Delivery Status and Push Notifications

We’ve been getting a lot of requests for Push Notifications in Delivery Status touch—so you can see when your package status updates even if Delivery Status is closed. This is something I’d love to have as well, but it’s complicated and it may take some time. In order to handle Push Notifications properly, all of your tracking information would need to be stored on our server. Our server would then use that information to check your status every hour or so. If it noticed a change, it would send out a notification.

This sounds simple enough until you consider that there are many thousands of packages being tracked with Delivery Status at any given time, and they all need to be checked on many times throughout the day. This is a huge amount of work for our server! Since you can buy Delivery Status touch for only $3 and track any number of packages, we simply can’t afford it.

Also consider services like Amazon and Google. It would not be possible to provide proper Push Notifications for these services without storing your passwords on our server. No matter how many steps we take to make this secure, there’s still some additional risk involved—so I’d greatly prefer to never do it at all. Amazon is one of our most popular services (and my own favorite) so this is a big downside.

I’ve been mulling all this over for a while now, and so far I have a couple of possible solutions.

Paid notifications, limited services

One option is to charge a small, additional fee for notifications. You’d be able to choose which deliveries you get notifications for. For example you could buy a notification package that includes three deliveries at a time for a few dollars. After a package arrives and you delete it, that would free up one of your slots.

If we took this approach we would probably also limit the services we support notifications for, at least from the start. We’d probably start with FedEx, UPS, and USPS. Over time we would add others. The tricky situation with Amazon and Google is something we could work out later—though one big thing to keep in mind is that after your Amazon package ships via UPS (for example) it could be tracked through UPS.com without requiring a password.

Free notifications sent from your computer

The other possibility I’ve considered is making use of the Delivery Status widget to check on your packages and send notifications. This basically solves all of the problems I’ve mentioned. Even the amount of work to set it all up would be much smaller, because it wouldn’t be terribly different from sending a Growl notification. But the big, big downside here is that if you shut down your Mac or put it to sleep, you wouldn’t get any notifications on your iPhone. Obviously this is not ideal.

It’s tough to gauge which of these approaches would work best for everyone, so I’d love to hear your feedback. Please fill out this one question poll to let us know what you think! While offering both options is technically possible, that’s something we’re unlikely to do—trying to explain the limitations of each could get confusing very quickly. If you have any other ideas on how we could solve this problem, I’d love to hear them. Post a comment below, or send us an email.

Update: a temporary solution if you’re anxious!

A new iPhone app was released recently called Prowl (currently $3). It uses Growl on your Mac to send Push Notifications to your iPhone. Since Delivery Status for Mac supports Growl, you can use it to send Delivery Status Push Notifications to your iPhone right now. You’ll need to install Growl on your Mac, download Prowl on your iPhone, and then follow the instructions here. Then you just need to check off the “Display notifications with Growl” option in Delivery Status for Mac. Make sure you check it on each delivery you want notifications for. Of course, your Mac will also need to be running to send notifications. The setup is a bit complicated, but the trade off is that it’s very flexible, since there are so many Mac apps that already support Growl notifications.

I’m still working on a built-in solution for Push Notifications in Delivery Status touch, but I thought this may be of interest to some of you that can’t wait.

Comments

This entry has 27 comments.

iGuido85

iGuido85

Publish a delivery touch Pro edition for $10 -$15 with push notification support. Only the people that really want push notification will pay this. Less amount people will buy the expensive app, called price elasticity of demand.

Or a monthly subscription fee.. for push support, if this is possible in the current sdk?

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

If we take the paid approach, we’ll most likely make it an in-app purchase rather than a separate app. That way if you decide you need notifications, it’ll be quick and easy to buy the capability using your iTunes account—no need to download a new app or transfer your deliveries.

Jono Hunt

Jono Hunt

I really like the idea of free notifications sent from your computer.

Paul

Paul

I would vote for the paid approach. It would have a wider audience than just iPhone and iPod touch users with Macs. I like the idea of an in application purchase. Too bad Amazon doesn’t have an API that would allow you access to someone’s account via access key instead of username and password.

