Why Not Having Push Email With Sparrow For iPhone Is A Good Thing

Posted by Brett Barner with 8 Comments


I absolutely love Sparrow for Mac as an email client. It’s usability and versatility is more useful to me than the default email app on OS X. So when I heard Sparrow was bringing their app to the iPhone, I signed up to be updated the minute it was available. When that day finally came, I raced to the App Store to download. But then I stopped dead in my tracks. My finger hovered of the $2.99 download button as I read the dreadful news:

Apple had put the kibosh on Sparrow’s ability to push email notifications through the app.

It was only released with, *gasp*, manual refresh.

Sparrow’s ability to integrate Facebook, provide fun and useful user interface, navigation with labels, and better email account switching and management was just too tempting for me to pass up. So I skipped a fancy coffee, and gave them my $2.99.

At first I set it up so iOS’ Mail app would still ping me with the push notification of a new email, then I’d use Sparrow to do my emailing. Naturally, this proved confusing and felt clumsy to go back and forth. Finally, I just moved entirely to Sparrow.

That’s when something fascinating happened.

I was no longer whipping my phone out of my pocket at every ding, buzz and rattle. I was not interrupting conversations to see a mass marketed email from a store I bought that one thing from, that one time, two years ago. I was no longer at email’s beckon call to respond or acknowledge its existence the moment it was received. I stopped serving my time to email. I got back to checking email being on my own schedule like the good ‘ol days of dial-up connection, AOL, and the once exciting phrase, “You’ve got mail!”

That’s the funny thing about smartphones. They see this feature like it’s a privilege to be able to respond to emails immediately. To me, it was not a privilege it was a responsibility.

Why was I subjecting myself to more responsibility than anyone wanted? Email communication is not a text or phone call. There is a culture that email is communication of lesser importance and casual response.

I thought I had to have push email to get the most out of my iPhone experience, but really I was just making more work for myself. Today, we are ultra-connected. iDevices are great for that. But ultra-connected can be over-connected. Finding the right balance is tricky, and for me dropping push notification was like catching a breather during a long run.

I’ve gone almost two months now without push notifications on both my mobile and desktop. But it took me a couple of weeks, and a force of hand to really see its benefits. I’m less distracted. I am even better at replying to emails because I’ve stopped using the excuse that I’ll write them back later, and I take care of all my emails at once. Feel free to try my theory out to see if it works for you.

Sparrow says they are bringing push notification to Sparrow for iPhone with or without Apple’s help. And that’s fine. I’m sure there will be more adoption with that as a feature. But for me, when that day comes, I’ll be sticking with the manual refresh.

Let us know what you think:

What mail client do you use on your iDevices?
Are you a slave to push notifications? 

Brett Barner


Brett Barner likes Apple in both technology and fruit forms. The former he uses as fancy calculators from the future to connect to the internets; where he then writes about his experiences here. The later he uses for pies. Additional writings can be found on his personal blog, bybrettbarner.com, and Twitter @brettbarner.

8 responses to Why Not Having Push Email With Sparrow For iPhone Is A Good Thing

  1. Until it supports exchange setup, I won’t be able to use it. I like the app, it works well but I have my work and Gmail in one app now so I don’t want to change that workflow.

  2. I love Sparrow for iOS. I’ve also been using it since the day it was released. I’m not as strong as you. I still need push notifications. I use Boxcar app to send me push notifications for my email now and when I swipe the lock screen Boxcar notification it takes me to Sparrow.

    Your point is a good one though. May the 4th be with you.

    • I did the Boxcar thing for a bit as well. I can’t remember why exactly I quit it, but it didn’t work for me as ideal as I hoped. For some people, no push is a deal breaker for work or whatever reason, but for me, after I got into it, it was a relief. I stopped missing push, and instead enjoyed tackling all me email at once a couple times a day.

  3. I check email when I’m ready to check email. I won’t let my iPhone tell me what to do. I usually only check my emails three times a day. Once in the morning, once mid-day and in the evening. If something is urgent, whoever it is, can (gasp) call me or send me a txt message. Having push enabled on mail is a productivity killer. It disturbs flow and just makes things worse.

  4. I still have Sparow but I too use the push notifications in the native iOS mail app. May work on being less connected and just use only Sparrow.

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