that most app have to be rewritten from scratch. This is the case for Boxcar even more than other, as design and code base are very far from iOS 7 ideal target.

    So, we decided to drop our current work and start working on a new version of Boxcar iOS client, for iOS 7 only. We want to use the new iOS 7 features and would like the users to enjoy a revamped experience. The push experience will not be a port of Boxcar 2009 experience but a brand new one. We are targeting a release for Q4 2013, but we will keep you posted of our progress in the meantime.

    Again, reliability will be key and we want to focus on fewer things, but do them well. At this stage, we know that News / RSS realtime notification will be at the heart of the platform. We are also considering other services like Twitter, custom notifications, Mail, Facebook, … But whether they can make it into the New Boxcar is not yet decided … and it depends on your feedback.

    Of course, we will keep on maintaining the existing Boxcar service while the transition is complete and new service is ready and operating at full speed. Both old Boxcar and new version will probably even live together during a few months.

    Looking forward

    2013 is a year of huge work and efforts being put on Boxcar. That’We know some of you have been using Boxcar since the beginning and we know the service is important for you. Bare with us, talk to us, send us your kind words and feedback. This is a long journey but I trust you will be glad to have shared that road with us.

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  13. Boxcar Improvements since July

    Here’s a quick update on what’s been accomplished since Boxcar’s acquisition by Kwaga in late July.  THE MOST IMPORTANT NEWS is that the service’s stability has improved significantly outside of two short outages in early August and early September. 

    We apologize for the outages and have pinpointed the problems and have moved forward. 

    What’s Changed?

    We’re still pushing your messages every two minutes every day (with some delays during peak hours) and only 3 services had to be dropped from twitter:

    • Twitter search
    • Twitter lists
    • Twitter Follow

    Unfortunately, this is out of our hands as Twitter has stopped whitelisting IP addresses, so we’re limited to the number of requests we can make each day for polling services.  That being said, you can still benefit from push services for all of these twitter actions, except the first, timeline updates, for the same reason as above (Twitter’s limited 3rd party API server requests):

    What’s Next?

    Now that the platform has been laregly stabilized we’re looking to bring the best of Kwaga’s main product, WriteThatname to Boxcar as many WriteThatname users have expressed the need to confirm/modify their contacts’ info on their iPhone.  Likewise, we will investigate the possibility of notifying you of only “important emails” via Boxcar, as Kwaga specializes in semantic technology/

    If you have any specific issues, please contact us here and to take advantage of an exclusive discount for Boxcar users of WriteThatname, go here.


    Thanks for your support!  

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  15. It’s Fun Friday, and here at Boxcar, we’re highlighting our Quiet Time feature. :)

    Some of our fans love us for the ability to pick specific sounds per service. Some like us for our fast push-notification. And some like us…for our quiet.

    You might not have heard about it, but if you go into your general Boxcar settings (gear icon, upper-right-corner), you can pick a specific time range to daily have notifications go silent. It’s the top option in your settings list.

    Want to sleep from 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. (8 hours? Who does that?!) and only be awakened by the buzz of your social world after that? Boxcar’s got you covered.

    Choose your own times in increments of 15 min. and enjoy the convenience of Boxcar notifications available when you want them. We’ll stay quiet in meetings, classes, and sleep for you when you don’t. Enjoy your weekend!

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  17. We <3 Our Awesome Fans!

    Every once in a while, we like to mix things up around here a bit.

    We’ve been busy with a lot of behind-the-scenes projects and some pretty neat third-party push work (check out the TechCrunch article if you hadn’t heard).

    But we also get to talk to you, our awesome fans, quite a bit. You guys talk to us when you need help, you talk about us when you find a cool new service that integrates Boxcar, and you tell your friends about us too. And we heart that.

    So we wanted to let you know. Personally.

    Some of our followers on Twitter received snail mail (yep, it still exists - old-fashioned push notification) thank you’s last week.

    For following us. For being Boxcar Brilliants. For being awesome.

    And like the awesome fans they are (you too), they tweeted us back in reply and made our day.

    Check it out:

                       

    …and we’ve gotten more since. Thanks guys.

    Love the pics, love your tweets, love the awesome. Enjoy your week!

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  19. Devs: Port Your App Builds Wirelessly to Devices for Testing!