Olly

Olly

What about just limiting notifications to, say, one package at a time. It might be limiting to those who buy tons of stuff on Amazon and track it all obsessively, but I bet the vast majority of users don’t have more than one or two packages in transit at once.

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

If we do take the paid approach, my hope is that we can offer one delivery with notifications at a time to anyone that buys the app. That way only the heavier users would need to purchase more. But at this point I can’t promise it—it would still be a lot if work for the server(s) and I need to spend more time figuring out costs.

VanillaIcee

VanillaIcee

Implement both! Keep current price free notifications from your computer. Add in-app purchasing for push notifications from your server. Best of both worlds.

Bibhas

Bibhas

You could probably use Google App Engine.

Rachel Blackman

Rachel Blackman

For what it’s worth, you can do Push notification from the Mac OS X Dashboard widget right now. Just set up the Growl notifications on the Dashboard widget, and then set up the Prowl plugin for Growl. Delivery Status will Growl updates to a package’s status, and the package’s status will be pushed via Prowl to the iPhone. Then you’re out and about and, tada, you get a push notification notice that ‘Birthday Present for best friend’ has been delivered, or whatever.

Not the ideal solution, but works fine in the meantime until there’s a more integrated solution for Delivery Status touch. :)

JoaoCoutinho

JoaoCoutinho

I really need that service. At this moment, and just because Delivery Status don’t have at this moment push notifications, I’m Using TrackThis. It’s very important for a company to know how the shipments are going. Today, I was alert to a Shipment that was blocked in my customs country. If I didn’t have the push notifications, I have lost one day with my client not satisfied. Hope you can add the push notifications in the future.

Elaine Poe

Elaine Poe

Mike, are there any problems with the junecloud server? Both on the widget and the iPhone app, my tracked packages moved from tracked to not found over the weekend. I can click through to the UPS site from either to find out the status.

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

Elaine: UPS changed their site this weekend and that’s causing problems with Delivery Status. There’s a new version of the widget here. We sent an update of the iPhone app to Apple on Saturday night—hopefully they’ll approve it soon.

John

John

I’m using your app but I’m confused by why I can’t have push. Trackthis released with push for 99 cents. What am I missing?

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

John: Well first off, I see their 99 cent price is an introductory sale. I don’t know what their normal price will be, or what their business model is. If you buy the app for 99 cents now will you still get free notifications a year from now? What happens if the app gets extremely popular and it puts more strain on their servers than they expected?

I honestly don’t know, but these are the same questions I’m asking while we try to figure out a solution for Push Notifications in Delivery Status. It’s entirely possible they have a great solution and they will be able to offer cheap notifications for a long time. It’s also quite possible we will end up doing the same! But I don’t want to jump in too quickly and start giving away something that is potentially very expensive for us. If I had to choose, I’d much rather err on the side of caution and end up lowering the price later. Much better than starting low and then raising the price unexpectedly, or running into problems where we can’t keep the service running reliably.

At our regular price of $2.99, that means if you only use Delivery Status for a year, we get less than a penny a day to check on all your deliveries every hour. The longer you use the app, the less we make every day to run an ongoing service. It may turn out that we can afford to do that, but until I’ve explored our options better, my assumption at the moment is that we can’t.

Also worth noting is that we support a lot more services, and including sites like Amazon and Google Checkout complicates things quite a bit as well.

Jason

Jason

I am holding off for some kind of push solution prior to purchasing the application for my iPhone. I don’t need updates on a lot of deliveries, but when I am tracking a package it would be a big help to get a badge update on the app icon to indicate a status change. I recognize the increased complexity of getting this working, but I would be willing to pay more for an application with this capability.

I think that if you sent a $5-$10 price for this the added profits can be used to beef up the server that does the work. Additionally the initial version could just do the push notifications for UPS/Fedex/USPS and then, later, the capability could be added to do push alerts for Amazon items.

