Apple has released a second beta of iPhone OS 2.1, laying preliminary groundwork for an early version of background push notification services and rolling out a few bug fixes.
The push notification service is a technology workaround for the lack of background processes on the iPhone that will also purportedly enhance performance and battery life for the device. Actual push testing cannot yet occur, however, since no live, public push server has been established.
Why is Push so important? Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software at Apple, has said that implementations of background applications on other mobile operating systems are flawed since users think that the applications they have closed are closed but are actually still open in the background. Running these applications in the background results in a significant reduction of battery life. With battery life already dismal when 3G and GPS services are available, push is an important alternative.
Developers will be provided with APIs that provide access to these services. These services will be available in September 2008. The service uses a central Apple server that developer servers would use to push information, messages, updates, etc. to the iPhone.
Apple's reliability with regard to push has been called in question because of widespread issues with MobileMe. If any portion of the push server infrastructure fails, the user may end up with an application that does not work as intended.
It remains to be seen whether or not iPhone OS 2.1 will bring relief to iPhone OS 2.0 users who have struggled with a bevy of bugs and performance issues under the current iteration.