    We love the ingenuity our fans and providers display in their suggestions and the cool tools they build that incorporate Boxcar.

    One very cool example of this is the work of Carl Brown (@CarlAllenBrown). His app, AppDropOTA, came out a couple months ago on the Apple Mac App Store.

    Carl says his app allows developers to “drag-and-drop your .app bundle, and via Dropbox and the push notifications of Boxcar, you can have your App running on your device with just a couple of taps.”

    Naturally, this is handy, since you can install your apps quickly without having to keep your phone plugged in to sync.

    Check out the demo video below to see how Carl installs an app for testing on 9 devices in under two minutes using Boxcar push notifications and AppDropOTA.

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  21. Plug Spy Giveaway!

    Psst…we’ve got 5 Plug Spy promo codes to give away today!

    To enter: Tweet us @boxcar with a comment and the #BoxcarBrilliant hashtag.

    Deadline: 12 p.m. (noon) CST on Mar. 30th (tomorrow).

    We’ll randomly pick five of the entries to win a code giving free access to Plug Spy, (available for $2.99 on the Apple Mac Store)!

    If you want to learn more about Plug Spy and its integration with Boxcar, read our previous blog post about the app here.

    Like we said then, this useful service is designed to give you instant warnings if someone tries to steal your MacBook or even enter a wrong password in the standard OS X login panel.

    Good luck! Can’t wait to hear from you, our awesome #BoxcarBrilliant fans!

    Update: Congratulations to @twbtwb, @Mo3Tah, @jack728, @mosesdjr, and @victorlgarcia - the winners of our recent Plug Spy giveaway!

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  23. WWDC Notifications!

    Wanting a way to find out when anything on Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference webpage changes? Check out the newest Boxcar provider, courtesy of @atomicbird over at www.atomicbird.com!

                

    Rumors suggest that dates might be June 11-15 this year, but the best way to know definite specifics is to get updates straight from the official webpage. :)

    Note: Push notifications will be sent for *any* changes on the site. Happy waiting!

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  25. [New Provider] iOS Firmware Releases

    The latest Boxcar provider is out, thanks to creator icj_. Here are the key features:

    • Will notify users of official iOS firmware only.
    • Notifies once per firmware release to avoid spam.
    • All the firmware releases are available to download here.

    Get this useful new service and add it to your Boxcar here!

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  27. NEW: Sparrow Mail Notifications through Boxcar!

           

    Are you a Sparrow fan, looking for push notifications? Look no further.

    Not only was Sparrow for Mail just released over in the App Store…<cheers!>…

    …BUT we’ve also added Sparrow as a new option in our apps list to open for your Boxcar Mail notification service. That means it’s super-easy, super-handy for you to get the notifications you need, connected with a great mail service that’s super-popular.

    There’s a great article over on App Advice from Christine Chan, talking about the Sparrow service and its unique features, including a whole lot of great screenshots, called “Sparrow is the Best Email App for Your iPhone Since Apple’s Own.”

    In case you’re interested, you can chat with the Sparrow team on Twitter at @sparrow, or read their latest blog updates on Tumblr.

    Here’s a Sparrow how-to about adding Boxcar notifications. Have any questions for us? Just ask.

    We hope you find this new mail option useful, and we look forward to hearing your feedback. Have a fantastic day, and happy emailing!

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  29. Facebook FIX!

    It’s the news you’ve been waiting for. We figured it out.

    Facebook is now requiring additional permissions from you, our awesome Boxcar fans, in order for us to be able to deliver the push notifications you know and love.

    SO.

    Run, don’t walk, to our Boxcar website* (here’s a link so it’s handy) and…

    DELETE that FB service you’ve been having trouble getting messages and updates from.

    There. 

    Feel better? We thought you might.

    Now…re-install it. That means add the service again (and don’t cheat and just log out and back in to your FB account - that won’t work). Got that?

    And after all that work (what…5 clicks?)…voilá…the sun will start shining, birds will start tweeting (no wait, that’s Twitter), and life will once again turn ON.

    You’re welcome. You’re the bestest. And we’ll see you around. :)

    *Note: Currently you do need to go to the website to make the change. We’ll add the additional authentication to our next update of the iOS app down the road.

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