Steve

Steve

I want push!
Maybe provide “Free” “Basic” and “Pro” versions? One supported by ads, the other the current $3 app, and a pro $6 app?

Yanal

Yanal

I for one careless about push for the iPhone, I don’t see the advantage of it, what i really need is push for the Dasboard widget.

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

Yanal: Can you clarify what you mean? If you’re looking for notifications when your delivery status changes, you should install Growl and then check the appropriate box in the Delivery Status settings.

Jon

Jon

Personally, I think Delivery Status Touch is one of the single most useful iPhone apps available. The addition of Push Notifications would only make it better. It is one of the few apps I have never deleted off my phone since the day I bought it. I’d be perfectly willing to pay $10-$15 for it to support Push Notifications, or even a yearly subscription of $10 or something like that. I don’t ever track more than 3-4 things at a time, and usually, only 1-2 things at a time, almost always through UPS. Therefore, the idea where one gets a few slots that get Push Notifications, and everything else is updated whenever the app is open would work great for me.

Epic win Junecloud!

@mwinther

@mwinther

Well, frankly, you wouldn’t have to store the information on the server. A small checksum would be the only thing required. Of course, storage is hardly the big issue here.

Me, I’m a small-time user. I get maybe one package per month, which is in the mail for a few days before I pick it up. For me, it wouldn’t be worth paying a subscription fee for the service, at least not if it’s time based. I do have a server where I can run python scripts, however, and I could imagine hacking together something that sends a notification using growl or some other means from there. But, since I imagine the widget isn’t written in python, I still won’t be able to run it. Since I have a portable computer which is on the move with me, relying on a desktop solution just isn’t viable.

If there is some relation between the price of the notification package and the amount of packages being tracked, it might be worth paying for it, though.

Ralph F

Ralph F

Not sure if I’m on the same page, but I’m just looking for a simple way to make the Mac/Widget version the “master” and have it tell the iPhone app (when docking/sync’ing?) what’s been deleted on the Widget version and thus delete it off the iPhone app. I’ve looked at various prefs and don’t see that as an option, so I imagine its a wish list item.

(BTW, lovin’ the new layout for the widget. I want to keep buying stuff because it’s so useful.) :-)

Mike Piontek

Mike Piontek

Ralph, our next big update will have full syncing, including deletions. More details here.

Ragashingo

Ragashingo

I really like the idea of using in app purchases to buy the notifications I need. I’d like to buy notifications one at a time since I rarely have more than one shipment at any given time.

iJoel

iJoel

I think the pushing from the desktop to the iphone app is perfect.
& pushing from your servers is something that is very important as well, in the case the computer so happens to be off.

So here’s my suggestion. When you have both of these methods implemented. You simply code some intelligence into the server.

Say your server updates per hour, and so does the dashboard widget, The dashboard checks to see if anythings changed, regardless of whether it does or doesn’t, it simply flips a flag/bit on your server telling it, that it already checked this hour so the servers scott-free to do other things.

Thus your server will never have to check if the users computer is on.
Offloading a lot of processing power.

PS. Maybe let the dashboard widget check every 30 minutes or something to that effect as well, cause bandwidth isn’t that important to the desktop as it would be to your server ;).

Daniel

Daniel

Not that I need another fee, the in-app purchase sounds the best route.
I’m already buying Christmas gifts and had to track three or four packages at once.
Thanks to your App, it stopped a Mail theft!
So yes, I keep using it with a fee.

Alice Bevan-McGregor

Alice Bevan-McGregor

I’ve been using Prowl, both for push notification from my Mac to my iPhone but also as a server status notification system (using custom server-side scripts). It works very well, and is quite inexpensive.

Brian C

Brian C

I do not foresee myself being a heavy user, so I’m happy to either pay for 3 delivery slots, or do free notifications from my computer. I am a Windows Vista user, so I’d hope that wouldn’t hinder my full use of the app.
I’m only really opposed to a subscription service, as I hate paying monthly (or yearly) for something I don’t use that much.
Thanks for giving us an open forum to discuss.

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